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Social Distancing – an exercise in recognising the hindrances

Before everything changed in our daily reality we started looking at the 5 main ways in which we get in the way of our own happiness and wellbeing (the hindrances).

Just a reminder, the hindrances are:

These are now more relevant than ever, because when we find ourselves in a situation where we are ‘stuck’ at home and in the midst of a lot of difficult, sad and anxious news, a lot of these behavioural and thought patterns will come up.

We already looked more closely at the first two in the emails from early March. Let’s look at the third hindrance this week, which I feel is especially relevant right now.

The third hindrance: we zone out

The third hindrance is about ‘zoning out’ – in Buddhist psychology it is called Sloth and Torpor – but who really uses those words (or know what they mean). In short it is a way in which we zone out from our reality as it is.

There are two main ways that our mind zones out. The first one usually presents itself as sleepiness. We feel tired and want to go to sleep. An every day example could be napping (or really wanting to take a nap), or feelings of heaviness and drowsiness after lunch.

The second one is a movement of the mind away from difficulties. This often expresses itself in laziness, complacency and inertia. We get stuck in ‘doing nothing’ to avoid engaging with challenges in our life. Netflix marathons come to mind as an everyday example.

What mind mechanisms are at play?

The mind and body get stuck in an energy of no energy. Our minds cannot access the energy to actually do or accomplish something.

Partly, this state of mind is trying to protect us from things we do not want to feel (remember hindrance 2!). We zone out, become so tired, heavy and lazy that we do not have space to feel anything else. This then feeds off itself and as such you can get stuck into this and never really addressing or becoming aware of what it is that is giving rise to this zoning out.

I have to note here that it is challenging to notice when we are just tired and when the tiredness comes mostly from our mind. Many of us chronically do not get enough sleep or rest, and as such, our bodies can be genuinely tired. Below we will discuss a bit more on how to distinguish the two types of tiredness.

Our minds never do things just for the sake of it, just because it makes things more difficult for us or those around us. It is always, always, trying to protect us. Unfortunately, not always very effectively. Keeping this in mind might help you treat all of these states with kindness. Approach zoning out with kindness – it is a very common, very persistent way of our mind to behave. It does make real wellbeing and happiness more difficult, so it is good to start to know it a little better.

How to relate to zoning out?

We can learn to get to know what our body and mind feels like when we are zoning out and what role it plays in blocking our happiness and well-being.

Zoning out or just tired?

When is it really sleepiness? There are couple of ways you can investigate this.

Generally, you wil know if you are getting enough sleep. If you are chronically not sleeping then sleep might be exactly what you need. However, if you are getting enough sleep and you start to notice the tiredness or laziness appears at certain times during the day, or after particular emotions, it might not be lack of sleep.

Try to experiment with giving into sleepiness and not – what makes your mind more alert after? What makes you feel better?

Tiredness has many different causes, please investigate wisely and listen to the body before you take action – while trying to not get caught up in the hindrance – it is not easy and takes practice.

Ultimately you have to find the right balance for yourself. You will have to experiment a little bit and be aware of the fact that your thoughts might be aligning with the ‘zoning out’ tendency.

Meditations

The below meditations are geared towards exploring the feelings of laziness and tiredness in your body. I would suggest you try the longer meditation when you are feeling tired. The other one you can do anytime, it explores the body sensations more broadly.

Please note that I do not have access to my usual microphone or other technical support, so the quality of the sound is not the best.

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Meditation

Body awareness (5 minutes)

Start meditation

Meditation

Body awareness (5 minutes)

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Meditation

Explore tiredness (15 minutes)

Start meditation

Meditation

Explore tiredness (15 minutes)