Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Boredom and Mindfulness

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

I caught some of On Point today and the topic was boredom and the book by Peter Toohey, entitled, Boredom: A Lively History. Here is an excerpt:

Predictability, monotony and confinement are all key. Any situation that stays the same for too long can be boring. Road trips, gardening and – my own special bête noire – Easter religious services are all fertile sources of boredom. The three of them bedevilled my youth: I had to sit, trapped and wriggling, through the first and third and water the second again and again. A boring person will usually be predictable and repetitive as well, particularly in their speech. Like long-winded lecturers or relatives, the bore’s droning, rheumy intonations don’t seem to go anywhere, or at least not quickly enough. Their repetitive disquisitions confine you in a world of boring words. And time drags to a halt.

The discussion ranged on topics such as busyness, daydreaming, and creativity. Boredom can play an important role in our lives too. It’s not something to avoid at all costs.

Boredom may contain important information (e.g., there is something off that needs to be changed) or it may stem from conditioned patterns of expectations for entertainment, stimulation, and a discomfiture with being alone in a quiet place with ourselves (indeed, the philosopher Pascal said, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”).

Consider the the situation that might contain important information. You are working at your job and you find yourself bored — unchallenged, uninspired, weary. If you’ve given that job your full attention, tried to engage with all your being and you are still getting bored, boredom may indeed be a signal — a harbinger for change. I think this is the minority of cases for boredom, but important ones to pay attention to.

Consider what are likely the majority of boredom situations. Boredom requires a storyline, “I’m bored.” Underlying this is a sense of entitlement to be entertained or a fear to be left alone with our experience. The empty space gets labled “boring” but this is constructed. We could label it something else.

It could be fascinating if you know what to look for and you don’t have to look any farther than your breath. Fritz Perls the inventor of Gestalt Therapy said, “If you are bored, you are not paying attention.”

I like to think of the relationship between boredom and mindfulness as a dialectic. When boredom arises, mindfulness can assert itself — any situation that might otherwise give way to boredom can be one for mindfulness practice. When you are stuck in a monotonous or confining situation that you cannot change, like waiting in line at the DMV, do mindfulness practice. Since you could go away and do nothing but silent practice for ten days on a mindfulness meditation retreat, there are few situations that will present themselves where you couldn’t just spend your time practicing instead of being bored.

The conversation during On Point highlighted the need for unstructured time. A situation that might otherwise be labeled boring, but can be the gateway to daydreaming, creative thinking and contemplation. We inundate ourselves in busyness and do so at our peril. Chronic stress is the chief byproduct of this relentless busyness. There is no time to just be, to just breathe and enjoy the world. There’s no silence to hear what is going on within and to know ourselves better and what direction to go.

There is a richness to situations that might otherwise be labeled “boring” if we can give ourselves permission to enjoy them and to open to what is present both within and without. Sit outside and enjoy the world, whether it is hot, humid, or raining. We can relish boring moments as opportunites for discovery.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Abambagibus

    Apparently assuming the mantel of some kind of universal self-evidence, this particular kind of boredom ignores the fact of its failure to be true. For, fraught with the high probability of the excitement of escaping itself, it is not entirely boring. True boredom, rather, the kind so characteristic of depression, must defy the aforementioned failure or, if not so true, will allow its patient to survive. Scilicet Ab Ambagibus.

  • http://Mindfulnessvs.Boredom Quay

    Boredom, a self induced need to fill mindfulness space with some kind of entertainment. Mind numbing comes in many forms, only you can rise above this and choose – what to do? what to do? This reminds me of a quote from Alice in Wonderland, written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll: “Don’t just do something – sit there!”. We are so conditioned to busyness that mindfulness has lost importance. This space in time is an opportunity of self reflection and reconnection to ourselves. When wisely used, this time can teach us more about ourselves than we probably would ever want to know. However, what an inspiring moment to listen to our true self and continue to make choices in our lives that fulfill our soul’s purpose of existence.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Colleen

    Quay,
    Very beautifully said:>) There are so many things to do and witness in our world, why would one choose boredom? I have never in my life felt bored. When we are truly living in the moment, we realize that each and every moment is very different and special:>)

    A passage from “Forgotten Kingdom” by Peter Goullart:
    “The concept of time in Likiang was totally different from that in the West. In Europe, and especially in America, the greater part of time is devoted to making money, not so much to sustain life in decent conditions as to accumulate more and more comforts and luxuries. The rest of time, which remains unoccupied, is “killed” in a manner which has now become routine and rigid. Because of the preoccupation with work and the ritual killing of time, there has grown up a comparatively new concept of the man who is so busy that he has no time at all. This idea of man who is so busy that he has not a minute to spare has been enthroned as the standard by which all humanity is judged. The normal man is now he who repeats that he is exremely busy and has no time and he is treated with great respect. Men whose time is totally or partially unoccupied are considered abnormal and inefficient and efforts are directed to make them normal, either by making them work or at least by training them to kill whatever time is free”.

  • http://BoredomandMindfulness Rico

    Enjoy!

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