Sloth and Torpor

Adam guided our reflections this past Sunday on the Hindrance of Sloth and Torpor. Laziness is only one facet of this complex Hindrance to our lives, meditative and otherwise.  A dharmic analysis of the causes and conditions of Sloth and Torpor can help us meet this hindrance with more skill and greater effectiveness.

From Adam:

I chose this Hindrance because I have had little practice observing this mindfully. Or so I had thought. Also — I tend toward action, and I thought it might be good for me to see how this Hindrance shows up.

Ajahn Brahmavamso states in the Five Hindrances:

“Sloth and torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch, as it were. Setting a goal, a reasonable goal, is a wise and effective way to generate energy, as is deliberately developing interest in the task at hand. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new. Thus, if one can learn to look at one’s life, or one’s meditation, with a ‘beginner’s mind’ one can see ever new angles and fresh possibilities which keep one distant from sloth and torpor, alive and energetic. Similarly, one can develop delight in whatever one is doing by training one’s perception to see the beautiful in the ordinary, thereby generating the interest which avoids the half-death that is sloth and torpor. […] Sloth and torpor is a common problem which can creep up and smother one slowly. A skilful meditator keeps a sharp look-out for the first signs of sloth and torpor and is thus able to spot its approach and take evasive action before it’s too late. Like coming to a fork in a road, one can take that mental path leading away from sloth and torpor.”

Joseph Goldstein’s talk on the hinderance is about 29 min total (Link to the talk:
1:00 – 4:15 : set up sloth and torpor at the beginning of the podcast…
8:38 a more subtle sloth and torpor (coasting via inertia….when abiding recedes…holding on tight…)
16:34 The first step in addressing sloth and torpor: is it present?  is it not present?
17:28 The next step: to know the conditions for the arising of sloth and torpor
Common cause: giving unwise or careless attention to certain states.
20:54  Sloth & torpor in the guise of compassion (be aware of own needs)
26:05 Overeating
29:40 Imbalance of Concentration and Energy (too much concentration, too trance-like)
30:26 Heating up the “cold mind”
Be mindful of the retreating mode (the dull mind becomes to object of attention)
32:20 Attachment to clarity precludes ability to sit with what is. Managing sleep.


Other remedies for S & T in addition to mindfulness:

– clarity of cognition (add more objects of focus. This energizes one’s practice.)
– hearing, seeing, sitting–using new touchpoints of awareness
– develop a “radiant” mind —  a knowing mind.  Clarity with observing the mind knowing sloth & torpor
– allowing s&p to naturally pass…
– wise reflection that engages interest, arousing ardency (precious human birth, aspirations for dying)
– handling s & t as practice for having own death with awareness!
– “if none of these work, take rest…”    🙂   (JG suggests laying down until moment of release that precedes sleep– then get up!)