Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

The Phenomenon of Boredom

--by MJ Ryan (Mar 16, 2009)

The labeling of a huge part of human experience as boring is a relatively new phenomenon. The concept of boredom -- a sense of emptiness and a lack of stimulation -- didn't even exist until the nineteenth century. Before that, it was used only in the context of a person who spoke too long or rambled off the topic: "Oh, she's such a bore!" Now it is a state of being that is a fate worse than death.

Psychologists say that the problem we think is "out there" -- in the book, movie, job, relationship -- is actually in us. Boredom, they say, is created by an inability to delay gratification and a low tolerance for frustration, both of which have serious implications for our success in life and in love.

Any time we proclaim something boring, what we really are saying is that we don't have patience for it. Rather than looking at ourselves for the source of the problem -- and therefore the solution -- we look at whatever is provoking the feeling and label that the problem.

A lot of human experience can be considered boring. There are huge stretches of parenting, in relationships, in work, where "nothing" is happening, or at least nothing obvious. We can consider those moments boring and seek to alleviate that boredom with any distraction available. Or we can see such occasions as opportunities to tap into our patience and look more deeply.

Try it yourself. Go on a fast for a week in which you refuse to consider any experience boring. When your mind begins to use that label -- in traffic, say, or on hold -- challenge yourself to find something of interest in what is going on, either in yourself or the world around you. How does that change your experience?

With attention, nothing is boring, even the most routine tasks. If you tune in to how the warm soapy water feels as you wash the pots and pans, how does that change the experience for you? Or weeding the garden, how does it feel to bend and stretch in the sunlight? What *is* the name of that gray bird with the crested head that suddenly appeared? This level of experiencing life isn’t one that we tune in to, but it is one that can bear many riches of wonder at the very fact of being alive in this amazing world.


--MJ Ryan

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Previous Reflections:

On Mar 17, 2009 sue wrote:
How this world of instant gratification there is no patience for waiting/working for and appreciating what you receive at the end of your wait/efforts.

On Mar 17, 2009 prashant singh jha wrote:
what a nice quoation!

On Mar 17, 2009 Hearttouch wrote:
I think boredom gets us down more because we have failed to appreciate the art of expressing our emotions using pen and paper (writing). Our old folks used so much of this untapped boredom killer!

On Mar 17, 2009 Mohsin Khan wrote:

On Mar 17, 2009 hina wrote:
I found the article interesting.Its true the moment we begin to enjoy the present, whether it may be enjoying seeing the little birds or the beautiful surroundings, our boredom will cease to exist. This is what is called"living in the moment".

On Mar 17, 2009 Amaresh wrote:
Really good one!!!!

On Mar 17, 2009 Rod Templin wrote:
Several years ago I was considering the phenomenon of "boredom". Feeling bored is indeed nothing more than a failure to pay close enough attention. Therefore the solution seems self-evident. When one is feeling bored it signals the need for a change in perception. The possibilities for new perceptions are unlimited, and new perceptions keep "boredom" out of the picture. As Stephen C. Paul says, in his amazing little book, "Inneractions", begin to see what is in front of you rather than what you learned was there. This concept of changing one's perception is at the heart of teachings by folks like Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, and Deepak Chopra, just to name a few. Of course Ram Dass was onto this notion some 40 years ago in his first book, "BE HERE NOW". It is a significant factor in all "perrenial philosophies", to use a phrase coined by Aldous Huxley in his book of the same title. My sense is that much of our societies severe suffering of enui results from feeling disconnected from our true authentic selves. There are many ways to approach this issue. Simply becoming aware of it is a good beginning.

On Mar 17, 2009 Rod Templin wrote:
More relevant wisdom from Stephen C. Paul:

"The place in which you find yourself isn't nearly as important as where you place your attention while you are there."

"All it ever takes to shift from ordinary to magical is your undivided attention."

On Mar 17, 2009 Lolly wrote:
I really enjoyed this.

On Mar 17, 2009 Tristan wrote:
Methinks boredom may simply be an incentive to do better than what one is currently doing. e.g. if I am listening to a lecture/conversation and feeling bored, I am reminded to become more aware, or leave to do something more useful, or maybe even sleep to get some valuable rest.

I have learned to appreciate and enjoy Gainesville, Florida, which is relatively dull in so many important ways, but I'm glad that something always reminds me that there are much better places to which to move my ass asap.

Sure, it's good to develop the ability to be patient to be better able to address longer term goals. But let's keep alive that valuable warning system that is boredom and impatience!


On Mar 18, 2009 Linda wrote:
Boredom is where you feel the void, but the void is where the magic happens!

On Mar 21, 2009 cabbage wrote:
Life is never boring! There is always something to feel/experience even in those moments when "nothing" is happening. I love this quote...thanks!

On Mar 22, 2009 Ewa wrote:
I am one of those who get bored easily.waiting for the trafic ligth to turn green is a problem because the few secounds are to long and renewed.thanks

On Mar 22, 2009 param wrote:
its really very nice to get the phenomenan of boredom. i too feel that its all from the mind. its just an experience. if we play it, there will be no labeling.only thing is to be aware in the present so that everything is new and interesting.

On Mar 24, 2009 pappu wrote:

Beautiful artical!  Enjoy the present!!

On Apr 28, 2009 namita wrote:

thanks a ton for this wonderful and insightful realy makes a profound statement in the most simplest of manners that 'living in now' is the true way of conducting one's life to the full potential.sometimes we know the answers but imbibing the actual meaning of it needs reminders.again thanks for serving as that reminder.

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