“Amid patterns ‘large’ (addiction, abusiveness, hateful violence, self-injury, self-loathing, and abject despair) and patterns ‘small’ (relationship struggles, reactive parenting, career burnout and dead ends, edginess and angst with loved ones), we all pass our days largely on autopilot, sheepishly enslaved to old scripts of thinking, feeling, and doing,” writes Mitch Abblett.
And where we find ourselves, says Abblett, is repeating the same actions time and again, all the while knowing they do not bring us happiness.
Breaking the conditioned hold these patterns have on us, however, requires that we first become aware of them.
In his new book, The Five Hurdles To Happiness and the Mindful Path to Overcoming Them, Abblett exposes these patterns for what they are — protective responses from pain — and shows just how we can begin to loosen their grip, live more authentically, more fully, and with awakened heart and minds.
“Through our actions we shape that which comes to us in the next moment,” writes Abblett. Whether we believe in karma or not is not as important as that we connect what we do now with what we will experience in the future.
Patterns offer comfort, security, and a sense of predictability in life, and, as meta-emotional patterns of parents, are passed down through generations.
Abblett writes, “Research on ‘intergenerational transmission’ has supported the role that conditioning plays in patterns such as abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, divorce, and health-related behaviors across the lifespan of families.”
Yet when we can become aware of the patterns handed down to us, permeating our daily existence, and lingering within us, we can fully inspect them, and decide for ourselves whether we want to repeat them or to instead embrace the enlightenment that comes with presence.
Ablett quotes Ken McLeod, a meditation teacher, “You have to die to the pattern’s world. You have to die to the belief that your ability to survive rests on those patterned behaviors.”
When we choose to turn our attention toward what is happening inside, and do so consistently, our awareness becomes expansive, and we begin to see more of what life has to offer.
We may be reacting to feeling of desire — wanting of things, people, and experiences that always leaves us hungry for more. We may be harboring a feelings that others have wronged us and allow anger and resentment to cloud our being. And we can be struggling with feelings of fatigue and sluggishness, worry and restlessness, or self-doubt.
Abblett tells us the five hindrances — desire, anger, sloth, restlessness, and doubt — exist in all of us at one time or another, although, we often feel some more strongly than others.
And while hindrances can’t be beaten, when we can become more aware of them and the ways they act within us, they offer the opportunity for growth.
Abblett writes, “We get to apply the greatest tool evolution has afforded — awareness — to the task of how we relate to the world in the forms of our thoughts and our sensory experience.”
The process requires three things: That we accept that suffering exists and is a universal feature of life, that we become clear on the impermanent nature of all things, that we understand the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things, and that we are all reciprocally influenced and affected by each other.
Hindrances may serve to disappoint us, but they also can inform us and encourage exploration of their emotional pull.
Ablett writes, “We are never in direct contact with the object of our desires — only with our mental representations of them in our brains. And it’s this fact that holds the promise of freedom from the destructive cycle of craving (particularly at the level of life-bleeding addiction). We can’t change the objects that trigger our desire — those will continue unabated and unbidden. We can, however, change how we relate to our mental experiences of them — the words, thoughts, mental images, and bodily sensations of desire.”
Similarly, we can never rid our lives of suffering, worry, fatigue, or self-doubt. But we can cultivate tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and importantly, self-acceptance, and transform our hindrances into opportunities for expansive growth. With a foundation of moment-to-moment mindfulness, a willingness to embrace a new relationship to emotional discomfort, and a tolerance for unfiltered truth, we can come to experience life more directly, with more openness and greater compassion and joy.
Drawing in his rich clinical experience and sound research, Abblett offers the heartfelt wisdom of mindfulness delivered in practical, easy-to-implement practices that will help anyone move beyond the self-protective patterns that keep us unhappy and into a much richer, more fulfilling, and happier life.
The Five Hurdles To Happiness and the Mindful Path to Overcoming Them
Shambhala Publications, August 2018
Hardcover, 230 pages