Sometimes we need to talk about laziness.

I think laziness is probably a universal human trait. It gets in the way of our confidence and strength.

Talking about our struggles and reflecting on them is how we overcome them. Laziness is a thing that gets in our way. It stops us from reaching our potential and achieving our goals. Sometimes laziness can almost be like poison and really ruin things for us. Most of the time it’s not that serious.

In Buddhism laziness is sometimes described as having three aspects. In his book “The Bodhisattva Handbook” the Dalai Lama describes the three aspects of laziness in this way:

1) Having no wish to do good

2) Being distracted by negative activities

3) Underestimating oneself and doubting one’s ability

I think that’s a pretty good list of things that get in our way. We may not think of all of these as laziness, but it can be helpful to think of them as similar. We often talk about how these can get in the way of our spiritual practice, but really they can get in the way of anything we’re trying to do.

Having no wish to do good.

This is when we know what the right thing is and we just don’t want to do it. We can think of anything. Eating vegetables, flossing, paying attention to our kids when we don’t really want to, paying attention to our work when we don’t really want to.

And we can think of spiritual things too, obviously. Doing our meditation practice. Being generous, showing compassion when it’s not easy. And many of the other things we do. This is the laziness of “I don’t feel like it.” It’s probably the main thing we think of when we think of laziness.

Being distracted by negative activities

I’ve seen this called “The laziness of busyness” and I don’t know if that works as well to explain as this version. That’s when I’m not doing the things I know I need to do because I’m distracted. I’m not eating vegetables because I’m too busy eating too many chips. I’m not paying attention to my kids because I’m arguing with strangers on Facebook. I’m lying to make myself look good instead of being genuine and telling the truth. I’m gossiping instead of focusing on my job at work. There are probably many of examples of this.

That’s not to say we can’t spend time eating chips or scrolling through Facebook, but just that we should be mindful of what we’re doing and what it’s taking us away from. “Negative activities” might seem like a heavy term to handle but the point is that we know when we’re indulging in things that aren’t great for us and others. If we’re honest about ourselves, we know. And if we’re keeping ourselves too busy with things that aren’t what we need to do, that can have a big impact on our quality of life.

Underestimating oneself and doubting one’s ability

This is the idea of “Can’t win, don’t try.” This is basically an excuse. It’s thinking that you can’t help everyone, so you may as well not try to help anyone. It’s thinking that your kids are going to be messed up no matter what you do, so you may as well not try your best to parent. It’s overall this thought that we all have sometimes. I’m not good enough. Sure, other people can be great parents, but not me. Sure, other people can be good at their jobs, but not me. Sure, other people can attain enlightenment, but not me. Sometimes we really believe these negative things about ourselves. Other times they’re an excuse to not take a certain action. I could try harder, but it probably won’t work anyway.

So, we’ve identified problems. What can we do?

For the first two kinds of laziness, a thing that helps is learning how to plan and prioritize. Sit down and write out a list of goals. Then remind yourself, in whatever way you need to, not to let things get in the way. Now, this is harder than it sounds. We are going to have to remind ourselves again and again and again. But the truth is just naming this problem takes away a lot of it’s power.

The third kind of laziness can be a little more tricky. We have to learn how to have compassion and kindness and grace for ourselves. For some people it’s a lot easier to show kindness to others than to ourselves. One thing we can also do is learn how to be mindful of our own intentions, to know when we’re making excuses. If I think I can’t be pitcher for the Royals that’s true. But if I think I can’t handle getting a little healthier so I can play tag with my kids without getting winded, I’m wrong. I can get healthier and get that energy. I just don’t want to so I make the excuse that I can’t. Think of your own examples, I bet you have plenty.

Buddhism teachings that we all have the seed of awakening within us, that every human being has goodness at our core. This can be a tough thing to grasp because we know ourselves. I know everything bad I’ve ever done. How can I be good at the core of my being? But I am. And you are too. This can be such a hard thing for us to wrestle with. But this is true for everyone. You get there by realizing you’re already there.

And, most importantly, no one gets left out.

Kinds of Laziness (video)

Laziness is something that affects us in our day to day life as well as in our meditation practice.

When we make excuses, that is laziness.

Here’s a video I recorded about different kinds of laziness and how they affect us:


Here’s a talk I gave on the same subject a while back:

Three Kinds of Laziness (dharma talk)

and here’s a blog I wrote on the subject:

The Three Kinds of Laziness




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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

The Three Kinds of Laziness

Laziness is often what stops us from being consistent in our meditation practice. but also from anything else we might do for personal development or self care. Laziness is very common, probably something we all struggle with in one way or another. It’s a powerful force that gets in our way and regularly stops us from working toward our goals.

In Buddhism we sometimes talk about different kinds of laziness. It’s said that laziness comes in 3 different forms. I call them Procrastination, Feeling Unworthy, and Busyness. These are the things that keep us stuck and I think just identifying and being aware of them helps us manage them.

Procrastination is what we normally associate with the word laziness. I want to avoid inconvenience. I’ll do it later. I want to stay in bed. We can come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid doing things. I need to wait for the right time to meditate. I would meditate now but I don’t feel like it today. We’ve all had thoughts like this. You know what happens if you wait until you feel like it to meditate? You just don’t do it. This is all rooted in comfort. If we’re comfortable in the situation we’re in now, then we’re reluctant to change it. This not only stops us from achieving our goals but it also can limit our experience of the world.

Feeling Unworthy is when we don’t try because we feel like we can’t do something. When people find out I teach meditation sometimes they say things like, “I wish I could meditate, but I’m just not stable and calm enough.” It comes from a place of thinking that other people can do it and you can’t. This kind of laziness occurs in all sorts of ways. We might not apply for a promotion because we think we aren’t qualified. Or we might not ask someone out because we think we’re not good enough for them. We might not create art or write because we think we aren’t skilled enough. This is all rooted in hopelessness and ignoring our potential. Whatever the thing is, we should try to do it and see what happens.

Busyness doesn’t seem like a form of laziness at first, so I have to unpack it. There’s one aspect of this that’s an excuse and another aspect that’s sort of true. “I don’t have time to meditate.” “My life is too active.” These are lies. You may not have time to go to meditation classes, but if you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate. We use this for other things too. Anything we do that’s to better ourselves, we can convince ourselves we don’t have time, whether that’s meditation, working out, spending quality time with your family, or whatever else. You have time. But the other aspect is this. We fill our time in unexpected ways. Social media has us glued to our phones and we’d be shocked if we really measured how much time we spend scrolling. Phones are the busyness of our era. We fill our times with scrolling through apps and for most of us it doesn’t even really bring us joy. Most of social media is either boring or frustrating.

We need to remember to make time for self care and personal development. We could all manage our time better. We have to make time for quiet and to be present. So let’s see if we can challenge our laziness.


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