boredom (Ennui) Walter Richard Sickert


The creator of a popular Mindfulness app was on Jimmy Fallon Live last Friday night talking about how boredom happens because we have lost the skill of paying attention, and that we are all distraction junkies.

Andy Puddicombe guides Jimmy and the Tonight Show audience through a brief meditation that can be done anywhere.”

Holy Moly, I thought, the Mindfulness ship has landed.

Yes, there was that Time Magazine Cover a couple of years ago; and yes, Anderson Cooper did that story and his colleague Dan Harris is a convert. And of course the Lakers and the Bulls were coached by a Mindfulness guru.

But there was something about seeing the entire Tonight Show audience and band doing mindfulness meditation with their eyes closed with competent guidance that, well, took my breath away.


Now everyone wants to get in on this thing

Everyone and their aunty seem to want to get in on this now. Attendance at our weekly mindful get-togethers keeps going up. Yes, despite the initial enthusiasm, as a teacher getting people to stick with meditation is a major deal.

One of the most common complaints is that it’s so darn boring. This stops a lot of folks from meditating, as they don’t see the point of doing something that seems to be doing nothing for you.

Well, how long does it take to see results from the gym? Do you just give up if you don’t see any results after a couple of weeks?


boredom is just part of what happens when you close your eyes

Boredom happens. So do a lot of other mind states. Then they pass. They are mind states.

I read a hilarious description of the particular species of boredom that preys on mindfulness meditators by Brent R. Oliver writing over on the ultra cool blog Morpheus:

Amidst the insanity of your non-housebroken mind and the travails of domesticating it, there will be long, face-numbing stretches of pure tedium. It’ll make your ass go numb and your slack mouth drool…, you just sit there in the midst of a vast, arid stretch of featureless ennui, your mind is as listless and dull as Kristen Stewart’s acting. You start to wonder if you somehow died and didn’t notice. Or maybe the timer on your phone had a stroke and will never buzz to release you from this yawn-fest..”


the old guitarist (boredom) Picasso-1903
Picasso’s Old Guitarist from 1903 expresses this sense of pervasive boredom in our culture

“I got into Mindfulness because it was cool, now it’s jus frickin’ amazing, but it’s takes a while to get there”

Often when folks get started with mindfulness practice, it’s very new and intriguing, and cool thing to do. Sometimes little insights bubble up, like “I can really see how I make problems out of nothing, or “I never realized how active my mind is.”

As folks settle in to the routine of meditation, the experience may lose the coolness it had. It begins to seem like a chore.

And then sometimes the complaints come that nothing is happening, this is not working, or one seems to be getting nowhere at all.

And then: This is just so boring!


nothing needs to happen

Consider the possibility that nothing needs to happen.

I am not saying here some voodoo Zen thing, like we have to make our minds into “nothing” or get ourselves into some mystical other-worldly state of “nothingness.”

I just am saying, plainly, nothing (that is, no special mind states) needs to happen. It’s OK that nothing’s happening. Let’s see why that is.

When nothing seems to be happening in our mediation practice, we can become a little antsy. I suggest this antsy-ness is really a tiny “jonesing” for a fix – of anything, even uncomfortable thoughts. We just don’t do well with bland-ness, repetition, or engaging in insanely simple tasks over extended lengths of time.

Such as being with the breath sensations at the nostrils or abdomen.


we are intensity junkies jonesing all the time

Our culture induces a craving for intensity, a Jim Carrey-esque manic pursuit of peak experiences. Monster Energy drinks are everywhere, and prescriptions for powerful sleeping medications have risen many-fold in the last decade alone.

We just simply get to a point in our meditation practice, organically, where awareness sees that nothing is intrinsically boring.

Initially, relating to boredom in mediation is like seeing a blurry image, but as our senses rest a little, we start to discover intricate details.


nothing is boring

Our senses delight in details; they wake up a little.

This is no easy path to be sure.

But when you get through once, you realize you can do it again, and again, and again.

Mindful curiosity and careful clear seeing can take you out of the trance of conditioning and into your true, authentic experience of your life, just as it is.

And you begin to taste real freedom.

It’s a lovely taste.


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