I am a nineteen year old college student, talking with friends in my 500 year old room above the entrance to Merton College, Oxford. The world up to this point has been a fascinating place, full of interesting things to learn, and new experiences to have. But today, something feels different.
“I’m bored,” I announce.
Cathy, a first-year history student from St. Hilda’s, looks at me.
“I think boredom is just a state of mind,” she says.
And, immediately, I know she’s right.
Eckhart Tolle, in his book Stillness Speaks, calls boredom the mind’s hunger. He points out that, typically, we escape from boredom by “picking up a magazine, making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the Web, going shopping,” etc.
I still feel bored from time to time. And sometimes, I’ll do what we mostly do: distract myself by “doing something” that primarily involves the thinking mind. But, thanks to that moment with Cathy back in 1969, I know I have other choices about how I respond.
Sometimes, noticing my boredom is a trigger to remind me to embrace it, and become at ease with the state of “not knowing” what I “might” or “should” be doing. Eckhart suggests you:
“…stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not.”
Or, I can go into my body:
“Feel the energy of your inner body. Immediately mental noise slows down or ceases. Feel it in your hands, your feet, your abdomen, your chest. Feel the life that you are, the life that animates the body.
The body then becomes a doorway, so to speak, into a deeper sense of aliveness underneath the fluctuating emotions and underneath your thinking.”
Or, if I want to “do something” I can choose an activity that embodies flow:
“Artistic creation, sports, dance, teaching, counseling—mastery in any field of endeavor implies that the thinking mind is either no longer involved at all or at least is taking second place. A power and intelligence greater than you and yet one with you in essence takes over. There is no decision-making process any more; spontaneous right action happens, and ‘you’ are not doing it. Mastery of life is the opposite of control. You become aligned with the greater consciousness. It acts, speaks, does the works.”
It is possible to discover and rediscover that a “bored person” is not who you are.
Boredom is just a state of mind.
Photo attribution: Flickr user spyrospapaspyropoulos