Tonight in my beginning meditation class, our instructor wanted us to learn what it is like to work with boredom during meditation.
We were to attempt to not let our mind or our body take a leading role in the meditation activity; but rather to simply shush our normal mental and physical activity and simply allow ourselves to be….bored/disconnected/disinterested. To feel what is like to work with boredom; how it shows up in the body and how it shows up in mind.
It can show up in the body as….empty, light, vast, unlocatable or heavy. It may show up in the mind as sleepy, dull, dejected, on edge or complacent.
At first, my mind was like “Seriously? You do not actually WANT to do nothing! Here, let me give you some things to think about!” So random things began to pop into my mind as I attempted to wrestle with my mental chatter in order to get it to stop. (A sometimes difficult task at best…for me.) At some point, I won and my mind begrudgingly decided to be quiet. Sort of like the pouting kid in the corner that just got in trouble and is quietly trying to figure out how to get out of it.
As soon as I wrestled my mind into submission, my body was like “Hey! C’mon now, you cannot REALLY mean it, let me give you some things to feel….so you will not be bored!” So the itches, the twitches, the discomfort, the pain and even hunger….began to make itself known. One right after the other, each one of these body sensations began to show up, sometimes taking turns sharing the spotlight and sometimes trying to hog the spotlight. After much ado, I was finally able to say….look here body…I did not ask for you to start trouble, so simmer down already!
I sat perfectly still, attempting to think about and feel…nothing.
Kind of like floating in space, just being…not doing or feeling…anything.
It did not take long for my body to begin to feel very heavy and very, very….tired. It was almost as if it was saying….oh I get it! You actually WANT to do nothing! Fabulous!!…Let’s take a nap!!!!!
Wait…what? I was not tired before class! Yet suddenly, I just wanted to curl up in the middle of my little meditation pad and go to sleep! Yes…right in the middle of class….I wanted nothing more at that very moment. The urge was quite strong and I found myself attempting desperately not to nod off.
Thankfully, I was saved by the “gong” of our instructor’s meditation bowl. I regrettably opened my eyes and moved around on my meditation pillow as I prepared for a discussion about what we experienced in the last thirty minutes. I chimed in because I had never experienced that kind of sleepiness during a meditation class before. My instructor asked me if I thought it was because of the topic/focus of mediation, or if I was just super tired today. I did not have an answer. Maybe it was both?
As I was driving home, I noticed I was once again wide awake. Then, I had an interesting revelation. Whenever I usually insist that my mind, body, and emotions just….shut up….is when I am trying to sleep and they are not allowing me to do so.
Lightbulb moment! I just learned not only how my body and mind handle boredom…or what sort of things present themselves when I am bored….I also learned something else very important.
The only time I ask my mind and my body to take a time out at the same time is when I want to go to sleep!
The rest of the time, I go with the flow and allow one or both of them, to behave however they desire. I even allow them to totally hijack my day and sometimes my week! If it is not my mind/emotions running “amuck” with me, it is my pain/discomfort in my body, that is doing it. Sometimes….those very unfortunate times…when the both gang up on me…it simply is not a whole lot of fun. I used to think I could not control any of it, that I was just along for the ride!
New goal: make time to allow both my body and mind to rest, without the desired result being sleepiness.
PS: You may be wondering why you would want to study boredom/disinterest/disconnect as part of meditation. It is good to know how your body behaves during these situations and what to do to get it to focus anyway, on whatever task is at hand. Such as when you get bored or tired at work, but you still have to meet deadlines. Or you are not particularly interested in a subject at school, but you still need to learn the material. You may feel you do not have control over your mind wandering or your body intensifying feelings for you during these moments, but it is possible!
It is a skill we do not often practice, that could prove very useful.
Lack of interest makes us believe the solution lies in encountering something more engaging. In truth, releasing the energy of boredom is the solution.
Photo by belindapolard.com