Bored? Go Straight to the Source

bored_largeNote: As you investigate boredom, you may find it helpful to listen to a guided audio meditation I recorded called, “You Are Welcome as You Are.”

“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.”
~Zen Proverb

There was a time when boredom ruled my life. Either I was bored, or I spent my time escaping boredom. Sure, I chose some great ways to stay occupied, and I had a lot of fun. But, if I really tell the truth, a lot of my activity was driven by the fear of being bored.

We all know what it is like to feel bored. We somehow trick ourselves into believing that nothing interesting is happening. We feel numb, restless, and unsettled. We don’t know what to do with ourselves. And it doesn’t feel very good, does it?

Even now, you may feel like clicking away from this page. Who wants to tap into a feeling we strive so hard to avoid? But here is the paradox – and the secret doorway: we can bring aliveness to our investigation of an experience that seems so dull and lifeless.

Boredom Draws Us Outward; Wisdom Draws Us Inward

The definition from describes boredom as a reaction to unstimulating events in our environment. We may label as boring a conversation, a repetitive task, a speech, a person, or even life itself. Following from this definition, the malady of boredom would be cured if only we were adequately entertained by an array of fascinating circumstances. But this solution is doomed to failure, as life has a way of being mundane and ordinary.

We can chase exciting experiences endlessly, and many people do. But if our deepest desire is enduring happiness, then boredom is a golden opportunity rather than an obstacle. Why move into boredom rather than fix it? In the words of George Mallory, early Everest climber, “Because it’s there.” If our present moment experience is boredom, we have two choices: resist and avoid or accept and befriend.

And when we are awake and curious in our investigation of boredom, are we actually bored?

The Experience of Boredom

As we lean into boredom, here is what we discover:

  • In our minds, we may notice judgments about people and experiences, a sense of mental fog, and negative opinions about our present experience. There is a sense of contraction rather than openness.
  • Emotionally, we feel numb, blah, down, anxious, dissatisfied, hopeless.
  • The physical body shows heaviness, fatigue, agitation, an inability to get going.
  • The actions we choose might include sleeping, eating, picking an argument, getting into trouble, wasting time, using substances, or staying ridiculously busy.

It seems like a film of negativity and lack of motivation has descended on us. We feel locked in behind a smudged window that makes the world look drab. We are standing in our own shadow.

Going Deeper

Now that we are familiar with the experience of boredom, let’s peel another layer of the onion. One important question to ask is: Is boredom masking an uncomfortable feeling? We might find it easier to feel disinterested and blasé than to experience anger or sadness or fear. Maybe boredom keeps us from facing the reality of some aspect of our life situation.

  • When you tell the truth to yourself about what is actually present, what do you find?
  • Are you willing to turn toward this moment as it is in its entirety?
  • Can you let yourself see what you really want and need?

Only then, can we fully receive the wisdom and inner direction that is being offered to us.

The Ultimate Solution

In the state of boredom, we look outward to fill ourselves up with amusing objects and feel frustrated when we fail to find them. This is an effortful doing that is ultimately unsatisfying.

Once we stop buying into the mental story of boredom, however, our minds become still enough to open to the vast space of the present moment. Seeking ends, and wonder, enthusiasm, gratitude, and creativity emerge. We rediscover that our hearts are capable of embracing all of life. We begin to care once again.

The contracted feeling of boredom is a sign that we have fallen asleep as well as an invitation to step out of our own shadow. When boredom appears, lucky you! If you receive it as a special gift and use it well, it will guide you to reclaim the beauty of this existence that is rightfully yours.

What is your experience with boredom?  How have you dealt with it?  I’d love to hear…

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  1. says

    Hi Gail…

    Boredom… In my opinion boredom does not exist. I have not experienced boredom. But I experienced the choice not to do anything (interesting).
    Anyone may choose to do something. Or be bored.

    You chose a great topic here…

    • Gail Brenner says

      I love this comment, Marko!

      The only way we are bored is if we are not connecting with what is going on right now in the moment. If we are present with what is happening, being alive to it, boredom is impossible. And in any moment, we can let go of brain fog and shift our attention to this that is happening…right now.

      As I was writing this post, I was playing with how this works. I would get distracted, then realize it and “come back” to the present, an exercise worth trying out. There is indeed a choice that we can make in any moment, and if we make the choice to be aware, we find that joy and happiness are right here waiting for us.

  2. says

    Hi Gail,
    Boredom is real interesting one. I have experienced boredom as both a positive and negative. Sometimes we use boredom to to cop out on life. I remember when I first started down my spiritual path I would get bored during seminars or readings. This was my ego getting a grip on me because it wanted block out the change I was undergoing.

    Once I was serious and enthralled with the deep conversation of what it means to be human, I found I was bored with my usual conversation. My old cronies seemed boring and conversely I bored them with my conversation. Boredom can be a great sign of growth… lucky us, indeed!
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..Life Mastery 101 =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I understand your point completely, Rob. It is very common, in my experience, to outgrow friends once we are deeply involved in the most essential conversations. It’s an amazing barometer when we see that what used to interest us no longer does.

      Boredom does appear for most of us, and we have the choice over what to do with it: let it block us from going deeper or allowing it to inform our path.

  3. says

    This is a very good topic to discuss.. Joy and happiness is right here waiting for us. I like it! I personally think boredom is an emotion where you feel like you are a little out of it..not connecting or engaging by the moment. A little more than having nothing to do but just tired or fed up with something.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Justin,

      A warm welcome to you!! And thanks so much for your comment.

      You have described boredom perfectly – having almost nothing to do and sensing feelings (tired, fed up) that we don’t want to actually feel. When we make the choice to engage with what is present in the moment, we do realize that joy and happiness are waiting for us.

      This is so clear – thanks for sharing it.

  4. says

    Hi Gail,
    I hear this alot from my daughter. “I am bored” or “this is boring.” We usually try to ask what does this mean? It seems to be a lack a stimulation. Thinking about it that way, lack of stimulation, gets to the heart of it for me. I have spent decades “bored” because I needed the external stimulation. In the last few years I have gotten better about that. I am able to drive without the radio on and without the phone in my ear. Of course driving is stimulating, but my mind does not always have to be kept company.

    Technology does make this more difficult as there is that pull to see or hear what is going on “out there.” But the truth is that I am only ever bored because I allow that to happen. When I stay in the moment, it is hard to bored. Thanks for the reminder.
    .-= occasionallyserene´s last blog ..Serenity can enter your life when you least expect it =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi OS,

      The essence of your comment is: “when I stay in the moment, it is hard to be bored.” If we look to outside stimulation to keep us occupied, we are running after the carrot that we can never quite reach. It’s so beautiful to hear your intention to not always keep your mind company. You are in a position to be a wonderful role model for your daughter.

      Not relying on outside stimulation is not about being deprived and feeling forced to tolerate silence. When we deeply explore what is actually here, in the stillness and present moment, there is so much to be discovered. It’s not the kind of stimulation we are used to, but I would recommend to anyone to go inward and see what you find.

  5. says

    Hi Gail .. me bored?! No – no time to be .. but someone who has major financial problems as well as being ill .. said they were bored at home and that’s why they’d come back to work at the Nursing Home.

    I just thought – in this day and age we should never be bored .. there’s so much to do .. we could be reading, learning, healing ourselves- in her case .. going for a walk (she can’t) .. but there’s so many things we can do ..

    I couldn’t be bored .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..A Century of Aces Afghanistan to Zimbabwe =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I love your excitement for life, Hilary. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

      It doesn’t sound like you have to put a lot of effort into finding interesting things around you – you are naturally interested and curious. It sounds like your activity is not at all about avoiding anything, but is a beautiful way to express your zest for life.

      Thanks so much for sharing it!

  6. Deb says

    As I read this post I realized I have not felt bored for quite a while. I have learned that being in the moment takes care of the boredom. You wrote “In the state of boredom, we look outward to fill ourselves up with amusing objects and feel frustrated when we fail to find them.” I am responsible for my own “amusing.” I have heard this all my life, but only recently did this mean anything. I can stay in the moment, and pull myself back to the moment and not be bored. This was so obvious to me on my visit to my parents. We spent a lot of time sitting, maybe not even talking, but I wasn’t bored. I was there, with them, in the yard, hearing, seeing, feeling what was going on around me. It was a great visit.
    Thanks for a great piece.

    • Gail Brenner says

      This is so beautiful, Deb. You have captured the essence of how to be alive in your life. It is the moment-to-moment experiencing of what is here, and it is only you who has the choice to make this happen for yourself. It is a shift of attention. You could have certainly been bored during your visit with your parents. But you weren’t in your head running a story of what wasn’t present. Rather, you were present with the reality of what was actually happening. Not surprised it was a great visit!

      My parents are elderly, and I find so much sweetness in all the little things they do. Being with older people is a great way to slow down and stay present.

      Boredom does arise sometimes, and when it does, it signals us to wake up once again. And I love to hear about your waking up process!

      Love, Gail

  7. says

    Hey, Gail –

    For whatever reason, I don’t think I have ever said, “I’m bored” in my life — not even as a kid. I’ve always had so many projects going at any given time that the idea of being bored never occurred to me. I have felt overwhelmed and tired, but not bored.

    I think that is one of the things my dad passed along to me . . . he was perpetually curious about everything.

    However . . . I think much of what you have written could apply for my search for peace and happiness . . . looking outside for it rather than inside . . .

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)
    .-= Marie´s last blog ..Finding my voice – Part 1 of 5 =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I love to hear your enthusiasm for all the projects in your life, Marie! Curiosity is a wonderful quality – when it is balanced with rest.

      There are many ways that we look outside ourselves for peace and happiness – and expecting to be entertained when we are bored is just one of them. There is no substitute for stopping and turning our attention toward our inner world. Then we discover that peace and happiness are right here – in this very moment – and the search is over!

      I wish you well, Marie. Great to hear from you!

  8. says

    Hi Gail. I’m very happy I found my way across the ocean of the internet to your blog. What you say in your latest post and elsewhere in your blog is what I too find to be true.
    The search outward never ends and never satisfies.
    But just a moment of real stillness, humble enough to bow before the majesty of my own being… everything changes. This moment is more than enough.
    There certainly is no boredom any more.

    • Gail Brenner says

      I’m thrilled that you found this blog, Christopher, and am so moved by your words. So simply said: The search outward never ends and never satisfies.

      And, as you have discovered, looking inward shows us that there is nowhere to go. The search is over, and we realize fulfillment – right here – beyond anything we could imagine.

      So beautiful to meet in the one heart…

  9. says

    Hi Gail.

    I was about to mention that I don’t get bored, and then after reading that part you said about either getting bored or instead feeling the anger and sadness and fear, I am much more glad to feel the anger and sadness and fear.

    Boredom certainly is about a lack of that which is inside as you said near the end, and that makes sense, because when we have a lack inside, we reach out for something to fill it, and nothing is able to, because it has to come from inside.

    I wouldn’t be bored even if I was locked in a small dark room for 2 hours, although it wouldn’t be too enjoyable.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Let The Positives Guide You =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Armen,

      I hope you don’t end up locked in a dark room for two hours! But I’m happy to hear you wouldn’t be bored. And I can see why. You are so willing to experience anger or sadness or fear. You always show an incredible commitment to be with what is true and see things as they really are. Boredom is a defense against feeling these.

      And I suspect you don’t feel much lack inside either. When we are willing to live from the inside out, even if boredom appears, it becomes something interesting to investigate.

      When you post a comment like this, it inspires everyone. Thanks so much!

  10. says

    Wow Gail….great post! It’s typical to try to “fix” boredom by doing all sorts of things, but I don’t think most people know how to simply feel overjoyed when doing nothing special. To actually utilize boredom in the quest for awakening–amazing! To lie still and concentrate on the beat of your heart or the air entering/leaving your lungs is to truly express a zest for life.

    You’ve touched on something so simple yet amazingly powerful. I am so very glad you posted this.
    .-= Nea | Self Improvement Saga´s last blog ..How to Feel Great and Keep a Smile on Your Face =-.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Nea. I’m glad the post got you thinking in a new direction.

      Everything is fodder for awakening – even boredom! If we lie still and are open, it won’t take long to notice all kinds of things going on that we usually miss when we live in our heads. Stopping might seem like we lose exciting stimulation or action, but actually we open ourselves to the opportunity to see the richness of life that we so often bypass.

      I love that phrase, “zest for life.” It means we don’t just roll through with complacency – we are actually alive to our lives as they unfold.

  11. Rahn says

    Wow, in a sense the story of my life could be told around this subject. Boredom has been all the things you mention for me and more.

    Long ago it covered the feelings I didn’t want to know or express. Then it was frenic activity of filling every moment with important, must be done work so I had no time to be bored.
    Now it is my friend and often leads me outside to play with children rather than politely sit and listen to mundane chatter among some adults. It also has led me to seek out adults that sparke my interests and with whom I can have incredibly interesting conversations. It is totally my friend now, helping me to be more aware when my time/life can be better spent doing something else.

    Your article helped me put so much together – thank you!

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Rahn!

      Thanks so much for this very insightful comment. I love how boredom has turned into your friend. It has become a signal to be aware and possibly shift what you are doing. The process over time that you describe is so beautifully stated in a way we can all identify with.

      Glad the article was helpful to you.


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