19 Nov
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Understandable Results of Unbalanced Energy

My “Headphone Retreat” continues. Last night I listened to Ajahn Sucitto’s talk on Intention, which concludes with a wonderful explanation of the Five Hindrances as “understandable results of unbalanced or depleted energy” (and therefore to be seen as “less of a sin and more of a problem that can be amended.”)  

Sucitto says, “The body and mind are in sympathy and they are co-dependent. So at this level, the way you inflect your mind effects your body energy. If you approach your body from a controlling attitude, then your body will start to become rigid on a physiological level. If you approach it from an acceptance place, it becomes softer, more relaxed.

“So what is the proper relationship? To not be dominating, but at the same time, be present. This is a very beautiful skill to learn. And naturally the success rate is not all that great. [laughs] But if you are getting a 1 or 2 out of 10, this is definitely progress. Because every time you touch that, faith arises.

“There are definitely big benefits in the sense of self dropping away, the obsessiveness or the moodiness dropping away. Because in the relational sense, when that is harmonious, the quality of harmony becomes the atmosphere. And the disharmonious qualities drop away.

“Then one feels settled, composed. This is called samadhi. It’s harmony — unification of body and mind. That’s when the mental energy and the body energy are in synch. They’re in synergy. So what occurs is there’s an overall sense of harmony, unification, and settledness.

“And that has not arisen really from me trying to get things calmed down. (Unless it’s done in a very careful way.) Certainly the inclination is: Let’s just take things easier; there’s no pushing; no pressure; just stay present. The inflection of an intentionality is something that no matter how many words I put around it, you will have to find it for yourself. And it may have different words for you.

“But the result will be, definitely a cleaning of behavior on a subtle level. And that cleaning on a subtle level will definitely have effects on a more obvious relational level. One becomes less fearful or pushy. One becomes less flustered in the presence of phenomena that are not delightful or attractive. Because the energy itself builds up a certain strength.

“So as our bodily energy system becomes more strengthened and cleaned, then we’re able to be present with difficult phenomena without feeling highly impacted. It’s not that you don’t notice them, but you don’t feel shocked by them. Or tightened up. Or defensive.

“These are the effects that occur from the skill that comes with this kind of mode of practice. Because the body and the mind are not separable — they effect each other — then the negative effects of the defective behaviors of grasping and so forth…they are felt in the body and the mind.

“The first list of these defective behaviors we know so well — The Five Hindrances.

Greed or sense desire:
“This is because the energy feels really flat and needs something to get it going. It’s hungry. It lacks vitality. So it’s got to have something to feed on, to get livened up with. Clearly, if one has vitality, this does not have to occur.

When we cannot cope with difficult feelings, we get hostile instead. Energy tightens up because it has no capacity to accommodate and discharge the difficult feeling. So instead it develops hostility towards it. Prickling and souring.

“Because so much of the energy gets exported into distraction and outgoing tendencies, one’s ‘home base,’ one’s ‘reservoir,’ is rather low. One hasn’t got a rich supply of energy because so much of it goes out through the sense doors and in occupations. So there’s not much ‘at home.’ Therefore one’s dullness is a sort of indolence and a sluggishness.

“Because so much energy is expended in sense phenomena — which are diverse — the system is used to jumping from this to that, to this, to that, to this, to that. So that pattern gets established. Now if there’s a sense of something that’s unifying, that the citta [heat/mind] can go to… if there’s a unifying energy…. then it can settle into that. So restlessness can cease.

Speculative doubt:
“This is when we are over-emphasizing the conceptual intelligence. This is what happens when the other intelligences are more limited. If our body intelligence isn’t very acute, and the heart intelligence is not so agile, then what happens is a lot of the intelligence goes into the mental faculty. Which means we are always searching for clarity and answers to things.

“But the mental faculty can’t provide it. It cannot provide the satisfaction that can only be really experienced in the heart. This is the state of doubt: ‘Is it this or that…’ ‘Should I do this or that…’ What’s being sought is the sense of: ‘Ah-hahhh.’ And that is a heart sense.

“If the heart intelligence has not been properly energized and brought to bear upon experience, then speculative doubt becomes potentially more apparent. Because we seek orientation in terms of thought. But thought cannot provide it. So there’s the sense of: ‘maybe this… or maybe that…’ Because we’re still looking for the clarity orientation that cannot arrive. It’s like walking on water. It can’t be done. So there’s the skidding effect of doubt. Confidence arises not from the intellect, but from realization of citta: ‘Ahh. This is this.’

“These hindrances have energetic effects, though very often in dharma instruction the approach is more from the psychological aspect — which is also true — but I feel that the psychological qualities that we attune to, this area of our intelligence, is so over-worked that it’s almost inflamed — with self-hood — and with blaming, and criticism, and guilt around these hindrances.

“So perhaps it would be easier to sense them as just understandable results of unbalanced or depleted energy. And then it becomes less a “sin” and more of a problem that can be amended. By accessing, steadying, smoothing, calming — forming a healthy relationship. And breathing is certainly an excellent object for that because it will give you a lot back.

“It will give you a lot back — if you approach it in the right way.”


The excerpt above begins at about the 45 minute mark. Click here to listen to this talk in its entirety.

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