Meditation and Boredom
Boredom is the biggest enemy of people trying to meditate. Even the most enthusiastic souls, sooner than later, surrender before the “monster called boredom.” And the funny thing is that they will almost always give you the standard answers: I can’t concentrate no matter how hard I try, so why waste time, or that meditation does not suit me.
These standard answers make sense to most people, but they solve no problem. However, if any experienced meditator can tell you that they gave up because meditation did not offer them excitement. They started meditating with wrong notions and got the wrong result in return – quite logical. You don’t go to work expecting fun or entertainment, do you?
Meditation is only rewarding for people who are persistent and have the right attitude towards it. People who manage to sustain their meditation practice or make it part of their lives are those who have correct understanding of what to expect from it. It is not like going to a party, having fun, and returning to the routine life only to wait for another cathartic occasion.
No matter what style of meditation one tries it is a repetitive activity – that makes it dull and boring for any one. You are either chanting some mantra (a sequence of words) monotonously or trying to keep the mind focused on breathing or some thing else. Even if it is Vipassana Meditation you are supposed to be busy keeping the mind in the present and trying to be non judgmental and unbiased. Therefore, no matter what you are doing it is unexciting and repetitive, devoid of fun and entertainment, and offers nothing that the mind can dance about.
The net outcome is that your mind soon loses interest in the activity and suddenly you have “convincing arguments” why you would try it some other time, or at least quit for now.
Speaking in psychological terms, boredom has two associated factors: one is a pervasive lack of interest and the other, difficulty in focusing attention on the current activity. Speaking from a practical angle, boredom is a situation when a person finds his environment dull, tedious, and lacking in stimulation.
In normal living, the moment we don’t like something or when we find something is boring we try to escape from it. Therefore, boredom propels us towards activities that are interesting. We have hardly ever learned that boredom is also a normal emotional state of mind – and it is OK to be bored. On the contrary, we view boredom as something that must be avoided. This mental conditioning is the problem. As a result, we never really become familiar with this emotion.
Here are the words of renowned spiritual master, Osho that put boredom in the right perspective for any meditator:
“Boredom has been used as a technique; it is a device in meditation. In Zen, boredom is used as a device: you are bored to death, and you are not allowed to escape. You are not to go outside, you are not to entertain yourself, you are not to do (anything), you are not to talk, and you are not to read novels and detective stories. No thrill. No possibility to escape anywhere.
What exactly is meditation? Facing boredom is meditation. What does a meditator go on doing? Sitting silently, looking at his own navel, or watching his breathing, do you think he is being entertained by these things? He is utterly bored!
The whole effort in meditation is this: be bored but don’t escape from it; and keep alert, because if you fall asleep you have escaped, if you start thinking you have escaped. Keep alert! Watch it, witness it. If it is there, then it is there. It has to be looked into, to the very core of it.”
Therefore, as long as we don’t develop familiarity with boredom, it will remain a problem. The only correct way to handle it is to face it and see boredom as an opportunity for growth. Running away from boredom is an incorrect habit; regular efforts to meditate will sure correct it. Therefore, sit regularly and face boredom head-on.