The subject this week, I know, is compassion – for self, and then as it naturally goes out to others. I put it awkwardly – but Sharon’s blog is lovely. She avoids -or doesn’t even need to avoid because it doesn’t occur in her understanding – sentimentality. I shy away from speaking of Metta because I am so afraid of falling into cliche and sentimentality – for me it is the most difficult of topics to talk about, though it occupies my thoughts a lot, since I am so often judgmental (though I try to keep my nasty thoughts inside, if they won’t completely leave me).
But today I’ll talk about the lines in Real Happiness, week three, that particularly caught my imagination, regarding the five hindrances. I’ve heard and read about the hindrances so often, and tried to memorize them – when I read this section, they stuck. I see the first as greed – and deal with that all the time; aversion, yes, my biggest problem – not so much the avoidance of that which I dislike or fear as dealing with the fact that I incline to unfriendly thoughts, and of course they make my life miserable when they occur. But the ones that I used to regularly forget one of when I tried to memorize the hindrances are what caught me this time: sloth, restlessness and doubt. For me, these three are like the stage, the very basis, on which the first two can act out their dramas, whether in the tiny theater of my head or out in the world.
Sloth – if I withdraw, I won’t have to think or do anything I regret. I’m not there. I bury myself in a book, and always have since I learned how to read. (I do work against this – my sloth is not a quality I’m known for.) The radical possibility with my sloth is a sense that life is meaningless, and so what’s the point of anything?
Restlessness, anxiety – my constant companion. Often keeps me in state of sloth – lying on bed, worrying. If it’s not my daughter, it’s my granddaughter. If it’s not one of them, it’s whatever comes along. Exhausting, fruitless, and obviously selfish, since it rests on the idea that I am the one who ought to be able to make everything okay. Maybe rest is the wrong word – though worry is certainly as useless as lying flat in one’s head.
Doubt – harder to grasp and impossible for me to describe. I’ll just say it ties in nicely with sloth, and is probably the director of all the inaction that goes on. At my stage of life (75) you’d think I’d have climbed down off this stage! LC