How Sloth and Torpor Affects Us

And what we can do about it.

Allen W. McLean
5 min readSep 25, 2020

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We are in our dark basement, looking with a flashlight for something we know is in some box. We have done this before, and failed to find what we had wanted the last time, so now we really do not feel like looking again. We cannot see ourselves searching for long. Upon leaving the basement, we decide we cannot be bothered to go searching next time. And when next time arrives, we remember what we had done and said, and the basement slips out of mind for weeks or months on end.

Our indolence had cemented as inertia. In the above example our focus, finding the object, was broken and never returned. But we can reverse this energy to strengthen our ability to focus on what we want to achieve!

Illustration by April Salisbury-White

Sloth and torpor are a compound hindrance to our concentration; they sustain one-another in order to disrupt our focus.

To explain this through our basement metaphor, when we shine our flashlight on a box or an object, we have applied our focus on that object. Torpor is experienced as laziness or sleepiness; within our metaphor we feel a sensation we interpret as "do not want", we fail to keep the flashlight on the box for long, and with greater intervals between placing the light on an object. After having experienced torpor, our minds can become too stiff and inert to ever shine the flashlight. Sloth is the habit of doing nothing.

What does this mean? That when we act upon torpor we form a habit of being slothful; thus the two are a compound hindrance, like a body of water being covered by mossy plants.

"If there is a pot of water, covered with moss and water plants, then a man with a normal faculty of sight looking into it could not properly recognize and see the image of his own face. In the same way, when one’s mind is possessed by sloth and torpor, overpowered by sloth and torpor, one cannot properly see the escape from sloth and torpor that have arisen; then one does not properly understand one’s own welfare, nor that of another…

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Allen W. McLean

Self-published author. Ontario, Canada. Metaphysical fiction. Scifaiku sci-fi haiku poetry. Book reviews. Alchemic Wisdom - Bite-sized Insights