5 Obstacles to Meditation: The Veils That Prevent the Natural Radiant Luminosity of the Mind

I had the pleasure of hearing John Cianciosi speak at the Mid-South Federation of the Theosophical Society in America Annual Meeting at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. John was ordained as a Buddhist Monk in Thailand and trained under one of Thailand’s most gifted and influential meditation masters, the late Venerable Ajahn Chah. He is also author of 2 books titled “True Freedom” and “The Meditative Path“. What I loved most about hearing John speak was how he put what I knew to be true (the most likely barriers to achieving a true inner state of bliss or oneness with meditation) in the most direct, simple and easy to understand way. In this post I intend to share my wisdom along with John’s clear explanations. I hope it is helpful! 🙂

The goal or purpose of meditation is achieving a state of perfect clarity/perfect unity with the “wonderful Radiant Luminous Mind”- or “Radiant Heart”.

What is this state of ‘Radiant Luminous Mind’ or ‘Radiant Heart’? John Cianciosi likes to say “If you are thinking about it, then that is not it“. When you reach a state of luminous unity or luminous absorption, the world of the 5 senses ceases. When in the state of ‘Radiant Mind’, a person reaches bliss and pure awareness with no sense of duality (the highest goal). Such a state changes our attitude, perception and false views about our self.

5 Hindrances to Achieving ‘Radiant Mind’/’Radiant Heart’ in Meditation:

1. Preoccupation With the Physical/Sensory World (the 5 Senses): We must be willing to let go of the world of physical senses at least temporarily when in a state of meditation. This is why it is advised to seek out places of silence/quiet and spaciousness in the early stages of meditative practice. This can, however, be difficult for people who are faced with survival issues on a daily basis or for those who have a need for hypervigilance of their surroundings (such as some people with control issues, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

2. Excessive Mental Energy / Taming the ‘Monkey Mind’: Once we escape from the outer world, the world of the mind is often thinking about the world ‘out there’. This is the ‘doing mind’ that thinks about what we are doing or what we need to do. The concept of “Right Intention” in a Buddhist meditative practice refers to a renouncing of the preoccupation or fascination with the sensory world, the past and the future. John Cianciosi recommends the following mantra when pursuing a meditative practice: “Less Doing, More Being“. When we achieve full ‘Being‘ in meditative practice, we find that the ‘Doing‘ in daily life is more fruitful and meaningful.

Many people ask “What is the best technique for achieving a deep meditative state? Often people will frequently change their meditative practice or try different techniques hoping to find ‘the one that works‘. It really does not matter which technique you use. Just as there are many paths that lead to ‘Enlightenment‘, there are many meditative practices that lead to the goal of ‘Luminous Mind‘ or ‘Radiant Heart‘. The important thing is to find a meditative practice and stick to it. Constantly ‘changing up’ to the “newest” meditative practice is another form of ‘Monkey Mind‘.

Another one of John Cianciosi’s favorite sayings is: “It takes a lot of wisdom to be lazy“. He recommends trying a simple Breathing Meditation (a form of mindfulness meditation) if you are new to meditation where “you don’t have to do anything at all… just breathe“. In a breathing meditation you just simply focus on your in-breath and out-breath- becoming aware of the rhythm without attempting to control it. This helps give the mind something to do rather than focus on the internal mind chatter of thoughts about our daily life and what we ‘ought’ to be doing other than meditating.

3. Too Little Mental Energy / ‘Dullness’: A calm state of dullness is not luminous mind because the clarity is missing. Once the issue of excessive mental energy from internal chatter (‘Monkey Mind‘) is under control, our inner focus needs to be that of “Being“. We need to be putting our energy into awareness – how to be awake and just be present in the moment. When this is done properly, the experience leads to vibrant wakefulness. The ‘Bliss‘ and meditation becomes easier. As the mind becomes increasingly quiet, the inner space expands and becomes vibrant, luminous, radiant. This flow of continuous awareness within our present, awake mind becomes more present daily with regular meditative practice.

4. Guilt or Remorse: John refers to this in the Buddhist tradition as “not living the Good Life“. He believes that there is not much to be done about this issue. This is where he and I disagree. In my experience in 19 years of clinical practice and over the past 10 years in teaching meditation classes to people who have suffered from guilt, depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I have found that this obstacle is not insurmountable. That is one of reasons my co-author (Marion Ross, Ph.D.) and I wrote our first book “SHIFT: 12 Keys to Shift Your Life“. We found that many people were stuck in various ways in their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual path due to overwhelming sense of guilt, shame, feeling unlovable, negative self-definition, sense of abandonment, inadequacy, powerlessness, anger, resentment, heartache, stress, and fear of the unknown. In our books and guided meditations we give easy to use tools and techniques to shift these obstacles out of your way.

5. Doubt / Lack of Trust: In order to achieve the goal of “Luminous Mind” or “Radiant Heart” in meditation, we must have a willingness to put aside the aspect of the unknown. We have to accept that we are not perfect and the we do not know everything. We have to be willing to start from where we are at this moment and realize that our experience will be our experience. It may not be what our friends or proclaimed ‘gurus’ experience. No one can show you the way on your path other than to assist with getting you started in your meditative journey.

If you are dedicated to a meditative practice, it is possible to reach a deep meditative state and, thus, to reach the state of “Luminous Mind” or “Radiant Heart”, transcending sex, age, and eventually all concepts of duality. This is the first step in the journey to ‘Enlightenment’. Prayerful meditative practices have been used in all religions and spiritual paths by seekers, sages and avatars for thousands of years.  Why shouldn’t it work for you as well? 🙂

Your meditative practice will fluctuate over various stages and periods in your life. That is okay. There are times for assimilating, reconsidering and refining an approach. “Luminous Mind” or “Radiant Heart” is both a wonderful aspiration and a challenge for a lifetime. It can bring true inner peace no matter what is going on in the physical world or in your life.

Loads of Inner Peace, Bliss and Light to you on your journey! 🙂

Tracy Latz, M.D., Mh.D. (a.k.a. The Meditating Shift Doctor)

*Check out The Shift Doctors’ books, videos & CDs at the Shift Your Life Site http://shiftyourlife.com/shift-store/  **The Shift Doctors (Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D.) are available for keynote talks, classes, events or for seminars (1/2 day or up to 2 day) on personal transformation, team-building, motivation, anger management, intuitive development, or collaboration for private groups, conferences, corporations or corporate events. Contact them at info@shiftyourlife.com or find out more about them at www.shiftyourlife.com .


  1. I enjoyed this article. I’m certain that I will have the opportunity to refer to it when people ask what to do when their thoughts get in the way of meditation. Thank you

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful generous sharing. Your knowledge and insights are greatly appreciated. Look forward to read your books and watch
    your videos. This article was very helpful.

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