Obstacles & Roadblocks

What keeps you from practicing?

As practitioners, we're all familiar with the obstacles that arise during our practice—the "five hindrances" of desire, aversion, laziness, restlessness, and doubt are traditionally the most common roadblocks. But what, specifically, are the things that keep you away from your practice? Is it some manifestation of those pesky hindrances? Or is it something else, such as a lack of time, self-discipline, or a proper space? In this discussion we'd like to explore obstacles to practice. And then, ultimately, we’d like to hear how you are working to overcome these obstacles. After all, we all get stuck. How do you get unstuck?

Image: Liu Bolin

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Richard Fidler's picture

We should define "practice" in broad terms. To me, reading Tricycle is practice. So is mindfully walking to the store. Writing this post is a kind of practice. Stopping what you are doing to thoroughly appreciate a sunset is practice, too. Being open to new experience, letting go of fear, seeing self-aggrandizement for what it is are all forms of practice. It isn't just about sitting in formal posture counting breaths or simply being. It is also about doing, moment-to-moment. And you can do that all day, every day, long. If we want to become more engaged in practice, then we must define our practice regimen in the broadest terms. Eventually, we should be practicing all the time--even as we carry on with the small tasks that fill our lives.

Anicca1956's picture

I feel that's true. For me, when I sit more regularly then I seem to be more likely to be mindful throughout the day. The less I sit regularly it seems the daily mindfulness suffers as well.

LaceyR's picture


Raleigh's picture

I find that sangha is really important for me to stay on track. When I haven't spent time with other sangha members I become distracted by everything else in life. Sometimes I just get lazy (sloth). I will wake up early enough and think I should get up and sit but after a few moments I just turn over and go back to sleep or I find something else that seems more important to do with the time. I procrastinate and think I will do it later or tomorrow etc. I used to go to a weekly sitting regularly but both my location and the location of the sittings have moved much further apart and so I find excuses not to go (too far). What usually gets me back into a regular practice is noticing that my life just isn't working as well without it. I start to see myself do things I otherwise wouldn't do or say things I regret saying. I feel more stressed and less gracious. I am just basically less happy. It is when I notice this unhappiness that I am inspired to connect to my sangha friends, read a dharma book (or check the Tricycle website) and engage in a more regular practice.

jwmccue's picture

Being tired gets me a lot. Knowing that I have not had much sleep the night before and could really use a nap tends to be the convincing I need to not sit. I fear that I would be wasting time if I were to try to sit only to find myself dozing off every minute or so. So, the attempt is disregarded and I move on with my day. Additionally, I find it difficult to pull myself away from my school work as well, especially if I am struggling with a concept. Then again, if I really struggle, I just find myself diverting my stress and anxiety with a cruise around my favorite internet sites.

apollonios's picture

I have the same problem, without the excuse of being short on sleep. I guess I'm just a naturally sleepy person! So what I do is to have a rule that if my concentration begins to blur, I pull my head together and go on, but if I actually nod or lose my posture, I get up and do a "flash" walking meditation, once around the desk. I've had to do it more than once in some 30-minute sessions. But it helps keep me from giving up.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Great idea! I'm going to try it, thanks a lot.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

I have the same issues as you, jwmccue. My two biggest obstacles seem to be napping and putting my job or schoolwork first. I find it difficult to sit if I haven't done an essay or article that I know is due soon—and if I sit, that I'll probably just stress out about the things that I haven't done yet and it won't be very productive. Even when I have something due in a few hours, though, I can always find an excuse to nap. Funnily enough, that excuse is usually something like "If I nap, I'll be rejuvenated and be able to focus better," and under the blankets I crawl. But I can never seem to apply that same logic to practicing instead of napping.

yourneighbor57's picture

An obstacle for me is self-consciousness and a "gravitational" pull to be with my husband and daughter when they are home (in case they need something? or just to be in their presence?). That makes it feel difficult to just go into the room and sit if they are home (and if they are not home I am either working or doing chores). If I do manage it, then I "feel" the pull of them while I'm practicing or I feel anxious that they will be home any minute...(which would make that a perfect object of meditation, I guess).

lissa.merritt's picture

I have the same issues. I've found that it helps to have extremely modest ideas about my practice -- so modest, that it is possible for me to commit to practicing every day. The only time that works for me is right before I go to bed, after my daughter is asleep and the chores are done. Ten minutes. But every day. Maybe eventually it will increase, but right now I am trying to make it something non-negotiable, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth.

maitrimusings's picture

Thank you for this. I think this will help me...especially the part about making it non-negotiable and a short period of time...its more difficult to "argue" with (yourself about doing it) if its only for a ten mins or so before you go to bed. And also, in the relation to your comment, I think it can be helpful to look at meditation practice as something that IS absolutely necessary to do everyday, like brushing one's teeth.