The flip side of sloth is an inability to calm down. Restlessness is too much yang. Restlessness is the buzz of too much caffeine, or the mind churning constantly while we try to sleep at night. Restlessness can manifest physically as constant movement, or agitation, or mentally as constantly dwelling on the same thoughts over and over. Guilt is a great cause of restlessness. We relive our sins, and never allow ourselves to forgive and move on. Guilt itself is a terrible sin, one that many Jews and Catholics subject themselves to.
The restless urge to move is often found in the Yin Yoga practice. We ask ourselves to remain still, but we can’t. We fidget – we feel an itch, and immediately react and scratch it. We just can’t settle down and be still. Usually when the body is moving, it is a sign that the mind is moving. And when the mind is moving, usually the breath is also fractured. Smoothing the breath, and watching it calm and slow is one excellent way to calm the mind. Once the mind is calmer, the body will move less. Once the body is quiet, there will be less need to breathe fast, and the cycle will positively reinforce itself.
Restlessness in meditation often arises due to the mind constantly being draw back to plans or inventories of our life, or our failings. We obsess – we can’t let go of the cycle of planning and evaluating our plans. We make judgments over and over again; we judge who we believe we are and how we are doing. The cure here is to allow our mind to come back to simply watching the breath. The harder this is to do, the more we need some support, or tools. An excellent tool is to count the breaths. Start at one with the next inhalation, two for the exhalation, three for the next inhalation keep counting until you reach ten, and then start over.
If several minutes of counting breaths doesn’t work, perhaps feeling the breaths will be more fruitful. Notice the way the air feels as it passes your upper lip and enters the nose. Feel the air in the throat or chest. Or notice the way your belly or chest moves up and down with each breath.