Having no expectations is a skillful way to abolish the hindrances.
When we desire, our wanting is a hopeful expectation that our life will change in some way. When we have ill will we want/expect the current situation to change to how we want it to be! When we are restless, we are not content at the moment and want/expect something to change, even if we don't know what change we want. Dullness is only an issue if we fight it....expect it to go away. Doubt is not being sure about what is right, so wanting/expecting to become clearer. The hindrances are all about expectations. If we let go of our expectations, there would be no hindrances!
Yes, as lay people who have not renounced the sensory world, we are going to have expectations in our lives. But during our meditation practice, we can let them go completely.
A key insight in Buddhism, is that there is not an inherent self that is in control. If there was, we could think what we want to think (not be stuck in worries) and feel what we want to feel emotionally (not suffer depression or anxiety or anger). What we think and feel is based on past causes and conditions. Even what we are doing is based on habit energy from past causes and conditions.
Based on this reality of not being in control, Ajahn Brahm makes the following comments:
If our meditation is going well, don't take it personally and feel proud. If it is going badly, don't take it personally and criticize ourself. How it is going has little to do with us. If we were in complete control we could have perfect meditations every time we sat down! It doesn't matter what has happened so far. It's not up to us. So we shouldn't get disappointed or frustrated or encouraged or exhilarated. It's nothing to do with us; don't judge. Don't make any successes or failures something personal to ourself. We're just a person on a journey. We are not driving the bus. Don't take it personally when distractions arise. Just let them go. Our duty is to abandon the five hindrances, gain the jhanas, see the Dhamma and awaken.
We deal with the hindrances by looking at the space between the observer and whatever is being observed. Sometimes we are being continuously mindful of the breath but the beautiful breath doesn't arise. Why? Because we are holding the breath with ill will or craving or fear.
All fear comes from attachment. Thus it is fear of losing that to which we are attached. It's good when fear arises because it's a place where insight will soon arise if we investigate what we're afraid of letting go.
Craving....if we find ourself listening to a sound, ask, "Why am I interested in this sound?" Don't be thinking, "Oh, I"m not mindful." If we don't react to what arises with the hindrances, especially desire or ill will, because we haven't reacted, haven't engaged with what arose, the mind disengages and what arose, disappears. If we hear a noise and start reacting, "Why are they being so noisy! This is terrible!" etc, we are just making a problem for ourselves. Make peace with whatever we are feeling/experiencing.
Sloth and torpor is from tiredness, from using our mind, doing things. The more we do, the more tired we will become. Never try to control sloth and torpor with will power. That enhances the ego....the delusion that we can control things...that we are in charge...that if we work hard enough we can overcome these things. "it's me...I've done it!" That's ego. Don't do that. Instead make peace with sloth and torpor. Just allow it to be. Make peace with the unpleasantness. Then a powerful thing happens...it doesn't last very long. Sloth and torpor comes from a tired mind. If we fight it we use up the little energy we had and we get more sleepy. If we break thru sloth and torpor with will power we just emerge into restlessness. When we calm down the restlessness we go back into sloth and torpor.
If we try and change something we're not contemplating anymore. To contemplate what has arisen, we have to make peace with it first and then let it teach us. Making peace = letting go. Not liking restlessness is the fuel that keeps it going. The goal is stillness. The hindrances are the opposite of stillness. Jhanas and nimmitas are just the symptoms of stillness. Go after stillness, not the symptoms. Give up completely the will, the do-er.
This equals generosity and renunciation. Generosity...give self totally to meditation with no expectations. This attitude doesn't allow the hindrances to survive. Desire and ill will are expecting something different than now. Mindfulness makes us aware of what is observed and also makes us aware of what's between the oserver and observed. Mindfulness catches the aversion etc.
Patience is another way of saying letting go. No expectations is even another way of saying letting go. Give, expecting nothing back in return. Don't expect good kamma, a good reputation etc. This means giving up the will, the controller, the do-er, the owner. Give our mind totally to mindfulness, to metta, karuna, letting go, peace.
The hindrances can't cope with this complete giving, expecting nothing back in return. If we stop thinking, then there is no doubt. Restlessness means we're not ok with the present moment. Doubt is a wanting to know, a discontent. Once we're in blissful silence then we will know.....no more doubt.
The five hindrances lie, not in what we experience but in how we experience it. No matter what is happening....tiredness, restlessness etc just put peace between it and ourself. Put peace between whatever we are doing and self i.e. listening to a talk, doing the dishes. Mara (the control freak) lives between the known and the knower. Watch this space "I see you Mara" Seeing Mara in that space defeats Mara (the hindrance). Once the hindrances are gone there is clear seeing....nothing between you and the jhanas. When the hindrances stop, the world stops....not immediately...it's like turning off the gas for the car....takes awhile to come to a stop.
Don't watch the breath too tightly. When the breath wants to disappear, let it.
Based on a Dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm