Loneliness and Boredom? or Solitude and Stillness?
I believe there’s a big difference between loneliness and solitude – and an even bigger difference between boredom and stillness. I believe that it’s easy to forget the value of both solitude and stillness in today’s high stress, fast paced, keep-up-with-the-Joneses world.
My teenaged daughter has a habit of saying “I’m bored” if she has to go fifteen minutes without a scheduled event like track or cheer practice, a text message, or a “Myspace” update. I think most young people have this affliction – I know I did. However, as it is with every other valuable life lesson, I cannot convince her that things are in reality any other way than the way her emotion and energy filled mind believes they are. There is no way that I can convince her that boredom only lasts so long before it gives way to ecstasy.
Thinking back to my own childhood, I knew everything in the world and there was no way that my dad could convince me that sitting still and being quiet was a good thing – especially if I was – God forbid – alone. But I also remember moments in my own childhood where, in a minute of perceived “boredom”, suddenly everything seemed to intensify and I came away rapt in awe of the beauty of my world. I didn’t know it at the time, but those were my first experiences with meditation.
I believe that the trick is to have the courage to wait the boredom out. Sometimes I even find it difficult to allow myself to believe this, even though I have proven it to myself a thousand times. You see, when I sit down to meditate; my mind is going a million miles an hour like a drunken monkey, recounting all that has happened today or worrying about all that might happen tomorrow. That’s what I used to self-diagnose as “boredom.” But I’ve found that if I can sit still long enough, there is a point where my monkey mind finally gives up and gives way to peace and quiet, just like an over-tired child, and then if I wait just a few minutes longer; ecstasy comes smashing through in the beauty of my surroundings and sensations –physical, auditory, olfactory, and mental. A gradual expansion of awareness naturally develops and for a split second, I forget even that I am. There’s no sense of loss, just a loss of separation from everything else that exists in that moment; absolute peace such that every once in a while tears of joy well up in my half closed eyes. All of this takes about 25 minutes out of an otherwise crazy, overcommitted day.
I believe that everyone has the ability to meditate as deeply and as profoundly as the most experienced Zen master, Yogi, or Guru. It just takes practice and the patience to wait past the boredom and the monkey mind, but man, it’s worth the wait.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.