Note: 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.”
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 dictionary.com 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.
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…