Most of us can say that at some time in our life, we have experienced boredom. Some of us struggle with boredom chronically. Boredom is defined as a state of weariness and restlessness as a result of lack of interest. Interest is really about attention and focus. When we encounter something that we want to focus our attention on, we are engaged in life itself. In the body, we start to feel movement instead of stagnation within our being. This is actually the somatic experience of expansion. The purpose of coming into physical life is expansion. So when we feel the expansion that is the result of being interested in something, we also feel a sense of purpose. It is a feel good feeling.
Focused attention creates the movement (otherwise known as growth) here in physical embodiment. When we feel the lack of momentum, the stagnation of energy in our being as a result of not being focused on something we want to be focused on, we feel two opposing emotional states that pull in opposite directions. Fatigue and restlessness. The restlessness is actually a reaction to the feeling of stagnation; it seeks to try to get that feeling of momentum back by all means possible.
Because we are largely unconscious beings, most of us are not aware of what we are focusing on when we feel bored. If you will stop to watch your thoughts when you are bored, you will see that your thoughts are all revolving around not having what you want. Your attention is focused on what is preventing you from what you currently want. For example, when you are a kid and it’s raining outside and you want to be outside playing, but the rain is preventing you from doing that, it feels like the movement within your being is stalled out.
If you are bored, it’s really the movement within the being in the direction of interest that you want; there is a great deal of wanting in interest. Wanting to know more or wanting to accomplish for example. And wanting is the fuel for expansion. Sometimes it feels like something else (like rain in the previous scenario) is preventing that movement. Sometimes however, it is something within us that is preventing that movement. When we feel bored, we are giving our attention to the perceived opposition to our interest instead of to our interest. Self-defeating thoughts are a great example of something within us that opposes our interest. Thoughts like, “I really want to have someone to talk to right now (that’s our interest). But everyone’s at work and is busy doing other things so I’m stuck in this silent house with no one to talk to”.
We experience boredom so often in childhood because as children we come into a society where we have so much less control over our life than we do as adults. As a child, if our interest is karate, our parents get to decide whether we get to go to a karate class or not. If we focus on being prevented from following our desire (which feels like soul movement) we will start to feel stagnated and desperate to escape from the stagnation… Bored. When we say we are bored, what we are saying is that we are impatient to actualize what we want. Impatience really only occurs to people who doubt that they will actually get what they want. They doubt it because they have been conditioned to doubt it. They have chronically been conditioned to expect to be prevented from whatever they want.
If you experience chronic boredom, you can be sure it is because you have been conditioned to believe that you will be prevented from following and actualizing your desire. There is an association in your mind between the feeling of wanting/interest and opposition to the wanting/interest. There is a link in your mind between wanting and being prevented from getting what you want. Imagine driving with the gas and the parking brake on at the same time. This is what you do automatically if you experience chronic boredom. This is super painful and so what you tend to do is to seek distraction. Instead of focusing on alleviating whatever is preventing you from what you want, you play video games or spend time on Facebook for example. Even though the distraction is less painful in the moment, it further enhances the feeling of inertia within you. It feeds a lack of fulfillment.
This association is often created in childhood when we have an interest in something, but our parents oppose our interest, so we feel the pain of stagnation and the even worse pain of desperate restlessness when we are prevented from engaging in our interest and so we learn that it is safer to not have any interest at all. It is at this point that we sink into a state of apathy. For more information on apathy, watch my video on YouTube titled: Apathy.
Boredom is a painful sate of being. So, what is the antidote to boredom? Actually, there is a great many of them to choose from.
1. Seeing as how boredom is all about the lack of movement inherent in the wanting inherent in interest, we have to find a way to create the perception of movement within our being. Boredom is driving with the gas and the parking brake on at the same time. So, we have to figure out how to take our foot off of the brake pedal. Now is the time to pursue your interests. If you don’t know what your interests are, now is the time to try everything you can try to see what you like and don’t like. Explore life. People who are not bored are people who pursue their interests and most especially who do not get in the way of themselves pursuing their interests.
2. To take our foot off of the brake pedal, we have to take a good look at where our focus is the minute we are bored. We have to become aware of what we actually, authentically want and what thoughts and actions are creating the sensation of being prevented from whatever it is that we want. What thoughts and actions (or lack there of) are getting in the way of you pursuing your interests or even finding out what your interests are?
3. Once you become aware of the thoughts and actions that are serving as a brake pedal, directly challenge and try to disprove those thoughts and change the actions you are taking. For example, I may discover that I really want to talk to someone, but the brake pedal is the thought “Everyone is busy, I have no one to talk to”. If this is the case, I can shift into the attitude of a lawyer or of a philosopher come up with a way around this thought. How is this thought untrue? What thoughts or actions could actually bring me to someone to talk to? Practice those thoughts and take those actions.
4. If you really want to undo the programing that set up this link between wanting and being prevented from what you want, you can use The Completion Process. You need to use this process on the desperate feeling of boredom inside of your body when it occurs. If you want to learn this process, I explain it in detail in my book titled: The Completion Process.
5. If you just did the above practice of noticing the thoughts you are thinking when you are bored, my question for you is, who was watching the thoughts? Were you the one thinking the thoughts or were you the one watching you think the thoughts? You are two points of perspective. In spiritual practice we often call this the observer self and the temporal self. The temporal self is the only one that gets bored. The observer self is not capable of it because the observer self simply observes. It does not judge something as not interesting. It doesn’t come to the conclusion that something shouldn’t be how it is. So it sees everything through openness and curiosity. The judgment that something shouldn’t be how it is; is an inevitable part of boredom.
Boredom is an unconscious thought process on the part of the temporal self. It causes an emotional resistance reaction that goes like this… Life would be more interesting and fulfilling if I was doing something else. The thinking self takes everything for granted because its purpose is expansion…more… better… different. Because of this, it has an attitude of ‘been there, done that’. It has an attitude of things shouldn’t be as they are. This is not bad or wrong. But a side effect of it is boredom. So, we can learn to spend time in our observer self perspective. We can practice the art of attention. If we give enough of our attention to something, instead of to the idea that something is boring, it becomes interesting. Learn to savor that thing. By doing this, we become intensely connected with what is, instead of resistant to what is.
Next time you feel bored, instead of distracting yourself, try to focus your attention completely and fully on something your mind would judge as mundane or boring. Become completely curious. For example, go to the sink and wash the dishes. But wash them as if it were the first time in your life you were doing it. Or wash them as if you were someone who loved washing dishes more than anything so you can try to connect with why they might feel that way towards washing dishes. Notice the smell and texture of the soap. Notice the feeling of the water running over your hands. Notice the weight of the dishes. See if you can feel the devotion inherent in the dishes, the way the dishes lend themselves in service to you every day. Appreciate their colors and curves. You will notice your boredom dissipating.
6. Inherent in boredom is the idea what you do not want what is, you want something else. You have a choice to either go for that something else or to want what is. If you decide to go for something else, then for god sakes, make a change. If you don’t like the movie you are watching, walk out of the movie theatre. If you got a degree in business but you feel like it isn’t right for you because you’d rather do something else, for god sakes, do something else. It doesn’t matter how much energy you put into something, if your soul calls you in another direction, set yourself free by actually going in that other direction. Let yourself out of the cage of familiar, repetitive, un-fulfillment. Spontaneity falls into this category. Sometimes all we need to change is our willingness to be super spontaneous. No planning, just going. Take up offers up on a whim. You can ask yourself “If I were to be completely spontaneous right here and now, what would I do” and go do that thing immediately.
7. Like I said in the last point, inherent in boredom is the idea what you do not want what is, you want something else. So, you have a choice to either go for that something else or to want what is. The opposite of boredom is wanting what is. So, if you decide you want to want what is instead of go for something else, you can actually create a state of wanting what is, by focusing on what is from a perspective of gratitude. If you sit down and brain storm everything about the ‘what is’ that you are resisting that you do like, it will actually create a feeling of movement in your being again. It is one way to take your foot off of the brake pedal in your life and stop resisting what is. I often tell people who are struggling with boredom to sit down and pull out a sheet of paper and scavenger hunt for things that they do like about the now or even about things that are good about not having whatever they want.
Boredom can either be treated as a call to practice genuine presence, (the embracing of what is) or a call to take your foot off of the brake pedal so you can actually experience movement in the direction of what you want. So the next time you feel boredom, answer that call and see what kind of life experience is waiting for you on the other side.