Monks and followers in most spiritual traditions are warned against the fault of laziness least it lead to the greater fault of what is called in Christian writings, acedia, one of the seven deadly sins. Acedia, sometimes called sloth, is a state of indifference to either the outcome of one’s practice or to the efforts required to achieve one’s meditative or prayerful aims. Kathleen Norris describes it as “not-caring, or being unable to care, and ultimately, being unable to care that you can’t care.”
In “ordinary” life, sloth may lead to lack of discipline, shoddy work, and ultimately, we are warned in guides to moral improvement, poverty and its harmful effects on family and community. Although acedia could be associated with depression, it was not necessarily. For example, distractions of entertainment, gambling and other “sinful” pleasures, excessive daydreaming, even too much “idle time” in the library, or discouragement about rewards for one’s efforts, could be signs of sloth.
Most importantly, acedia, as the case with many other “sinful” acts, is one of “wrong” thinking, for it is the thought about the perceived object that leads us astray down the crooked path and not the object. This is like blaming a newspaper article about a person with MS “better” or “worse” of than me for being despondent or fearful, rather than taking responsibility for my own thoughts and not allow them to lead me “into temptation.”
The reason I bring it up here is my own struggle with sloth. After all, I make the effort to use my illness and disability as a means to greater mindfulness and “work” on my being. It’s the case now, however, that falls from bad transfers and the need to call EMTs for a lift assist have and hopefully will continue to be greatly diminished or even eliminated, with the recent installation of an overhead slingless lift that takes me from bed to wheelchair and back. Now I have to pay attention so I don’t get whacked in the head with it, but the need to focus as carefully is admittedly less.
Then, of course, there’s the use of my mechanical rather than manual chair, which built of strength and endurance. Now, until I can get out in my wheelchair bike, I have to remember, like any other sedentary guy, to lift my two pound weights. Unfortunately, as we all know, it is very difficult to remember to remember. And when I do, the usual excuses we all share chatter away in my mind, e.g., right now I’m in writing flow and don’t want to interrupt and exercise.
I am grateful for the greater safety to my caregivers and myself the lift provides. But part of my challenge now is to prevent what is surely the temporary lessening of some difficulties from lulling me to sleep and miss the obstacles and make the most of the opportunities to wakening we all share. I’m sure in the near future I’ll look back at this piece and wonder whatever was I thinking. And be glad of this brief period of a little ease.