• Concentration and observation of the five hindrances
When we sit in meditation and bring our attention to the breath, at the start of this practice we can often seem very concentrated and find that we can stay with our meditation object, (in this case the breath) quite easily for a duration of time and then it tends to drift off, this duration of time depends on many factors, let’s take a Buddhist approach to what concentration is.
If I where to go to a crowded beach on a sunny day, draw a circle in the sand big enough for a person to stand in and tell a person standing by that if they stand inside this circle for three hours without stepping outside of the circle for any reason and that they would get an undisclosed reward, one of two things would initially happen. The person would agree to do it, or more likely decline thinking that it is a waste of time. If the person agreed to stand in the circle for three hours, according to teachings of the Buddha, one of five things or a combination of them would likely happen while doing so.
1. He would encounter a mental of physical object that would beckon him to leave the circle
2. He would encounter a mental or physical object that push or chase him out of the circle.
3. He would grow restless or worrisome about this or another situation and leave.
4. He would grow tired, drowsy or bored with the situation.
5. He would lose faith and confidence about whether this was such a good idea and begin to question the mentioned undisclosed reward making him leave the circle.
With proper determination and some prior knowledge of the five situations that are likely to occur to the person, he stands a much better chance of completing the task and staying in the circle. The same is true in meditation and concentration in general.
The five hindrances are the five things mentioned above that hinder our ability to stay concentrated and connected to our meditation object as well as the practice it’s self; there are things that pull us away in the form of desires, things that push us away in the form of Aversions, such as fear and anger. Things that cause the mind to become restless and agitated such as confusion, those things that we become tired or bored with and those things that we do not believe in or refuse to acknowledge. The five hindrances are what need to be over come in order to strengthen our concentration. Thankfully the Buddha has pointed this out to us enabling us to see what we are working with.
By stilling and concentrating the mind and overcoming the five hindrances, the answers to our questions present themselves freely and all we have to do is listen, so the fixing that we often try to do through thinking is not needed, this is often the most difficult thing to learn in meditation, “Do not try to fix anything”. Meditation is not a thinking pass time; it is a stilling of the activity of mind so that it can be more easily watched, this is achieved by first, concentrating the mind.