I think I can safely say that everyone has experienced boredom. It’s one of those states of mind that is universal to the human experience. I think that even many other creatures get bored sometimes. We feel an empty lack of interest and motivation to do whatever task is before us, even a lack of concentration is noticeable.
Maybe we want to be somewhere else or do something else, but for whatever reason, we can’t. Maybe we want to see our lover, but our car is broken down. Perhaps we are at some social function or at work that we really don’t want to be doing at the time. It could be that we just don’t have the energy to do anything “fun” or challenging, sort of a borderline apathy.
We think that where we’re at or what we’re doing is tedious, dull and unstimulating. In our present hyper-stimulating culture, it seems ironic that we ever get bored. There is no shortage of past times we can do to alleviate boredom. We could watch teevee, surf the web, play an electronic game, sketch, draw, talk on the phone, fix a sandwich. There are a lot of things we could do but we might even get bored doing them, too. A lot of fidgeting has been done and many cigarettes have been smoked on account of boredom.
A Facebook friend recently said she had completed all of her domestic chores and tasks and was feeling bored. She said that she felt she needed a life. I replied that she should just sit with the boredom and be with it. It seems like a flippant remark, but I was serious. Like most states of mind or activities that we believe are difficult or that seem to cause suffering, avoidance only makes it worse. So, if we’re resisting boredom, we make it worse and even become anxious about it.
You might see boredom as a small existentialist event. Maybe you try to remedy it with religion or thoughts of your God. That’s not quite where I want to go with this post. I am thinking that to simply accept that you’re feeling bored and to accept it is OK. If you notice the boredom and even express gratitude for the boring sensations you’ll be on the path to learning about yourself.
Those of us who practice daily formal meditation are familiar with boredom. There are times when extreme boredom arises. A profound, deep, aching, almost screaming boredom might make itself present. We might be tempted to get off the cushion and make a cup of coffee or surf the web or…. But we usually stay on the cushion and contemplate the boring state of mind. We might even push it to see if we can get even more bored. Will the apathy be exceeded? How? Soon enough the meditation session ends. What happened? Have we overcome boredom? Probably not. But we see boredom in a new light.
I used to be employed as a security guard. I can think of few occupations more boring than that. Boredom was part of the territory. I wanted to eat and pay the rent, so I decided I had to accept it. In fact, that’s how I stumbled upon the acceptance and exploration of boredom. It didn’t cure it, I don’t think there is a cure. I don’t think there should be a cure.
With a mindful attitude, boredom can be the source of much growth and food for inner strength. I used to carry this through while sitting for seeming eternities at airports waiting for delayed flights. Even sitting in the seat on an airliner can be very dull and boring. Contemplating the boredom while cruising thousands of feet above the earth is almost ironic. One of the ultimate dreams of humanity throughout the ages has been the ability to fly. What a thrilling proposition!
Yet, as we surpass the swiftest birds in height and speed, we look for diversions. I always request a window seat so that I can remember what an amazing thing is going on. I don’t like sitting in the center section of a jumbo jet. It’s boring! Especially if there are no good movies to select. I have forgotten to meditate in that situation more times than I care to admit. Eventually, I do remember, though.
The next time you find yourself at aunt Susie’s family party or waiting out some inclimate weather, sit with the boredom. See if you can stretch it out. Try to make it “worse”. I think you’ll be amazed at what happens. Or maybe not.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes to use the French word “ennui” for this state of mind, it’s less boring to say.