When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford. —Samuel Johnson, English writer
Like Dr. Johnson’s summation of the cosmopolitan life of 18th century London, mindfulness offers us full and open access to every experience. So does that mean if we’re bored in meditation, we’re also bored by our lives? And if so, what can be done about it?
If we can stay with our mindfulness practice, we start to reverse the old habits of retreating into fixed ideas, distraction, and reactivity, which steal our attention from the magic of the moment.
Meditation shows us our habitual patterns of mind; how we typically relate to the world. If we find the practice boring, our tendency may be to blame the experience—to think it’s our breath, body sensations, or thoughts that are boring. Yet, if we observe what’s happening carefully, we see that we’re actually relating to it in a bored way: We label meditation uninteresting, and we identify with the desire to get away from it. However, it’s actually our mind that creates the boredom, rather than what we’re attending to. After all, what could be more amazing and interesting than the mystery and magic of conscious experience, the very facts of breathing, sensing, thinking, and the wonder of being aware?
With dissatisfaction as our basic mindset, we’ll likely seek an unsustainably high level of stimulation in order to avoid a boredom that’s actually being created at the source, by the mind. When life doesn’t deliver, we’ll likely be bored. A lot.
The good news is that mindfulness practice itself provides a remedy, because it invites us to be interested in every aspect of life, even the so-called boring bits. If we can stay with it, we start to reverse the old habits of retreating into fixed ideas, distraction, and reactivity, which steal our attention from the magic of the moment. As soon as we get interested in what our boredom feels like, by definition it’s no longer boring.
Of course, this paying attention with interest is not so easy to develop—the mind frequently wanders into what we think is happening rather than what’s actually happening, and the body gets jumpy. This is why it’s important to repeat the practice, on a regular basis, for short periods at a time. In doing so, we gently and gradually develop our capacity for ongoing curiosity.
So, noticing boredom in meditation? Willing to experience it, with a friendly interest? You’re on the right track.
This excerpt originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Mindful magazine in the article, “Is Boredom All That Bad?“
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