Oh no .. I’m bored!
Ho hum. Bored. Hello .. bored!
Sometimes this is what people find in meditation.
And it can really worry people.
This question has come up again recently. After a ‘honeymoon’ period of relishing their meditation, a student suddenly found a strong sense of BOREDOM. This was becoming a distraction and they were worried what it might mean, for them and for their meditation practice.
It really isn’t any wonder that boredom brings us a little discomfort .. because from childhood we are constantly entertained and presented with activities, events and things to DO. So if we ever find ourselves with nothing to do, we are at a loss .. in fact we have develop a very sophisticated radar that directs us to do almost anything to avoid this feeling of boredom.
So, we have gotten really good at filling up our day and life with ‘stuff’ and noise .. the do-do-do, multi-tasking, filling every spare moment, constantly checking email, phone and now the 24/7 distraction of online social media .. and this quickly becomes a comfortable habit, which continues to gain momentum and speed .. and then inevitably crashes over us, like a wave, when we finally sit still in meditation.
Boredom and restlessness .. they won’t kill you, but they are sure uncomfortable
While we may recognise that meditation is good for us, and that we want to keep practicing .. there will inevitably be times when that irresistible urge to DO SOMETHING ELSE .. ANYTHING .. grabs and itches us.
When my daughter as a child came to me complaining of being bored .. I would congratulate her (much to her annoyance) because I knew that inspiration and creativity would follow in due course.
In meditation, I have found that boredom is a sign of progress.
You have done some solid time on your cushion, you have chewed through all the fluffy surface stuff and superficial distractions, and your mind has reached a point of stillness that triggers the habitual response of searching for the next distraction.
If you can observe this brief moment of self-awareness, and return to your meditation practice, avoiding the temptation to engage with just another mindless (pun intended) distraction .. then you might become aware of a little space between ‘you‘ and your thoughts.
When we remain with our meditation practice through little distractions.. we realise we are not our thoughts, nor are we at the mercy of our thoughts and feelings
When we realise that we can actually let go of some of our thoughts in mediation we build up our ‘concentration muscle’ and find it easier to avoid being distracted the next time .. we also find a deeper layer of resilience and contentment in our meditation.
This shift of awareness, moving through the fluctuations of the mind and consciously settling the mind back to our home-base can be enlightening.
So let’s all practice with boredom
Let’s get friendly with the little irritants before life presents us with bigger challenges.
Simply note the arrival of boredom, take a deep breath and kindly return to your practice. Take a moment to reconnect with your body, the movement of your breath and the sounds of life around you. You might try Naming the thought (research suggests that naming or labeling a thought helps us let go of that thought).