Lesson for mindfulness - part 15:
How to tackle with restlessness and worries
Ven. Dr. Mirisse Dhammika thero
Restlessness and Worry
Restlessness and worry are the result as well as the cause of unsatisfactoriness.
We are all familiar with these. As with the first hindrance, desire for
pleasurable sense-experiences, restlessness and worry come from not being fully
engaged with the present moment.
The mind “jumps” all over and is unable to settle down. When in this state, the
mind cannot concentrate on a single object. Then, what naturally follows is
worry, followed sometimes by the development of feelings of hopelessness and
The individual may think that he cannot achieve his goals because he doesn’t
have the right direction to go. “This is compared to being a slave: being very
dependent on what frame of mind one happens to be in, wavering between emotional
highs and lows”.
Again in this situation, the person who experiences restlessness should practice
mindfulness as a means of settling down and resting the mind, thereby getting
hold of it, as a horseman gets hold of a jumping horse.
Mindfulness of breathing is most effective for the restless mind and will allow
the person to gradually bring her awareness onto the present moment. When she
sees clearly her restless feelings, she can let go of them: she will then feel
her mind becoming clear and she will be ready to concentrate properly.
Vacillation or fear of
Gunaratana likens doubt to being lost in the desert: “It is the feeling of a man
stumbling through a desert and arriving at an unmarked crossroad.
Which road should he take? There is no way to tell. So he just stands there
vacillating”. When one experiences doubt, the mind is “foggy and cloudy”. A
student who has doubts about the value of going to school cannot focus his
attention on his schoolwork.
He will lack confidence and direction. Harvey notes that it is similar to
turning back half-way through a journey, just when one starts to visit
Frustration and anger or helplessness may arise when a person in doubt becomes
impatient for not having a clear direction to go. But such agitation of the mind
only compounds the difficulty. Externally imposed directions and actions do not
treat the problems in is root. Only clarity of the mind brought about by insight
and understanding resolves it. Therefore, the most helpful thing to do is the
mindfulness practice the settles down the agitated mind so that it can look into
the nature of one’s doubt and indecision more clearly.
These five hindrances described above are the distractions of the mind, and pull
the mind off balance and create problems for people. The approach one should
take to these hindrances is to be mindful of them. These hindrances arise
because of the past conditioning of the mind, and by not being carefully and
skillfully rained. The mind is unable to engage with the present moment; it
jumps all over, keeps running off to fantasies and desires, and is easily
distracted and frustrated. The first basic thing to do with such a state of mind
is to just become aware of the mental objects without suppressing them or
indulging in them.
This non-attached awareness is the first step of mindfulness training.
Mindfulness cultivates the capability of recognizing when the hindrances are
Then the student can try to apprehend, to learn how these particular energies
affect the mind and body. Investigating and opening the mind in this way, one
becomes better at recognizing these energies earlier and more often,
understanding them, and is able to allow them to pass away more easily.