Thursday, June 20, 2024
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The Five Hurdles to Happiness: and the Mindful Path to Overcoming Them

Five obstacles stand in between you and true happiness. What are they and how can you overcome them? Buddhist traditions teach that there are five negative qualities, or hindrances, that inhibit people from living an awakened life. 

Courtesy: Shambhala Publications

Clinical psychologist Mitch Abblett dedicated 230 somewhat-densely packed pages to studying those five qualities – desire, hostility, sluggishness, worry, and doubt- and teaching people a way around them. He bridges traditional wisdom with contemporary psychology and uses examples from his psychotherapy practice.

I particularly liked chapter two’s dissection of meditation. He acknowledges how hard it can be to sit still, and brings in the vast number of meditation apps, products, books, and ventures on meditation. The choices he validates, are overwhelming. Abblett even quotes scientific research on how the deck is biologically stacked against our efforts to meditate. 

Then, he cites Buddhist teachings of suffering, impermanence, and interconnectedness as a jumping point to get us to realize again why regular meditation is a goal worth striving for. He offers tips on how one might achieve it (in short: pay attention to what’s happening right now), with a gentle reminder to “send an intention of kindness towards yourself for your efforts…” Abblett concludes this – and every – chapter with a “closing inquiry.” In this one, he asks you to think about your relationship and reasons for meditation.

Overall, the book engages you to contemplate your life and nudges you to lean into your experience rather than merely repeating bad habits. By doing this, he emphasizes, you can break free from the hurdles and live more mindfully, effectively, and compassionately.

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