Your life is a finite amount of time and energy which you get to experience pleasure and happiness. It's the most precious thing you could ever possess.
What is life? What does your life mean to you? What does it really mean to you? You see you can define your life any number of ways. Life can be a journey. Life can be an experience. Life can also be a relationship between you and the rest of the world. But what we would like to suggest is that you also see life as a constant opportunity.
This is because most people see life as a vast expanse of time and a series of events but often they fail to realize that one thing you always have in life is the power of choice. Choice is very important because choices come with consequences. You probably know this as well as we do. Often when our lives fall apart it's not because of the really big choices we make in life, but it's often the much smaller choices which we thought weren't that important, but which carried much bigger consequences than we'd ever imagined and it's these consequences which often cause our lives to unravel before our eyes.
Here we present five things or influences which can destroy your life. Please bear in mind that all of these five things can come from either you or someone else, because your life isn't just about the choices you make in life, but also about the choices other people make which can also affect you and impact on your life.
It's a relatively simple story about a man - let's call him Bob - who set out to climb a mountain so that he could see the amazing view from its peak. We're sharing it because you might be able to figure out what really matters in life (if you haven't already) at this particular moment in time. Besides we have no clue what really matters to you in your life. This might be of benefit to you, it might not.
So anyway back to the story.. Bob was living on the edge of a range of mountains, such as the type you come across in Scotland. Not Everest or Kilimanjaro, but somewhat smaller, greener mountains. He lived close to a particularly high peak and had heard stories of the amazing views which could be experienced from the top of the mountain. He was curious what it was like to actually experience the view for himself and he had noticed the happy faces of those who were returning from that mountain. The peak attracted a number of tourists but he had not yet climbed to the top of the mountain for himself.
So one day Bob loaded his camera and some other essential items into his rucksack, put on a strong pair of boots, and set out to climb the mountain so that he could enjoy for himself the amazing views from its peak. He thought about the things he imagined he could see from the peak and wondered how far he could see into the distance. When he arrived at the foot of the mountain he met the first traveller. Bob asked the traveller "How did you get up the mountain? And what did you see from the top?" The traveller shared his path and described the view he had seen from the top. However the way the traveller described his journey caused Bob to think, "This sounds like a very exhausting journey. I need to find an easier way to climb this mountain."
So Bob continued on his journey up the mountain until he met the next traveller. So once again Bob asked the man "How did you get up the mountain? What could you see from the top?" Once again the traveller stopped in conversation and shared details about his journey and described the views he had seen from the peak. But as Bob was still unsure of how he was going to climb the mountain, and was unsure of which way he was going to go, Bob asked more than 30 more travellers. When Bob had finished to talking to all the travellers, he finally made up his mind.
Bob decided after talking to so many travellers "Having learned about so many different ways up the mountain, and listened to many different descriptions of what can be seen from the top of the mountain, I have decided that I no longer need to climb this mountain." Bob turned round and made his way back home.
It's very important in life not to rely too much, or sometimes even at all, on second hand experience from other people. Please remember what was written at the start of this webpage - you only get a finite amount of time and energy with which to live. Nobody knows how much time or energy you have accessible to you in life before you die. This includes you.
Please remember that this is not just a straightforward black and white issue of life and death. Nor is life just about the time and energy that you have available to you. Life is also very much about other people and how you relate to other people and also how you relate to yourself. But most of all life is about the opportunities, not just the opportunities which are made available to you or which aren't, but also the choices you make on whether you take those opportunities or not, or whether, in the absence of available opportunities, you have what it takes to create your own opportunities. This after all your life, your chance to experience love, pleasure, happiness, fulfilment, friendship, warmth, and connectedness and oneness, both with yourself and other people.
Would you like to end up like Bob? Remember how Bob set out to experience the journey to the top of the mountain and the view from the peak. But also see how Bob failed to achieve what he had set out to do, he failed to go through that experience, because he listened too much to other people and decided to eventually deny himself the opportunity and miss out on the experience. There are many people like Bob out there in society who listen too much to other people, who take on board too much of what other people experience, who give them far too much authority, and in the end choose to deny themselves the opportunities and possibilities to actually get out there and experience life for themselves. Think about how such choices have impacted on your life. How much of your life perspective comes from what you have directly experienced and learned for yourself? How much has come from the experiences and beliefs of other people? How many opportunities or chances have you missed out on as a result?
Another aspect of the above story, which you may or may not have picked up on, is that in asking all those travellers about their experiences of climbing the mountain and experiencing the view from its peak, is that Bob was seeking something which was impossible. In order to actually share the experience of being on the peak and enjoying the view, you actually have to be on the top of the mountain and looking out from the peak yourself. You need to be there. You need to experience things for yourself. Other people can only share their experience with you if you are physically there with them and going through the same experience. Them telling you about the experience later on in time is not the same. It's just them telling you a story. You have to figure out for yourself whether you want your life to be about your direct personal, and highly individual experience, so that you can share your own stories, or you are prepared to settle for other people telling you their stories.
Only so much can be shared through words and language in life, primarily through stories, accounts and beliefs. However it is not possible to share perspective directly with anyone else because perspective is always individual and forms the basis of perception. Life is an experience which is always about the direct relationship between the experience and the perceiver of that experience. Truth is relative to perception, because truth is the first hand account of direct personal experience. Perspective matters, and it matters a great deal because it is only through direct perception and experience that we can achieve insight and clarity and have the ability to take the appropriate path through life. This is something taught widely through eastern philosophy, particularly in Taoism and Buddhism, or in this case from Shaolin Kung Fu out of which this story comes from.
In order to live a life which is meaningful, significant, pleasurable and happy, you have to go through a process of individuation. Individual perspective not only matters to you (or it should) but it also matters to everyone else you come into contact with in life. The two most important questions which anyone is going to ask you, and which you need also to be asking of yourself, are:
Both these questions are asking you about different aspects of your individual perspective but as you will be able to figure out for yourself both questions also refer to specific aspects of your individual personal experience as well. While some people may prefer to ask you more directly "What do you do (in life)?" specifically relating to a job or career, it's important to understand that formal education, a career and a job can only get you so far, and only really relate to how you participate in an artifically contrived socioeconomic system. It's important to understand that these questions also relate specifically to life and what you have actually done with your life. But how does individual perspective relate to ignorance?
Individual perspective relates to ignorance because you develop your individual perspective out of ignorance. How does this work? One of the things all eastern philosophies such as Buddhism, Therevadaism and Taoism teach is something called 'dependent arising' which in Western terms can be described as polar thinking. Polar thinking is the notion that two seemingly mutually exclusive opposites such as black and white, light and dark, background and foreground are actually connected and mutually dependent on one another. The notion comes from I-Ching, or the Book of Changes developed by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (also the founder of Taoism) in 430 BC and is the earliest recording or mapping out of human thinking.
We can explain how individual perspective relates to ignorance with the aid of the Gestalt image above. In each of the three images above you can see the image of either two faces opposite each other in profile or the outline of a vase. Now depending on your individual perspective you either see two faces in profile, or the vase, but you cannot focus your mind on both at the same time. That is, not unless you understand that to able to see the two faces in profile you need to make the vase the background, and vice versa, that to see the vase, you need to make the two faces in profile the background.
This is how individual perspective relates to ignorance. While you develop your individual perspective out of ignorance, you cannot cease to be ignorant and when you choose to experience something or know something, you are also choosing to remain ignorant of something else. This is because the universe, or space, is not empty or nothing, but is everything that is in existence, and the cosmos or universe is filled with consciousness, which is actually information. It is impossible to know absolutely everything there is to know about the whole universe, right?
So this means that no matter how much experience you gather and how much you learn, you will always remain ignorant. But then see, knowing that ignorance is something which always exists, and knowing that you can also always derive experience and knowledge out of ignorance, then you can also perhaps understand that it is also always possible to go through a new experience and learn something new. This is where the process of individuation comes into it. While your life is the sum total of the experiences you have gone through and what you have learned, it is always possible for you to learn something new or go through a new experience.
This is the flip side to the two most important questions other people will ask you in life about what you know and what you can do. For sure nobody is ever going to ask you how ignorant you are, or at least we hope not, but as you are just as relative to ignorance as you are to your own individual perspective on life, some people will be able to work it out. This is something which always invariably escapes the awareness of the small-minded people out there, the ideologues, the bigots, the judgmental people. Many of these people get it into their heads that they know everything and are not ignorant, and some of these people can only think in term of black and white (or rather black or white) or that they claim that X is Y when it's really X. This is why it's especially important to cultivate as much as possible an open mind and to be open to new information and new experiences, which is precisely where empathy comes into play. At a very fundamental level empathy is simply an admission (to yourself) of ignorance, and being open to other people's experiences and perspectives.
It is this direct personal relationship to ignorance which lies at the very core of the teachings of the eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism and forms a major part of the training. But this awareness and values are not exclusive to the eastern philosophies (and religions) but form part of the great spiritual tradition which is also taught in many other religions and philosophies, including Western ones such as Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, which is arguably one of the most blatant and overt about its spiritual teachings - many people worldwide understand the potent spiritual significance of the cross. This is because Mankind's struggle against ignorance is a persistent, recurrent feature of our very human evolutionary story.
You see when you take up your own struggle against ignorance, and seek to develop your own individual perspective, developing empathy through your relations to others, you achieve a clarity of vision so that you can make the best possible choices and take the most appropriate actions which are going to make your life experience meaningful, fulfilling and rewarding. Your path to such things as pleasure, peace, happiness and even love is made that much easier, and becomes that much clearer. There is no need to believe, or to be like Bob in the story and to deny yourself opportunities for further experiences or opportunities to develop on your perspective. When you see clearly you can clearly distinguish for yourself which is the proper direction to take and what decisions and choices need to be made in order to create something out of your life.
You see like Bob you may meet many travellers in your life, who can tell you about their journey and their perspective, but never forget not even for a minute that your life is really all about your journey, your perspective, and what course you want to take through life. Of course you're going to need other people along the way to support you, to make things possible, to give you insight, and to help you pick up the pieces if you make a mistake or if things fall apart. Along the way you will encounter challenges and some of these challenges may even prevent you or stop you from moving on in life.
The Five Hindrances (the five things referred to in the title of this webpage) are five obstacles or barriers which can prevent you or even stop you from getting where you need or want to be in life. All these five hindrances relate specifically to states of mind. In all of these five different states of the mind it becomes very difficult to maintain your perspective, to see things clearly, and this makes it even harder to make the right choices or decisions or to take the appropriate actions.
Sensual desire arises in the moment when you are focussed on something that is giving you a positive emotion. This positive emotion can arise through any of the five primary senses - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling. So let's say like Bob you are going up that mountain. About a mile into your journey you come across a beautiful restaurant surrounded by really attractive people. You smell the wonderful food, you become aware of the different beverages. When you follow that temptation you have already lost your track. When this temptation becomes so strong that you don't want to leave that place anymore, then the sensual desire has turned into an obsession. In both cases staying at that place means that you cannot develop perspective or gain clarity.
Ill will describes the state of mind that arises from negative emotions, feelings and desires. In that state of mind you have an aversion, a rejection, hostility or simply a dislike against a situation, an object or even a person. In simple terms let's say you are climbing the mountain and it starts to rain. Unfortunately you don't like rain. You discover that the roads are bumpy, but you don't like bumpy roads. To get across the river you need to swim, but you don't like swimming. Whatever it is you dislike it won't make it a pleasant journey unless you learn to let go of your ill will. It's even more likely that you won't even continue the journey.
The third hindrance is often generally translated as sloth and torpor. Sloth is generally the heaviness of the body. Torpor is generally the dullness of the mind. It is characterized by sleepiness, a lack of motivation, apathy, a lack of energy and can often be a symptom of a state of depression. Often a very common metaphor found in Buddhism is 'imprisonment' but is actually a form of attachment - please bear in mind that all these hindrances are attachments to transient physical states where you end up seeking or assuming permanence in states which are impermanent. A good example of this is when you form a dislike to someone, which is something which you generally do habitually, so your dislike of that person becomes a stable or permanent attachment and it is usually done for transient reasons or on the basis of an assumption. In this way disliking someone is imprisonment, very much like sloth or torpor, which imprisons you in a specific situation or environment. These two seemingly unrelated examples are closely connected because dislike or hostility towards someone is actually rooted in torpor. Please bear in mind here that you are the one disliking the other person, and it's you who is often unwilling to change your perspective (unless of course there are sound reasons for your dislike or antipathy).
But back to the Buddhist concept of imprisonment or confinement. You find yourself locked in a cell (or trapped in a specific situation). It becomes very hard to make any type of mental or physical effort. You can be dragged down into apathy, which is the polar opposite of empathy, where you connect to others and develop your perspective. In this situation you usually only have one option left open to you. You need to find a way to get out of the hole you find yourself in, to escape the confinement, the imprisonment. This can often require more effort, more creativity and a change of perspective which is greater than you needed before you become imprisoned or trapped in your situation. This is where you can learn a very hard lesson in that life isn't always just about what you do, but is also very much about what you don't do.
Restlessness is the state of the unsettled mind. This can mean that your mind cannot settle, or it has not found a situation, a position or something on which to settle. Often you can find it hard to settle where you need to be and that is being in the present moment to attain mindfulness. You're being constantly distracted by random thoughts and dragged either back into the past or pulled forward into the future. This is a mindset which is characterized by anxiety. You're worrying about the future and sending your imagination into overdrive, thinking up all kinds of different possibilities and scenarios. But also equally it could be your memory which is going into overdrive, and you could be listening to the negative voices in your head or ruminating over past experiences, and this could be fuelling the anxiety which is creating the fears and causing you to shut down and reject opportunities for new experiences and perspective. This can sometimes cause you to dislike yourself or be especially harshly critical of yourself over something you have done in the past. This is often what shuts many people down - the melodrama and anxieties which are playing out in their minds over and over again. None of this is reality, but it effectively prevents them from participating in their own reality.
This is the state of the so called 'monkey mind' constantly jumping from one branch to another unable to stay for too long in the present moment. This forms a very effective barrier against developing mindfulness, because often you deprive yourself of the time you need to develop a better perspective or indeed empathy. This is why within the Qultura community we don't teach you about meditation or yoga. This was because we only have limited access to community space and meditation takes practice and a certain amount of learning. This is something we leave individual people to follow up for themselves. Instead we focus on primary social interaction (social interaction which is positive, pleasant and reaffirming) and from our perspective it's far more efficient and effective to develop mindfulness through direct social interaction and the straightforward development of empathy. You see when you're engaged in conversation or a dialogue with someone it's as bit harder to allow your mind to jump randomly from place to place and it's much easier to achieve focus, and mindfulness, when you have someone with you in conversation and dialogue.
This is the last of the five hindrances. This is closely related to a state of mind which is centred around indecisiveness. It's very easy in this state of mind to get lost in thoughts. Can I do this? is this the right path? What will the others say? What will other people think of me? What if this? What if that? What happens here is that your mind cannot synchromize with your actions anymore and your mind and your perspective become disconnected. As a result you become more and more disconnected with the course of your life, what is happening in your life, and what you really want and need in your life.
If you allow your mind to become clouded by doubts and assumptions, it's far more likely that you will stop instead of moving on. Actual perspective and clarity of vision will escape you, and you will become more and more confused. It's these doubts and this confusion which effectively shuts you down. It's also very important that not always thinking is a good thing, and can sometimes (and quite often) work against you. If you have filled your mind full of thoughts, doubts and negative assumptions, then all you will talk about will be thoughts, doubts and negative assumptions. What you believe is who you become, and ultimately all you will be able to talk about is yourself, your thoughts, your doubts, your negative assumptions. This will shut down your life because you will be disconnected from life and people will start avoiding you. Nobody will bother to tell you or explain why. They will simply cease to be there, be busy or go out of their way to avoid you.
So now that you have become aware of such things as the Five Hindrances and such things as perspective, ignorance and the story about Bob on the mountain, you need to find ways of shaping your life and life experience in ways which prevent those five hindrances from developing. If you are not successful, you need to develop techniques in order to overcome and remove those five hindrances from your life. Each of these hindrances places a dark cloud over your mind or over your journey through life. But there is one thing which you need to remember.
This is a simple four step method to help you remove those hindrances. The initial letters of each of these four steps spell R-A-I-N so we hope it's easy for you to learn, memorize and make use of.
Throughout our lives, all of our lives are too unique and too individual to copy the path from someone else. In order to bring meaning to your life, in order to bring value into your life, you need to learn and master yourself and to walk your own unique path through life. Never let those hindrances stop you. If you choose to climb towards that peak towards clarity, we will be very happy to meet you at the peak and to share with you the experience.
The Qultura community exists as an empathy based community to act as a resource and to help and support you along your path and your journey through life. We are currently in the process of developing a community of people like you coming together to develop empathy, community and consciousness and to create the opportunities and explore the possibilities where anyone can find their own individual path through life. Please feel free to join our network, participate in our message board, join us and help develop various community projects or even create your own. Participation in the Qultura community is always free of charge, we welcome people from all walks of life, we are open-minded, non-judgmental and generally very easy to get on with. You never know what might come from being part of our community.
Qultura is a system for figuring out your Principle and Process - the existential core of your life - through the development of empathy and community. The core principle and philosophy is simple and easy to learn.Learn more
The development of empathy is fundamental to human evolution. But to be capable of developing empathy you need to take off your societal mask and be real and prepared to live your truth.Learn more