Friday, June 1, 2018

Embracing Boredom

- in my meditation garden -

I visited our local Starbucks yesterday and a mere handful of other patrons were there along with me.  During the height of our “tourist season” that coffee shop is always packed, every seat taken, long lines of people waiting to be served. But now that the temperatures have soared into the triple digits, all the tourists and part-time residents have left town, so it’s pretty quiet out here in the desert.  Yesterday as I sipped an iced tea and basked in the peace and quiet, a young man at a nearby table asked me if I lived here? He told me he was here visiting a friend but couldn’t imagine living out here in the summer because it must get “awfully boring.”

I thought about that young man’s observation and realized that I am not at all bored in these quiet summer months. I actually relish the sense of “serenity” that descends upon this region when summer comes along. I also know plenty of people who live in big cities with lots of other people, always busy doing all sort of things all the time, who report that they are not at all content with their lives - they are always bored with almost everything in their everyday routine.

People are often bored with their jobs, or they are bored with school, bored with the people they are with day in and day out. People are bored with their cars or their clothes or bored with their shoes.

Of course when people find life boring, they will do almost anything to relieve the boredom. Many people are constantly on the lookout for new jobs or looking to change careers, shopping for new clothes, new furniture, a new car, even a new house.  Some try to relieve their boredom by spending way too much time browsing the web and sending endless texts even when they are at a table with other people sitting next to them.

I am reminded of something I read a while back in Lauren Winner’s beautiful book, Still Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. She reflects on how bored she had become with her ordinary routine as she entered the period of her mid-life years and realized that perhaps her boredom was actually a spiritual gift to be embraced not a condition to be avoided:

What we are attempting to escape when we try to flee our boredom
is only ourselves.
Perhaps boredom is not unlike loneliness,
the best response may be not to run from it,
but to give yourself to it,
to see it as an invitation to attend more carefully
to the very thing that seems boring.

Gradually, a sense of order overtakes the wretchedness of boredom,
and there is a movement toward stillness,
and in the stillness we find God, and in God,
our true identity.

I find great wisdom in this insight.

As I reflect on it, the moments of any routine day that I might find to be “boring” are indeed “invitations” for me to stop, to stay, to look and listen, to pay attention to where I am.  I have come to realize that what is often labeled as “boredom” to be avoided, may in fact be an invitation to welcome and embrace the revelations of every “present moment.”

Whenever we are able to stay with where we are, unplug, sit still, engage in conversations with the people we happen to be with, focus on the task at hand and pay attention to where are feet are planted, we discover the most wonderful things about our lives.

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