The five hindrances are:
1. Sensory desire
The third and fourth hindrances form a pair of opposites. Sloth and torpor describe physical and mental sluggishness; restlessness and worry, as a hindrance, is agitation and the inability to settle. Finding an energetic balance is a worthy goal.
There arises listlessness, lassitude, lazy stretching of the body, drowsiness after meals, mental sluggishness; frequently giving unwise attention to it — this is the nourishment for the arising of sloth and torpor that have not yet arisen and for the increase and strengthening of sloth and torpor that have already arisen.
There is the element of rousing one’s energy, the element of exertion, the element of continuous exertion; frequently giving wise attention to it — this is the denourishing of the arising of sloth and torpor that have not yet arisen and of the increase and strengthening of sloth and torpor that have already arisen.
— SN 46:51, translated by Nyanaponika Thera
The above is a very simple analysis of how to feed sloth and torpor in ourselves and how to starve it. How quickly do we decide that we don’t have the energy to do something that we ought to do? How adept are we at avoiding expending any energy that’s not strictly necessary?
Inertia, that is, having a hard time getting going, is another way to describe this hindrance. For many people, mental and/or physical listlessness is only an occasional problem, for others it’s a result of physical conditions beyond their control. There is no fixed, “correct” level of energetic output; we each have our karmic situations. Within the limits of our abilities, we can find a balance of withholding and putting forth our vigor.
By monitoring our energy level, we can rest when there is a real need, and keep some energetic momentum going throughout the day.
Next time: the problem of too much energetic momentum.