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Meditating with depression

Does anyone have any resources or advice from suttas about combating ‘sloth and torpor’, which is one of the major symptoms of depression?

:pray::pray::pray:

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All to please note:-

Depression is a sensitive topic. Opinions by participants on this forum are deemed to be be expressions of their own personal experience, which are not necessarily valid for other participants. This forum, as also the internet should not comprise the primary source of advice for anyone regarding their lifestyle, diet, meditation practice etc. Users are advised to seek professional personalized advice from their own doctors, dietitians and spiritual advisers. Diets and meditation practices can be harmful, and potentially even life threatening if embarked upon without adequate professional supervision.

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This book is excellent:
“The Mindful Way through Depression”
by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Much metta. :pray:

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Removal of sloth and torpor comprehensive instructions:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html#sloth

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Depression sucks.

I think sloth and torpor may be relevant, but the guidance in the canon isn’t limited to that, is it?

I mean, you could end up making yourself feel bad about being slovenly and… er… torporous? Torpid? Whatever the adjective of torpid is.

Who am I to say what you should or shouldn’t take in to consideration, but I hope you consider mixing a lot of forgiveness and compassion for yourself into the mix.

:pray:

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The Buddhist view is that all mind states fall under the third foundation of mindfulness. That and its preliminary exercise, the third tetrad of Anapanasati strategically divide mind states into two types- those with excess energy and those deficient in energy. The reason is so that appropriate meditations can be applied to remedy them and bring the mind to a central point of balance. The third tetrad speaks of "gladdening " on the one hand and “steadying” the mind on the other. Here the Anapanasati sutta assumes the mind will need correction. To gladden a mind low in energy recollection of the Buddha, Dhamma, and sangha are among other topics recommended in AN 11.12 :

“At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the Dhamma, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Dhamma. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma.”

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Depression and anxiety I believe are one and the same. As is restlessness ane sloth and torpor.

Both are two extremes on a pundulum that swing back and forth.

Take for example caffeine and coffee, when I drink it my mind feels like it’s running at 200km/h, I get nonstop thoughts and it’s hard for me to stay calm as I am restless. The next day I am always exhausted because I didn’t sleep well the night before, and so now my mind is too tired to stay focused and I have sloth and torpor.

After about a week of no caffeine, my mind is neither restless nor tired, but balanced. So I have to avoid caffeine at all costs, even though I enjoy the taste of coffee in the short term, the long term pain of an imbalanced mind is not worth it.

So ups and downs in energy levels are like the pundulum that swings back and forth between restlessness and sloth.

So what is the root cause for restlesness? it’s dukkha, discontent, identity view, conceit, basically the 3 poisons.

Imho, the best state to be in when the 5 hindrances are present is boredom, as that lets you then face the root problem which is discontent and restlessness. Covering up the boredom with activity such sensual desires will tire you out and then you’ll be back in sloth. So I’d rather be mildly restless than tired out from bandaid solutions (rituals) that don’t actually solve the problem.

Hope that gives you some insight.

Then, late at night, the glorious god Kakudha, lighting up the entire Añjana Wood, went up to the Buddha, bowed, stood to one side, and said to him, “Do you delight, ascetic?”

“What have I gained, sir?”

“Well then, ascetic, do you sorrow?”

“What have I lost, sir?”

“Well then, ascetic, do you neither delight nor sorrow?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I hope you’re untroubled, mendicant,
I hope that delight isn’t found in you.
I hope that discontent doesn’t
overwhelm you as you sit alone.”

“I’m genuinely untroubled, spirit,
and no delight is found in me.
And also discontent doesn’t
overwhelm me as I sit alone.”

“How are you untroubled, mendicant?
How is delight not found in you?
How does discontent not
overwhelm you as you sit alone?”

“Delight is born from misery,
misery is born from delight;
sir, you should know me as
a mendicant free of delight and misery.”

“After a long time I see
a brahmin extinguished.
A mendicant free of delight and misery,
he has crossed over clinging to the world.”

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Thanks, I’ll look into it!

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Exactly what I was looking for! :smiley:

Yep, it’s a fine line between beating yourself up for not trying hard enough and trying so hard that you burn yourself out. Trying every day to balance on this tight-rope. :sweat_smile:

And thanks for the kind words. :slight_smile:

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Yes, often times the recollection brings a real sense of grounding. Thanks for sharing the quote. :pray:

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From my experience with others, it seems to me that depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand as you say. It’s interesting that people are sometimes diagnosed with one or the other rather than both, but I’ll leave that aside to focus on dhamma here.

Interesting that you mention being so affected by caffeine. I notice only short-term effects, but that’s probably due to not being on tune with my body enough. Sometimes it seemingly helps combat sloth and torpor but I suppose like any drug it’s something to be handled with care.

Boredom is certainly something which can be worked with during this pandemic!

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The normal Buddhist meditation subject to remedy sloth and torpor is daylight. I believe in the modern context this would include the Impressionist method of painting light.

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In the Buddhist view anxiety is a result of an overactive mind, the opposite to depression.

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Looking at light is one of the steps the Buddha gave Maha moggallana, who is someone who

  • eats 1 meal a day
  • sleeps on a low hard surface
  • already has some level of jhana mastery
  • sleeps 5 hours or less
  • is celibate
  • doesn’t play video games, watch movies, etc.
  • perfect virtue (energy not wasted on regret or unwholesome thoughts or emotions)
  • sati-sampajanna 24/7

What I mean is, it’s a remedy for people who already have the ascetic lifestyle, not for people whose minds are unbalanced by sensual desires and perhaps mental intoxicant substances.

Hence the Buddha says that no matter how hard someone tries they will not attain anything if their mind is drenched in sensual desires like a log drenched in water

"So it is with any brahman or contemplative who does not live withdrawn from sensuality in body & mind, and whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving [for Awakening], he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening. This was the first simile — spontaneous, never before heard — that appeared to me.

"So it is with any brahman or contemplative who lives withdrawn from sensuality in body only, but whose desire, infatuation, urge, thirst, & fever for sensuality is not relinquished & stilled within him: Whether or not he feels painful, racking, piercing feelings due to his striving, he is incapable of knowledge, vision, & unexcelled self-awakening. This was the second simile — spontaneous, never before heard — that appeared to me.

mn 36

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Well caffeine doesn’t actually give you energy, it gives you stress that makes you think it’s energy, it spikes cortisol. Caffeine is actually a poison, it’s a defense mechanism plants use to protect their seeds/beans (their offspring) from predators like insects. What we’re doing is taking those seeds/beans and grinding them up into a powder and digesting it along with the defense mechanism that is a poison. So it’s not real energy, it’s your immune system elevating your stress hormone cortisol to deal with the poison.

As for energy, people who are rich tend to say that time is the most precious commodity. That’s why they’re willing to spend a lot of money on private helicopters and jets to get to places faster, but personally I think energy is more precious than time as if you have no energy then time becomes irrelevant. So the trick is to get real energy and not waste it, and proper attention (yoniso manasikara) prevents one from wasting energy.

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It may not be Buddhist philosophy, but I agree with Lao Tzu who said,

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

Anxiety and depression appear to be two sides of the same coin. They both seem related to rumination (uncontrolled thoughts about past/future)

(from Wikipedia)
Rumination is the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions, according to the Response Styles Theory proposed by Nolen-Hoeksema.
… both rumination and worry are associated with anxiety and other negative emotional states

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Not from the suttas, but one thing I find nice about being mentally tired is that I’m usually too tired to think much, which ironically can lead to quite peaceful meditation.

I guess it depends on the type of ‘sloth and torpor’?

If someone just wants to sleep 24/7 they should probably see a doctor. Depression can also be a symptom of some underlying medical issue, e.g. auto-immune disorders or inflammation (not a doctor).

But if it’s a lack of mental energy, which is probably pretty common with or without depression, just kindfully resting the mind is one of the best remedies IMO.

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Do you know any sutta mentioning daylight? Unfortunately for me I live in a basement with small windows so I’ve been trying to go for walks to meditate in a nearby park which helps.

Thanks for that quote, it’s very insightful! Also congratulations on your first post.