boredom

Today we ask that you reevaluate your feelings around the word “boredom.”

Most people associate boredom with something unpleasant.  “Ohhhh, I’m soooo bored!”

Modern people are so averse to boredom that they cannot tolerate it even for a moment.  They cannot stand in line at the post office, or wait to be served a meal in a restaurant without whipping out their phones, their little entertainment devices.  They check email and social media, they play games, they keep themselves stimulated.

Life needs to be constantly exciting, enriching, entertaining, and dramatic.  Even little children need to be continuously involved in “educational activities,” or given electronic entertainment in order to keep them occupied — and not bored.

But people are really missing out on life by building this intolerance to boredom.

You see, boredom is quite beautiful.

Great bursts of human creativity have traditionally arisen out of boredom.  The bored child is moved to imagine new worlds, to daydream.  Insight often comes to people when they are taking a shower, or washing the dishes — in short, doing something “boring.”

It’s in these “boring” times that the mind has a chance to process what it has taken in, build connections, and expand.

To the overstimulated, over-caffeinated modern brain, lying in a field looking up at the trees and clouds is “boring.”  Going for a quiet walk by yourself outdoors is “boring.”  Going fishing is “boring.”

And nothing is more “boring” than meditation.  Sitting cross-legged, staring at a wall!  What could be more boring?

Yet it is precisely in these “boring” spaces that really interesting things happen.

Modern humans tend to assign value judgments to activity.  Valuable activity is considered “productive,” “educational,” or “entertaining.”

Activity that does not appear to be productive, educational or entertaining is not valued.

It’s like everyone runs their lives as if they were a legal office, trying to maximize their “billable hours.”  Productive time is worth something, unproductive time is not.

But this is all quite crazy and backwards.

“Boring” activity, or non-activity, is just as meaningful and valuable as stimulating, seemingly productive activity.

When you are standing in a line, or waiting at a restaurant, and you refrain from stimulating yourself with your phone — if you can wait patiently, and mindfully, in a “bored” state — this is in truth far more useful than keeping up to date on Twitter.

If you are someone who feels stressed and overwhelmed, or has difficulty focusing or sleeping, it would be helpful for you to cultivate a greater tolerance for “boredom.”

When life is continuously stimulating, educational, entertaining, and dramatic — this is a recipe for exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout.

Everything you do is good.  Taking a shower is just as important as impressing the boss in the meeting.

It’s just as a important for your child to play a “nonsense” game in the park as it is for him to perform at the piano recital.  Children require unstructured play time in order to flourish.  It is okay for a child to be bored; it will inspire him to use his imagination.

Boredom can be beautiful.  And if you cultivate a spacious mind, it will no longer be boring.

It will be peaceful.  And joyful.

Advertisements