I think it’s interesting that people are constantly trying to escape boredom. What is it about feeling bored that we find so terrifying? We are surrounded by a limitless amount of entertainment, often right at our fingertips – so is it that we are forgetting we can be alone, with no one to communicate with and nothing to do?
Boredom is important.
When we experience feeling bored, it is the first time in that day, or for a long time, that we are inactive. Boredom can be a sign that we haven’t completely stopped in a while, after a long time of constantly receiving input. And so after this time, when space arrives in the form of—nothing to do, nothing planned or nothing that triggers our desires—we are arriving in a place of stillness.
From both an Ayurvedic and a psychological perspective, boredom can be a positive thing. If it wasn’t for boredom, we probably wouldn’t get anything done. Professor Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, agrees that boredom is useful for the progression of humankind.
“If you ask a simple question, why we have emotions, the answer seems to be that evolution gave us emotions for survival. So, fear is useful. Anxiety is useful. And even boredom is useful, because you don’t want an organism who just does the same thing over and over again without learning anything.”
When we are bored, it’s only a sign that there is suddenly some space in our minds of non-thought, non-desire and non-attachment to anything. And we need to be able to feel this. In Ayurvedic terms, boredom is the opening-up or the quietening-down of the internal wind, as people begin to perceive the space that they live in. And in this space, creation happens! In order for us to perform in excellence, or even at a genius level, we need to find these places of boredom and silence, with no plans for where to go or what to do. And it’s important to make time for these spaces in our lives.
These days we don’t often find ourselves in spaces to properly perceive stillness, unless we decide to do something like travel out into nature, go for a walk in the woods, and leave our trusty smartphone behind. If we don’t try to take breaks from using our phone, we will continue to be hit with a constant stream of input. Of course, I can’t say this is all bad. It can also be a beautiful thing, as it gives us the freedom to choose information and decide how we want to build our world. But on the other hand, we are becoming all-consumed as we are getting addicted to this type of input. We are becoming less sure about ourselves, and instead more sure about what more we need and what is missing in our lives.
All of this ‘putting in’ will defeat the self. And when we are defeated we are less likely to put out, or we put out under pressure. But this forced form of ‘putting out’ makes us enjoy less of what we’re doing. More and more we are performing at a level of capability, but not at a level of excellence. In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks shows us the many ways we can self-sabotage our dreams and how when we are feeling safe we are underperforming. Allowing yourself to feel bored might come out of your comfort zone, but it’s essential to perform at your highest potential or to ‘put out’.
Boredom can be a good friend indeed, a friend that teaches us to become more aware of details. This reminds me of a yogic friend of mine who never really never got bored. She would become sucked into observing her cup of tea and the way the water would turn, or the change in colour when the bag dipped in. And she could sit for hours with that cup of tea. I think this is a nice symbol for boredom, and that it is just a perception of a speed, rather than something that means slowness.
So my advice is to arrive at a level of excellence, or you could call it a level of output, instead of only input. In my work and day-to-day life, I come across a lot of people who are creative, but this isn’t necessarily coming from a zone of excellence, it is from a zone of capability. Imagine what these people could create if they allowed themselves more space. If they allowed themselves those moments of silence throughout the day in order to become quiet and come to boredom. We all need more time for that. So think about where you can take the time out of your day to get bored.
If you want to get inspired for a slow life, tune into my new podcast Outer Travel Inner Journey and start to discover your inner peace.