Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 142 – Doubt, Restlessness, & Sloth

Joseph Goldstein explores the mental factors of doubt, restlessness, and sloth, which are three hindrances that can cause a lack of vision and knowledge, and lead us away from Nibbana.  

This dharma talk from November 2002 at the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center was originally published on Dharma Seed.
Doubt and Indecision

Looking at the five hindrances from the reverse angle, Joseph begins by exploring the mental factor of doubt, which is usually the last of the hindrances to be covered. He talks about the power of skeptical doubt to burden us with great uncertainty and indecision. Joseph covers the many forms that doubt can take in meditation practice and offers some suggestions for how to work with doubt in our own practice. 

“This skeptical doubt, this indecision, this bewilderment, in terms of our meditation practice, is actually quite a dangerous mind state. Because unnoticed, if we’re not mindful of it, it brings our practice to a standstill.” – Joseph Goldstein

Sharon Salzberg shares her perspective on doubt in Metta Hour Ep. 17
Restlessness (17:25)

In this reverse order, the next of the hindrances is restlessness. Joseph talks about how this mental factor is the cause of so many discursive thoughts, and how we need to be able to distinguish between discursive thought and wise reflection. He covers how restlessness also leads to the comparing mind, the “yogi” mind, and how it can manifest in very interesting ways in our practice. Joseph offers ways of working with these different expressions of restlessness.

“In working with restlessness, besides the careful noting of it, it’s helpful also to understand the energetics of it. Restlessness comes when there’s too much energy and not enough concentration to hold it. And so, in one way or another, we want to strengthen the concentration factor.” – Joseph Goldstein

Joseph Goldstein talks about working with restlessness and boredom in Insight Hour Ep. 137
Sloth and Torpor (32:05)

Joseph ends by exploring the hindrance of sloth, which we feel as sleepiness, drowsiness, or dullness of the mind. But on a more concerning level, sloth or torpor can manifest as a habit of withdrawing from difficulties and really keep us from engaging and connecting. Joseph talks about the subtle ways sloth arises in meditation practice and offers ways to work with this mental factor in our practice. He reminds us that even the Buddha’s greatest disciples had to deal with sloth and torpor.

“Sometimes sloth and torpor fools us, tricks us, because it comes masquerading as compassion, just like doubt can masquerade as wisdom. These mental factors are very tricky. It takes a lot of discernment to really see what is going on.” – Joseph Goldstein

JoAnna Hardy offers her thoughts on working with the five hindrances in BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 66