Thanks to Charles Kovatch for this guest post.
This month, we are continuing with our exploration of the Five Hindrances by focusing on Sloth and Torpor.
When I first learned of the Five Hindrances, I found this hindrance a little confusing. Living in DC and feeling as if I am always on the go, I thought that making time for meditation was actually a “sloth” activity. I couldn’t be further from the truth.
Sloth can be defined as a physical absence of vitality where the body feels heavy and lethargic, and torpor is a mental lack of energy. When combined, we tend to feel sluggish and drained, which can lead to frustration, boredom, and indifference. Specifically in meditation, we may find that we are not able to focus, our thoughts drift, or our bodies fall asleep.
Growing up Catholic, I was aware of sloth as one of the seven deadly sins, which I originally understood as physical laziness. However, as I have become more aware and studied, I now see that sloth (and torpor) refer to spiritual laziness. Both physical and spiritual sloth/torpor are intertwined in our ability to live our life to the fullest, perform our daily tasks, find meaning and purpose in life, and bring ourselves to full awareness or connection with God.
In researching the topic of sloth/torpor for this month’s meeting, I realized that many religions have a caution toward sloth/torpor, and they offer insights on how we may live a full and rich life. With the group’s diverse background, I look forward to our discussion this month as we investigate what sloth and torpor mean to us and identify where we have tendencies toward sloth and torpor.
I once read in the book “The Seven Lively Sins” by Karen Salmansohn, that exhaustion is not to be confused with calm. Reflecting on this quote, I ask the group to consider how we can create a healthy balance in our busy lives to make time for rest (both mental and physical), so we are better able to make time for meditation, which helps us to stave off sloth and torpor.