Boredom

I want you to do something for me.

I want you to sit quietly for one full minute before you start reading this post. Still. Quiet. Hands in your lap. Doing nothing but timing yourself for one minute.

I’ll wait.

My hunch is that this little exercise was extremely hard for most of you. Almost impossible. You were feeling silly at fifteen seconds, antsy at thirty seconds, twitchy at forty-five seconds and downright anxious at fifty-nine seconds. A minute is a very long time to sit quietly and do nothing.

I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about my weekend activity plans. Part of these plans include taking time, consciously, to be still, to sit and watch TV or read or do something that is slower than my usual pace.

Let’s just say that this is hard for me. Really hard.

I proudly exclaimed to her, “Look! I’m being bored! Watch me!”

She told me that that this kind of boredom is good.

What was she thinking?!? (Of course, she was right.)

We don’t know how to be bored anymore. We’re raising a generation of kids who are antsy, distracted, energetic, fidgety, impulsive and don’t know how to amuse themselves. Many of us adults have lost control of this scenario to the point that all we know how to do is bring the kid in and have him medicated for ADHD, which he may or may not have.

Why is boredom, planned boredom, good? How does it help us?

1) It rests our body physically. Let’s face it, we all burn the candle at both ends way too many days out of the week. We rest too little, sleep too little, and we are not very kind to ourselves. Have you ever been afraid to let yourself slow down, sit still, and do something quiet for fear that you would simply fall asleep, exhausted? (Raising hand with sheepish grin)

2) It rests our mind. When we sit still and let ourselves be undirected for a while, our mind can be free to wander, to dream, to think, to scheme, to plan. It can unplug for a little bit. It can disengage. It can also pay attention to the things around us. Funny, the birds chirp, the wind rustles the leaves on the trees, motorcycles roar by, and there are spectacular sunsets, even when we are tremendously busy. We just don’t notice them.

3) It allows us to be creative. Down time, physically and mentally, gives us that extra little bit of capacity to see things differently, to notice the colors and the sounds and the ideas that get pushed out by our frenetic day-to-day lives. We can do some pretty spectacular things when we give ourselves the freedom to do them.

4) It lets us get reacquainted with ourselves. You’ll have to trust me on this one. I see patients day after day who are chasing after other people or jobs or material things that will make them whole. That will make them feel good about themselves. That will make them okay. The thing that they don’t get is that they ARE okay, but they are not in touch with who and how they really are. If they gave themselves that little bit of time, that boring few minutes to sit and have a heart-to-heart conversation with themselves, they might find that they were actually pretty good people.

Give yourself some time to be bored today.

If you read my post from yesterday, yes, it’s okay to schedule it on your calendar if you want. That means you must do it!

Rest your body.

Rest your mind.

Be creative.

Get to know yourself again.

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9 thoughts on “Boredom

  1. I believe I understand what you’re going for here, Greg! And I commend it. It’s a shame you think of quietly being with yourself as boredom. I do thus several times a day, for far longer than a minute each time. These are the times that recharge my batteries, bring me such peace as I have, and make it possible to go on.

  2. Claire, I realize that planned meditation is similar but different to the “planned boredom” I’m writing about here. I’m happy you can do it and I hope to incorporate some of it into my practice one day as well.

  3. I’m not talking about meditation. I’m talking about what happens when I get into my chaise longue in the courtyard and just sit there, doing nothing. I call it “being”. When I think of boredom, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling that makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

  4. FWIW, in the world of Twelve Step Recovery long-timers suggest newcomers reframe their “boredom” as “serenity.” (Add smiley face here.)

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