Boredom may feel like a natural emotion or viewpoint, but nothing could be further from the truth. Boredom is born out of a resistance to the present moment. It is not a natural state to be bored. Boredom does not naturally arise out of a beautifully still, silent moment. Has any wild animal ever been bored?
Boredom arises out of a comparative mindset conditioned by living in time. When we are not fully present, we compare all of human history and all of human future to this present moment. When we live in presence, we realize that there is no difference between sitting on a meditation cushion for one minute or one hour. Only by the chatter of our minds do we perceive time to pass at all. When we are still, time feels like it stops. (For help learning to quiet the mind, here are some of the don’ts of meditation in my recent article.)
It can be tempting to repeat songs and conversations in our mind, to imagine entertaining stories, or to endlessly solve math problems, or think of food constantly. After all, they aren’t negative thoughts. And to some extent, this is better than thinking stressful thoughts. In some ways, conscious and intentional mental chatter can become a sort of mantra — a way to guide your thinking. But there are some drawbacks to this way of thinking.
- Firstly, when we are lost in our head, we are not fully focused on what we are doing.
Even if it may seem like a mundane chore, we cannot do anything to the best of our ability if we do not give it our undivided attention. And, it is often these mundane chores that provide us a doorway towards discovering the deep peace and joy that comes from fully embracing every little moment of life. And making it as meaningful as we can even if life might seem meaningless sometimes. (This video shows how we can all find meaning and purpose.)
- Secondly, whatever we do becomes a habit.
If we make a practice of always being inside of our own head, then we move further and further away from our true self and the true source of lasting happiness within. Lasting happiness can only come from that which does not change, because if it changes, it can’t last. And the only thing that never changes is our conscious awareness.
Instead of trying to solve boredom with a solution, we must watch our boredom with presence. By trying to solve boredom, we give up on the present moment and retreat into our head. We acknowledge that there is suffering, but we try to mask the symptoms instead of actually curing the disease.
Whatever we are feeling — boredom, anger, jealousy — we can try to stuff it down a myriad of ways: with drugs, entertainment, or even mental entertainment. But if instead we go towards it, if we look at it and love it, and if we accept it and make peace with it, our attention span increases, our patience increases, and we become better able to fully show up for our friends, our family and ourselves. (Some may wonder why we should change and become better people if we don’t have anyone in our life, and here is my answer.)
Boredom is the opposite of peace. It is resistance to peace. So much chaos and conflict are because people can’t stand a moment of peace. Our bodies cannot fully rest, relax and recover if our mind is constantly running.
If we are feeling bored, it is simply because we are not fully present. Instead of resisting, instead of pulling out our phone or weaving a mental story, we can use each moment of boredom as an opportunity to sit with the discomfort, and to develop the vital skill of transforming discomfort into peace.
All it takes to become present is turning our full attention to the here and now — focusing on our breath, our body, our thoughts or our surroundings, taking it all in, noticing the mind’s tendency to label everything, and just witnessing every single thing that crosses our perceptual field. When we raise our awareness to what’s around us, we find out it is filled with so much beauty and wonder that it is impossible to truly get bored whenever you are truly present.
Have you ever noticed how you have almost no memory big moments in your life? Like how you can give a big speech, but it’s like you missed the whole thing. Maybe you’ve given a speech or been to a wedding, but you forgot to be present for it.
This doesn’t just happen for big moments either. Most of our lives we spend lost in thought, thinking about some other place or some other time.
I had a good friend who, whenever we would go for a walk through the park with nowhere in particular to go, would walk a million miles an hour. She would miss the flowers and the birds, trees and streams. She was so used to getting to the end of a task that she was never present during the task.
If we live our lives this way, we’ll get to the end having realized we were present for so little of this precious life. This is why it’s so important to bring presence into our lives whenever we can.
This can be meditating, yoga, time with our friends and family, making art or music, or even just a walk in nature. Life is too beautiful to miss. And in case life is not looking like a bed of roses at the moment, listen to this podcast where I explore why it is that we feel like failures and how we can reframe failure so we can embrace it, learn from it, and move forward toward success.
As we stroll into the weekend and a new week begins, may we all find delight in the little things, the things we usually miss, the things most often overlooked, the things that are conventionally considered ugly or insignificant. May we give the unnoticed our love and affection. May we stop to take in all that we usually take for granted. From the weed growing out of the sidewalk to the child (or inner child) who had a rough day, let’s remember to give our attention — the greatest gift we have to offer — both to others and ourselves.
Peace and love,
PS – In my latest YouTube video, I share a few steps we can all take to heal from abuse, develop trusting and loving relationships again, and learn to shut off our body’s survival mode so we can relax our central nervous system and become our most confident, strong, brave selves again.
How to Live in the Present Moment
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