The Hindrances: The Hindering Trance of Doubt

Interesting the word ‘Hindrance’ appears to be a combination of the words hinder and trance.  Hinder means to: “impede, obstruct, block, interfere with activity, causing harmful or annoying delay, or interference with progress.”

In our studies of Buddhist philosophy, we are interested in moving towards wholesome states of loving-kindness, compassion joy and equality for all beings.  Hindrances impede this progress.

The definition of Trance is “a sleep-like state of consciousness usually characterized by diminished sensory and motor activity and subsequent lack of recall. Or perhaps an unconscious habituated pattern of beliefs leading to certain behaviors.

These old trance states, or ‘beliefs’, remain in-tact as neurological pathways that are habituated and melded into our sense of a fixed self.  Usually these beliefs remain in the unconscious, yet they powerfully drive our behaviors.  When they become conscious via sensate experiences in the body moving into unpleasant, pleasant or indifferent sensations, the hindrances often come into play as a means of keeping our awareness from correctly identifying and fully releasing these unconscious states as not “self”.  The hindrances successfully prevent these beliefs from transforming into new neurological pathways of conscious awareness that lead to wholesome and virtuous experiences.  These experiences as mentioned above are: loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity called the Four Immeasurable or sublime attitudes. These virtues are also highly regarded in Buddhist philosophy as powerful antidotes to negative mental states.  The hindrances remain as unconscious, powerful deterrents of positive change.

Doubt as a hindrance is a mental preoccupation involving indecision, uncertainty, and lack of confidence. It causes a person to hesitate, vacillate, and not settle into meditation practice. Its simplest manifestation can be a lack of clarity about the meditation instruction, which may be settled quickly with further instruction. More dramatically, doubt can involve deep inner conflicts and fears stirred up by the meditation practice. All along the spectrum, doubt can keep the mind agitated, perhaps simmering in discursive thought and feelings of inadequacy. Alternatively, it can deflate the mind, robbing it of interest and energy.  The most insidious doubts are those about oneself, especially when they involve a lack of confidence in one’s ability or worthiness.

It is necessary to discuss hindrances to your mediation practice as you notice them with a qualified teacher so you may make conscious relaxation and awareness changes.