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Laziness and restlessness

I've been writing for the IDP blog on a regular basis for almost five years -- not because I think I have great insights to share but because it needs to be done. I've worked on daily newspapers for all of my adult life (except for six horrible months immediately after graduating from college when I did public relations), and I understand the need for new content. I know how to produce content. So I do.

For me, it's been a practice in opening, sharing ideas. Since I don't have a live, in-person sangha, this has been a way to explore ideas and share thoughts. It's also about discipline and posting on Saturday mornings. And I've been good about meeting that deadline, providing content. Until recently.

Over the last month or so, I've left my slot empty or posted at other times. There were good reasons: Travel, retreat, events. I've been too busy.

It's interesting that in Buddhism, busyness is associated with both laziness and restlessness. In both instances, external activity is a way to avoid facing what's happening internally. 

Gil Fronsdal, talking about the hindrance of restlessness, says:

Constant activity can channel the restlessness at the expense of neither confronting it nor settling it. Because restlessness is uncomfortable, it can be difficult to pay attention to. Paradoxically, restlessness is itself sometimes a symptom of not being able to be present for discomfort. Patience, discipline, and courage are needed to sit still and face it.

The traditional antidote for restlessness is to sit still.

In the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha said that when the mind is restless, "it is the proper time for cultivating the following factors of enlightenment: tranquility, concentration, and equanimity, because an agitated mind can easily be quietened by them."

A time of restlessness is not the time for study because that can cause further excitement, he said.

But you can study the restless body and mind. Focus on the sensations; get to know, intimately, the feeling of restlessness, without the narration the mind provides. Feel the muscles, the energy, the tension and release. Then look at the mind: Where is the razor's edge, the head of the pin, the moment where you go from awareness to I-can't-stand-this-for-another-second? Can you find it? Can you rest there?


Feelings become overwhelming when the physical sensation and the mind work together to keep the hamster wheel of samsara spinning. You can investigate either one on its own, but when they join they create a tsunami of restlessness/busyness/stress that sucks you under.

As much as I identify with that scenario, that hasn't been the case for me lately. I'm not overwhelmed, just short on time. I have a job, a commitment to Buddhist practice that takes 2-3 hours a day, a family.

For some people, establishing discipline is a hard practice. That hasn't been my problem. Meditation has been a daily practice for me since I started. For me, not meeting expectations is much harder because it means giving up the validation that comes with doing what you're supposed to do. It means relying on myself to validate that I'm doing what's right for me. That's hard.

And then that's what you sit with.

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