Author Topic: Please explain to me sloth and torpor  (Read 2961 times)

Jeremy

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Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« on: January 26, 2015, 05:35:10 PM »
I don't entirely understand them. Firstly, they are not in widespread use in contemporary language. How would you define sloth? And torpor? How are they different?

Often, before sitting practice, I like to lie down for maybe 15 minutes. This is to decompress my spine. Also to refresh myself. Is this rest unnecessary? Is it sloth or is it torpor?

Sometimes, after 15 minutes, I feel like I need an hour of nap. I wake up quite calm and fresh, then do sitting practice. Is this sloth and torpor?

I am not a monk who is fed by the community and who spends all day meditating. I run a growing small business with high demands on me. Is fatigue from having to attend to dozens of business matters the same as sloth and torpor?

Goofaholix

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Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2015, 06:56:30 PM »
It's generally sleepiness and dullness.

It can arise at meditation time if you are living such a busy life that meditation time is the only time you really get to relax, so meditation can signal an opportunity to catch up on rest.  It can also arise as a resistance to meditation, an avoidance of looking at what's really going on in your mind.

Ultimately you need to learn how to come out of it, look at it's nature and learn what you can from it, when it gets to be too much of a struggle then it's time to have a lie down but keep observing the mind through that to the degree you can.

Matthew

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Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2015, 06:32:22 PM »
I don't entirely understand them. Firstly, they are not in widespread use in contemporary language. How would you define sloth? And torpor? How are they different?

Goof gives good definitions above.

Often, before sitting practice, I like to lie down for maybe 15 minutes. This is to decompress my spine. Also to refresh myself. Is this rest unnecessary? Is it sloth or is it torpor?

No - it sounds very sensible.

Sometimes, after 15 minutes, I feel like I need an hour of nap. I wake up quite calm and fresh, then do sitting practice. Is this sloth and torpor?

No - again it sounds very sensible.

I am not a monk who is fed by the community and who spends all day meditating. I run a growing small business with high demands on me. Is fatigue from having to attend to dozens of business matters the same as sloth and torpor?

No it is what it is - fatigue. All in all your approach seems balanced.

This might help make sense of it:

Quote
Relaxation
Visit the cinema or look in at television and sooner or later you'll see a gangster press a gun against someone's spine and snap through compressed lips: "Relax, brother!" A victim in such a situation can do almost anything but relax because every nerve in his body is tense with apprehension.

Yoga relaxation is quite the opposite. It teaches you to let your body go utterly limp and helps to rest your mind. A few minutes of relaxation precedes the postures and breathing and this is then followed by a period of concentration and meditation.

First Step in Relaxation
Lie on your back on the carpet. If the floor isn't carpeted, lie on a rug or blanket folded in two. A soft firm surface gives the best rest: not one that allows your spine to sag. Place your arms parallel to your sides.

Close your eyes and allow your body to go limp. This is not as easy as it seems, especially when under stress because involuntarily the body is apt to grow tense. If your mind is troubled, thoughts will intrude and these tend to make one or more limbs taut; so think of each part of your body separately and as you do, allow it to go limp; first feet, then legs and thighs, stomach, chest, arms, hands and finally cheeks, eyes, mouth and chin. When all this has been done you will probably find that your neck is still rigid. Make it go limp too.

When this has been accomplished you will find that some parts have stiffened up again without you realizing it. So repeat the process and do it again and again if necessary.

When your body is completely limp, lie like that for 10 minutes and the odds are that you'll probably feel drowsy and fall asleep. Which may be just what you need.

As your body relaxes, try to think of nothing in particular, which is much more difficult than you imagine, as thoughts will persist in racing through your head.

After about 10 minutes - or when you wake - have a warm bath and slip into bed. Or if too drowsy, slip into bed without a warm bath. Sleep is what you need and deep sleep is the finest form of relaxation known. If you get that you will have accomplished the first step in yoga.
Quote

Harvey Day - Practical  Yoga, Thorsons Publishers, London 1967
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Vivek

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Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2015, 02:23:35 PM »
Jeremy, if you can afford it, I would recommend to buy Joseph Goldstein's "Mindfulness". It is an excellent book which explains sloth & torpor and many other topics related to meditative practice in great detail.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Alex

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Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2015, 07:17:50 PM »
I heard someone speak briefly about 'sinking mind' on a podcast today, because that was his most prominent experience during a retreat. He would for example go into the meditation hall very energized and positive about the next sitting session, only to find himself waking up with his chin on his chest after some time.

He related to this as we would to anything else: bringing awareness to the experience.

Max

Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2015, 05:26:45 PM »
I think sloth and torpor is the hindrance which only recently got "tangible" for me. For a long time, I thought of it as "being tired" or the like.

It must be distinguished from being tired/exhausted (body or mind). In my understanding, that's not what sloth and torpor as a hindrance is referring to. To me, it's the habit of mind to move away from unpleasant experiences by spacing out, falling asleep etc. The challenge is that sloth and torpor often masquerades as compassion in the mind ("Oh, I'm so tired, I should take a nap." "I meditated so long, let's have a tea".).

One of the challenges with S&T is exactly this - identifying when the voice in my mind is one of compassion and when it is one based on a hindrance.


Jeremy

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Re: Please explain to me sloth and torpor
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2015, 04:43:44 PM »
I think I am understanding S&T more now.

It is one of the five hindrances. What do they hinder? They hinder me from entering jhana states during sitting practice.

One should look at it in the context of a bhikku's life. When a bhikku sits down to meditate, it is not yet noon. He has just gotten up, walked to the village for food, and eaten. His energy levels then is crazy high, considering he hasn't even worked yet.

So S&T is not the fatigue we (you and I, modern lay practitioners) are so familiar with. It is a sort of cloudiness of the mind unrelated to bodily fatigue.

In one of the suttas, the way to dispel it was mentioned. Think of something inspiring. I think of a sunset I saw recently of a column of cumulus backlit by the setting sun. It was majestic like God himself, if there were such a thing as a God. It really does increase rapture during sitting practice. It uplifts.

 

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