Boredom is learning


Boredom is not a problem to be solved.  It’s the last privilege of a free mind.’  This statement from an article by Gayatri  Devi  on the ‘net’ jumped out at me yesterday.  What???  Aren’t we always told not to be bored?  Always to be busy doing something?

In our modern day culture confessing to boredom is like admitting to a character-flaw.  We are advised to take up a hobby, find a cause and work for it, play an instrument, read a book, clean your house, whatever, but DO something.  With media, TV and laptop screens and handheld devices, we seem to be always focused on doing, on seeing, on knowing more, on people/others, on happenings.

Devi believes that contrary to everyday busyness, boredom helps us have a clearer understanding of time, and of ourselves.  He says that unlike fun or work or ‘doing’, boredom is not about anything; it is our encounter with pure time as form and content.

He explains that by “leaning into boredom” we enter that intense experience of time untouched by ongoing life around us.  Thus boredom opens the horizons of our mind, our heart and soul to the unending and ever-expanding aura of God’s universe.  And this is where we can learn about our self and the world we live in.

I used to get uneasy not doing anything, perhaps because I didn’t feel completely peaceful alone with my mind.  Practicing various forms of contemplation and meditation have helped nourish the emptying of my mind of busy things and distracting thoughts.  I have found that slowing down my mind leads me into an inner awareness of life, of being alive.

Learning through boredom for me embraces seeing and feeling God’s creation more vividly.  Of savoring the fragrance of blossoms in the fresh rain-cleansed air.  Of experiencing the power of the words in the book I am reading.  Of letting the small sounds of life create a silent vibrant harmony.  Of filling empty moments/hours with learning how to just sit and be in the present and aware of God’s presence around me.

I have also found that this unknowing opens my mind to ask questions.  Why am I bored?  Why do I find it difficult to slow my thoughts down and open up my inner mind to silence?  Why am I distracted so easily?  Why do I hear sounds that I’ve not heard before?  Why?  Why?  Why?

William Wordsworth, the lyrical poet laureate, calls this process ‘reflection’, defined as emotions recollected in tranquility.  He used as his example, letting a host of golden daffodils flash upon your inward eye to fill empty hours while teaching you, slowly, how to sit and be in the present.

The psalmist puts it this way:  Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:11)

Calming my ever inquisitive mind is still a struggle!  Perhaps being bored more often will help.  I will try to not always carry a book or crossword puzzle around with me to fill up “empty” time.  I will ‘practice’ learning more by being bored!  Isn’t this an oxymoron?