Monthly Archives: April 2018

Boring through Boredom

Boredom is the pain of existence. When nothing interesting is happening to absorb our attention, it starts to hurt immediately. When we are actively engaged in anything, there is no boredom. When we disengage and begin to think that we would rather be doing something else, boredom has set in.

You could be actively doing something completely enjoyable, then your mind wanders and suddenly you are bored. All it takes to dislodge boredom is to engage with anything, even boredom, but boredom is so repulsive we generally prefer to writhe in its grips. In a vast world of possibilities, there is nothing to do. Boredom completely zaps our creativity. The world not only fails to entertain us, but it punishes us with passing time, monotonous moments.

The incredible choice available to us is part of the pain of boredom. We can imagine a million things we would rather be doing that would be more fun than being bored, but we can do none of those things because we are stuck, bored, where we are. If we were to think about just one of those million things with focused attention, even though we couldn’t do it, our boredom would ease, but, in our boredom, all we can imagine is a nebulous cloud of better places to be, people to be with, and things to do. We feel the pain of where we are and our aversion to that pain holds us captive.

If you’ve read this far, you have either been engaged with these ideas, or fought though boredom, latching on to this verbal cause and remedy for your pain, hoping for some insight to make the drudgery worth it. Bad news, it gets worse here.

Meditation happens to be one of the most boring things you can do, and also the antidote to boredom. Sitting and doing absolutely nothing but engage a wandering mind with nothing but itself is the essence of meditation. Leg cramps body aches, and sleepiness help to break up the boredom of meditation, but those are just more pain. The act of bringing your attention from all the possible ideas and insights you could be having, to your boring, monotonous breath and adjusting your posture to support a basic level of alertness, focuses your mind and momentarily banishes boredom. Then your mind wanders and boredom pops up again. You refocus and it goes away. You do that until the bell rings, and your mediation is over.

Regular mediation helps you practice refocusing your mind, which helps you in the rest of your life break free from the trap of boredom. Boredom will always find ways to seep through the cracks of your activities, but when you know what it is and how to deal with it, it doesn’t hurt so much or stay so long. The world of possibilities is open to you.


Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts are hard to stop, because when you notice them, you have already had them. Recognizing the intrusive thought, labeling it as “negative thought”, “useless thought” or just “thought”  and then focusing your attention on your breath helps you let the thought pass. Bringing your attention to the sensation of breathing occupies your mind with a non-thought sensation. Thoughts keep coming, but you can keep bringing your attention back to the sensation of breath entering your body and leaving your body. As air enters and leaves your body, thoughts enter and leave your mind.

If you think of your mind as a house, when an intrusive thought comes in the back door, or in through a window, you let it out the front door. Notice it as it appears, hold it in your awareness, label it, and let it go. When you get a lot of intrusive thoughts, you have to do this often.

Thoughts keep coming. The closest thing you can do to stopping thoughts is to focus your attention on physical sensations. If feeling your breath is too subtle, you can rub your hands together or clap three times and feel your hands hitting each other or go for a walk. You can also fill your mind with words you choose, saying to yourself, “thinking, thinking, thinking….” or “thoughts, thoughts go away, come again another day…” or something like that.

In the home of your mind, don’t let intrusive thoughts sit down and make themselves comfortable. See them come in and usher them out. You are the kind and gracious host, not the guard dog. If you feel you have to bark though, bark.


Advice on Everything

Before I give any advice, let me explain a few things. Here goes: The world is a crazy place. We are conscious living things made of meat and bones. We have energy. It is the same kind of energy as other life forms, and non-life forms. We humans are unique in that we not only have awareness, but self-awareness. Our meaty minds move energy, which we experience as ideas. Those ideas scramble around trying to make sense of this crazy world.
In order to make sense of this world, we invent the idea of self. That invented idea is as destructive as the invention of the nuclear bomb. As soon as we came up with the idea of self, then everybody else becomes other. We are each an other to everybody else’s self. The big deal about being selves and others is that we start competing and ranking ourselves against others.
That is all fine, except, besides being meat and energy, with ideas and awareness, we also have feelings. Some of those feelings feel good, and some feel bad. We vastly prefer the good feelings to the bad feelings. Both the good and bad feelings are there to help us survive and live and create more people. They help us make sense of the world and they are also confusing.
Our thoughts, ideas, and feelings constantly change in response to things happening inside of us and outside of us. How we make sense of them determines what thoughts and feelings we have next, and those determine what we do. Lots of what we think and do is designed to create good feelings for the self and to avoid bad feelings. However, because a lot of the sense that our meaty minds make of the world is non-sense, it is like we are wandering in a maze. In our maze, we go down a corridor that we think will lead to pleasure, because it feels good and makes sense, but as we go further and further down that path we find it causing pain. When we feel too much pain, we want to lie down and not move and we don’t feel like going anywhere else.
We want the maze to take us somewhere wonderful. We want to find that wonderful place and show all the other people in the maze how to get through to the wonderful place. Now, all the other people have been exploring the maze and some know how to get to wonderful places and others are stuck. Some have found wonderful places and lost them. Some people in exactly the same place feel different about that place and one thinks it’s wonderful and the other thinks it’s awful. So even when somebody who finds a wonderful place shows it to you, you may think it is awful. When you find a wonderful place and show it to somebody else, they may not appreciate it either.
As we all wander through this maze, this crazy world, more people are being born and dying, appearing and disappearing. That coming and going also causes good and bad feelings. Through it all, we have to keep interacting with the maze, with our ideas, with other people, with their ideas, with energy, with feelings, with senses, and it keeps changing and never stops. So what can we do?
Now the advice. In order to get through the bad feelings and become more receptive to the good feelings, recognize that you are facing a confusing world, and let yourself be confused. Remember that everybody else in the world is also confused in their own special way. Now and again, stop trying to make sense of things. Give your meaty mind a rest. Focus on just breathing and pretend that everything is going to be okay. Imagine how right were you are is a wonderful spot, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
Show your wonderful spot to somebody else, even if they can’t see it. Move your body in ways that use energy and help you replenish it. Notice the good and bad feelings and appreciate them as they come and go. Notice your ideas about yourself and appreciate that you are a special self-aware being. Remember that the idea of self is only an idea. You are good energy, trying to feel good. Focus your meat mind on little things that make sense all by themselves. 1+1=2. That makes perfect sense. Breathe air. Taste food and drink. Connect with others, because they all think they are separate too, and they all hurt sometimes too. Try to see their wonderful places and appreciate being wherever you happen to be together.
We all do our best to make sense of things and feel good, but sometimes things don’t make sense and they often feel bad. In that befuddling environment, we try to take care of ourselves and each other and progress in our understanding even if we don’t ever find that absolutely wonderful place or make any real progress within the maze. Sometimes we make more progress sitting still than we do when we run full speed. Sometimes we are full of energy and we can run.

Enjoy Life

Anytime you find joy in things, that joy is in you. When you find joy in a connection with another person, that joy is in you. As you coordinate fun things to do and people to be with, you are creating circumstances for you to find your joyful mindspace. The joy is always in you.

When you think of joy as being in things, you will always look to things and circumstances to bring you joy. When those things or circumstances are not present or if you are stuck doing something that you consider joyless, you will find  misery and tedium as you do them.  When you believe that whether you feel joy or not is based in your response to things, you can look to yourself to find joy in many more situation.  When you are not enjoying what you are doing, don’t blame the activity, but look into your reaction. When you do that, and challenge your habitual responses, the narrow path of joyful things becomes much wider.

As you do things you enjoy, notice the wide variety of ways you find joy in yourself. As you practice finding joy in yourself, you need less elaborate things to evoke that joyful response. You can enjoy taking a shower or washing dishes. Washing dishes is generally not a joyful kind of thing, but you can feel joy in doing it if you are not consumed with finding misery in the task.

There will always be circumstances that bring you joy or bring you down, but when you look to your own response as the source of the feeling, you can deal with any circumstance. You won’t always be joyous, but when you do it regularly it gets easier. Conversely, if you often practice finding misery in things and circumstances that will be your stronger habit. Life isn’t all full of joy. You instill your joy into it. You enjoy life.