Boredom Therapy - How Boredom Makes You a Better Person

"Stop trying to have special experiences, or be more virtuous, or speak in a spiritual tone of voice. Stop beating yourself up, stop achieving, stop working so hard, stop worrying. It's simple: boredom plus surrender equals enlightenment." 

Jay Michaelson, from "Boredom, a Gift for the Soul?" (Huffington Post)

"That very real and genuine boredom, or "cool boredom" plays an extremely important role. In fact, we could quite simply say that the barometer of our accomplishment in meditation practice is how much boredom we create for ourselves. 

Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential, anti-entertainment -- and as we develop greater psychological sophistication, we begin to appreciate such boredom."

Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, The Path of Individual Liberation, Volume 1

My job is boring.

It didn't start out that way. Six months ago, I had all kinds of ambitions. I thought I would be collaborating with the owners of a small business, using my expertise and talents to help their business thrive. I thought I would be a fresh pair of eyes, bringing to light the things that could be improved, working alongside them to help their business revitalize, adapt, and grow.

Boy, was that fantasy ever shot down.

Instead of being appreciated, my suggestions and observations were ridiculed or simply ignored. My star-studded ideas didn't mesh with the established policies and procedures. I was deemed incompetent for the job I thought I had accepted and "demoted".

Now I plod through endless days of menial tasks that are mind-numbingly, relentlessly routine, and the demands of my empty stomach keep me stuck here, at least for the time being.

After all of the emotions worked their way out of my system: anger, resentment, frustration, and finally depression, I was left with a strange, uneasy, empty feeling:


It turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

We all go to all kinds of lengths to try and keep up our energy, maintain our enthusiasm, stay inspired and entertained. There are even websites dedicated to "boredom therapy", as though boredom were some kind of psychological disease.

The bad news is, there's no escape. Boredom is always lurking under the next learning curve, the next baby, the next house. Sometimes it's called "the grind", "letdown" or "post-partum depression".

The good news is, boredom is a very sane and strong place to hang out. If you can learn to relax into it, it won't have the power to drive you into all of that frantic activity any more.

Hot Boredom and Cool Boredom

I can't remember where I first came across the terms "hot" and "cool" boredom, but they were so helpful, I'd like to share them with you.

Imagine for a moment that you're a mountain. You're really big, really solid, and immovable. You've been there in that same spot, doing nothing, for millennia, and you will still be there, in that same spot, doing nothing, for millennia to come.

All day long, people hike on you. At night, they build fires on you and stick tent stakes in your skin. They make love, fight, leave their trash ... even piss and shit on you.

Hot boredom

If this "mountain-you" were experiencing hot boredom, you would find this situation frustrating beyond belief. You would like nothing more than to flick these irritating little beings with their prickly tent stakes, squabbles, and beer cans into the nearest canyon.

But you can't move. Not even enough to drop one teeny little rock on one picnic area.

So you sit there in your majestic, snow-capped beauty and gnash your teeth and fret ... and the little people continue doing their annoying things, utterly oblivious to you and your frustration.

Cool boredom

Cool boredom could also be called "detachment" or "acceptance". As a mountain, you would gaze down at all of these little beings, watching with mild amusement the miniature passion-plays that they take so seriously.

You were there long before any of these beings came into existence, and you will be there long after they die. From this vantage point, you could even feel compassion for their utter, precious fragility.

The Grieving Process

Most people can't simply move from hot boredom to cool boredom in one fell swoop. There is a grieving process as bits and pieces of dreams and fantasies break off, leaving just the open, raw you exposed to the chilly air. 

You might find yourself going through some or all of the classic steps of grieving as you let your dreams go: anger, denial, bargaining, and so on. After you realize that your dreams are never coming back, there might be tremendous sadness.

However, if you've ever studied the psychology of grief, you know that eventually, after you go through all of the other emotions, you get to acceptance, and -- you guessed it -- boredom.

What a relief to be bored after all of the sturm und drang and pain of the grieving process!

After awhile, you learn to appreciate boredom. It's a very strong place to be. When you allow yourself to be bored, you realize that you are much bigger than your problems. You are in your power, and nothing can disturb you.

Boredom has been referred to as the mark of a good spiritual practice. I'll bet that you could even say that it could be the goal of a good spiritual practice.

So go ahead and let yourself be bored. Then let me know what you find out in the comments below.

Love this post? You might also enjoy these:

Meditation for Beginners: What Is Meditation, and How Do You Do It?

How to Be Successful Without Losing Your Self


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