Meditation texts name certain mental states that are hindrances. Try to be aware and work to overcome them in your meditation. The major unhelpful states are: tiredness and torpor, strong desires, distractedness, agitation and worry, and anger, depression, and doubt. Each of these is bound to occur from time to time, and each represents a special danger to meditation practice, because they are so compelling.
Should any of these states of mind arise – e.g., a sexual fantasy, or the thought “I’m too tired to keep meditating, I’ll go to sleep instead,” or ruminations over some pressing problem – they should be treated like any other distraction. Simply return your full attention to the meditation. These hindering states demand that you exert greater effort to get your mind back to meditation than do most of the other random thoughts that cross your mind. Making this effort is the essence of the meditation.
I’ve meditated hours and hours where nothing at all seemed to happen. I became increasingly bored and disgusted. Every tactic I could think of for cutting through these emotional states was useless. I had to examine my inadequacies, my doubts about my practice, my belief that it would lead me to God. I had to confront my reactions to meditation. Take fatigue, for example. It was a chronic problem for me. I remember propping myself up with piles of cushions so that I would not fall over into sleep. I often went to meditation courses because I was afraid that alone I would drift off into sleep. I’ve since learned to handle drowsy states with breathing techniques. What I experienced as fatigue often was actually a state of deep stillness that I misinterpreted. Instead of taking the feeling of fatigue as an invitation for a nap, I now regard it as a passing state, and keep sitting.
By letting go of whatever thoughts may come, no matter how powerful or fascinating they may be, and constantly returning to the meditation, our mental habits lose their hold over us. We create space for new possiblities, new realities, new being.
– Ram Dass