The Challenge of Boredom
By Shelley Klammer | Posted 2/16/11 | Updated 11/16/23
"There is a sense of thankfulness for no longer being the person who thinks she knows and who has to live out of that limited, claustrophobic mind." Byron Katie
I dream of two parrots tethered with long elastic bands by their feet to a beautiful house so that they can only fly the perimeter of the lush and blooming yard so that they cannot escape.
My mind feels like this beautiful, bright and creative in its ideas yet I am not not really unbounded in my soul. I am not really breaking free of the confines of my habitual thinking. Something is holding me back and I need to look at it. It is as though life keeps snapping me back again and again until I learn certain lessons.
"A meaningful life is surely one that allows for learnings that evolve slowly."
Anne Wilson Schaef
As I move through my 40's I realize that spiritual and emotional growth is slow. As I grow older I am called to engage with life on its own terms on deeper and deeper levels. Anne Wilson Schaef writes, "There is a kindness and gentleness that develops in the way we treat ourselves when we recognize we are an evolving, emerging process."
Perhaps for the first time in my life I am really facing my core vulnerability as a human being and the baseline of anxiety that covers it up with all manner of excessive doing and extra creative projects.
When I sit still with the level of vulnerability that has run under my entire life, I feel the trembling preciousness and fragility of my human existence. I see that my life is unfolding of its own accord and that many of my grand plans and ideas may not come to pass in the way that I have envisioned them. My idealistic efforts to "make things happen" according to my plans have not all come to fruition.
I see now that I have options and choices within my life but there is a thread a direction that life is wanting me to follow. I am not a sole, all-powerful creator.
When I set aside my ego-driven goals and plans I see that life is communicating to me through others through metaphors through dreams and through my spontaneous art about what I need to learn and how I need to grow. Mostly my growth is humble and ordinary. My growth is not about becoming famous or rich but it is more about learning to love more profoundly and have a relationship with my life the way it is.
More than ever it feels important to move into my full embeddedness into the process of my life and not be so hard on myself for not meeting all of my willful goals. In one of my journals from a year and a half ago I see that only now am I dawning onto the level of presence that I have aspired to in my past writings. I write in my journal, "I long for an exquisitely honed fine tuned inner attention deep sacred inner listening to life with an ear to how I can best participate and contribute I long a deep inner body listening.
In my meditation I see huge terra cotta pots filled with fertilizer, soil and many seeds. It takes a while for our aspirations to take root and grow. My longing for exquisitely honed inner attention is not a constant state for me. I can sustain a radiant presence longer and longer periods but mostly I reach this level of presence when I am leading or listening to others when I am fully participating with life.
In group situations where I am called to lead I can more easily choose to be deeply embedded in my experience as it is unfolding so much so that I sense immediately and intuitively into what words and what actions need to be taken with an exquisite and tender body awareness. There is no ego interrupting the natural process of life unfolding as it needs to. The minute I jump out of my embedded intuition of the whole and back into my disembodied thinking mind, my actions immediately become dissonant and they begin to conflict with reality.
"Boredom passes when it is recognized as merely the consequence of clinging for the past or the future, and it is only the ego that can be bored. The ego thrives on novelty and it is completely dependent on what is happening next. The ego thrives and lives in anticipation of future satisfaction instead of experiencing the absolute which is available only in the Now." David R. Hawkins M.D.
What we most fear is boredom and so we set endless goals to keep us occupied and distracted. We set goals that are not truly embedded in Life's Intelligence. As far as my everyday level of presence is concerned, I can still be quite mentally surface in my attention bored, restless judging my life and longing for a different experience immersed in an an almost childish attitude of "this isn't it" especially when my lofty ego goals do not materialize. There is a frustrating passivity to boredom. Boredom a part of ourselves that does not want to fully mature it is the child part of ourselves that wants life to be handed to us without a full engagement or participation on our part.
I am frustrated with my restless mental seeking and my surface boredom where I really do not make every effort to fully engage and participate fully with each moment as it is. Eckhart Tolle refers to becoming friendly with each moment. I see it taking a step further in developing an acute interest in and reaching out to extend to the moment to participate fully with whatever is emerging so that I can fully learn what each moment is teaching me.
In truth most of us are bound by immaturity by the laziness of our own consciousness. We are addicted to as Richard Moss puts it "our mediocre moments." I find this to be a familiar and frustrating struggle and I am still astounded how much effort, will and intention it takes to build bodily presence.
Becoming consistently and steadily present to every moment of life, at times feels like training for an Olympic sport. Being fully present and participatory requires maturity. I often to don't want to give up the control of my familiar thoughts and mental comfort zone and immerse myself into my immediate bodily experience of life. This level of presence requires both an effort and a letting go of control. This invitation of full participation promises a colorful freedom to dance with and trust the flow of life.
"If your everyday life appears to be unworthy, do not complain to life. Complain to yourself. Lament that you are not poet enough to call up its wealth." Rainier Maria Rilke
Consider that the only way we truly grow as human beings is by deepening our presence and by fully participating with life as it unfolds. All the "doings" and all of the ego goals we avidly pursue leave us pretty much in the same state of consciousness. Staying present to the moment is incredibly simple and incredibly difficult. For myself, boredom is a frequent visitor in my consciousness these days. I realize I am bored with my own lack of depth of looking at my life. It is time to go deeper. I am bored with my own passivity. I am bored with my own inertia and my laziness around deeply engaging and participating with each and every moment.
It is true to say that we are unable to tap the depths of our our experience because we are ignoring our own inner embodied experiences. Not the inner experience of our thoughts which is what we mostly pay attention to but our body sensations below our thoughts. Being present is as simple and as profound as dropping below our thoughts into focusing on the inner sensations of our body. This is where things can begin to feel at times uncomfortable and at times radiant.
Buddhist teacher Tara Brach says it simply, "All of our reactions to people, to situations, to thoughts in our mind are actually reactions to the kind of sensations that are arising in our body." Think about this. Notice how you feel right now in your body and start to see the correlation with how this affects your thinking and emotions.
It is our immediate sensory bodily experience that create our reactions, our stories and our emotions. When I tune into my body with an intense and purposeful gaze, I find a whole host of sensations that I habitually ignore and that I can mindlessly act from. I feel tension, restlessness, boredom but there is more. I see how I can get irritated from the constriction my chest. I see how I speak from an edginess that ignores the sensations of fear coursing through my body. I see how I am judging and criticizing my life because I feel uncomfortable in my belly.
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am then I can change."
I am clear now that I have been creating many of my goals and plans in an attempt to avoid my uncomfortable feelings within. I have expended a great deal of energy trying to create a perfect life and a perfect self when all along I just needed to listen to my inner feelings and allow them to be and shift and change. When we accept ourselves on the inside everything on the outside changes of its own accord.
It is those little moments of inner body acceptance that draws out the depths of our outer experience. It is like a dance. We are not merely observing life with a detached presence but imbuing our own self acceptance into that living presence. This is how we participate. This is how we grow. This is the surrender of the mind that wants to control everything that is happening and instead humbly asks, "What am I learning here?"
Feeling deeply within can be expressed outwardly as a kind of living, breathing poetry as an in the moment body infused work of art. It is in these tiny moments when we begin to walk and speak and act with a truly artful body inspired grace that is larger and more beautiful and more free than the regular confines of our disembodied thinking. Our intelligence is whole bodied and wholehearted and it completely fits into the natural flow of life. It is only then that we begin expressing the moment in a way that draws all of life inside of us into a rich, inclusive creation.
Real life is a process of paying attention to what is emerging in each moment and participating fully within it. This means listening with all of our heart, speaking and acting from the heart and turning our regular thinking process off. Life is like a river that constantly changes and flows and attention to and engagement in that flow is what invites a healthy kind of growth that is organic and profound and rightly slow.
Next: The Creativity of Death
Copyright ©2011 Shelley Klammer. All rights reserved.
Shelley Klammer is a Registered Professional Counselor and an Expressive Art Facilitator. …