Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sitting and Staring

"Dawn in the Desert"
-a day of rest-

I recently read a story about how kids spend their summer vacations nowadays. Apparently today's parents are obsessed with finding ways to assure that their children will not be bored over the summer months. They arrange stints at summer camps, sign them up for little league teams, swim clubs, maybe find a tutor to help give their kids an edge in the upcoming school year. And of course, when all else fails there is always the computer and the internet to keep their kids always busy during every waking hour of every single day.

The story went on to say that parents may mean well, but it's important for their kids to feel "bored," especially during the months when they are away from school. When children feel bored they get creative- invent games, explore imaginative activities. Besides all that, kids need time to de-stress by just sitting and doing nothing -it's important for their well-being. 

As I think about it, "being bored" and "doing nothing" from time to time is just as important for adults as it is for kids.

We live in a world in which boredom is viewed as an enemy to be avoided at all costs, and sitting and doing nothing is a waste of valuable time. Everyone wants to be stimulated and engaged at all times, pursuing the big thrills - seeking out the newer, the bigger, the better in life. So when they feel bored at work or at home or school or even on a day off, most people get very "antsy" and rush out to do something else, often winding up at a computer, on the internet, the social media, texting with a friend.  

Yesterday I came across an article written by someone who has been a Zen practitioner for over 30 years. He talked about his daily practice of "zazen" -doing nothing, thinking nothing, just "sitting and staring" (sometimes just staring at a blank wall).  Every day he spends deliberate time just sitting and staring. In the article he went on to say that he was recently asked if he ever gets bored when he practices "zazen." "Of course, it's boring," he said. "It's boring, boring, boring." He went on to explain that out of the boredom of "sitting and staring," a joy emerges - the joy of being alive: 

Lots of folks figure they have better things to do and better things to think about. But when I 'sit and stare' I am paying attention to my life. 

When you really take a look at your ordinary life you'll discover something truly wonderful. Our regular old pointless lives are incredibly joyful -- amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful.

Sunday used to be a "day of rest." It's not like that anymore. Lots of people have to work on Sundays or they use the day to catch up on chores at home or go shopping at the mall.  I'm thinking that, apart form any religious significance, maybe it would be a good idea to reclaim Sunday as a "day of rest"  -  at least one day out of the week where people might commit themselves to being bored, to do nothing, to spend some devoted time just sitting and staring.

Ordinary life is indeed "amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful."

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