We are so unaccustomed to dealing with boredom in the West.
Our parents were encouraged to keep us constantly stimulated, either intellectually or physically as we grew up. The concept of just sitting still and doing nothing is something almost completely alien to us. And we’re doing the same to our kids.
Yesterday, talking to one of my lovely Distance Coaching clients about the challenges he is facing in the meditation program I have developed for him to improve his mental focus in free-diving, the concept of boredom raised its ugly head.
He is finding that often less than half way through his 11 minute meditation practice, he gets a burning itch to know how long he has left to go. It is so uncomfortable that he opens his eyes and checks his timer, and unsurprisingly when he sees that he still has around five minutes to go, these five minutes pass even more slowly than the first six minutes; and the whole process becomes more and more painful.
Why is this? Why does our mind play tricks on us like this? And how can we counteract it?
Time is a concept that becomes a fascinating teacher once we start delving into the mysteries of yoga and meditation.
Why do some experiences fly past and others crawl interminably on?
Why do we still feel like we’re 20 years old, but our body is telling us were considerably older?
Some days a meditation practice feels like the most blissful and enjoyable experience in the world, and the next it is pure torture. You may have read that time actually does not exist. It’s a “concept,” something developed by man as a way of tracking and controlling life. You may also have experienced that control is also a “concept,” which doesn’t exist either.
Basically, when we watch the clock, we are in a state of non-acceptance of where we are and with what is in that precise moment. We want the car ride to be over. We want to be in a place other than where we are in that moment. We want the meditation to be done so we can get on with our ridiculously busy day.
My personal experience with time, or the lack there of.
Two years ago I had a fascinating insight into time, or the non-existence of time. I was about two-thirds of the way through a 40-day meditation (in the Kundalini tradition), at which I chanted at 5:00am everyday for two and a half hours. All by myself!
Interestingly, when I was given the practice by my teacher, I felt such an upsurging of joy, and was super-excited by the prospect of taking on such a big challenge. However, at around 25 days in, it was starting to feel impossible. At around the 90 minute mark, I was dying to get up, move around, stop meditating and the mental chatter was unbearable.
I emailed my teacher. Why was this suddenly happening when up to that point, it had been such a blissful experience?
He pointed out that I was experiencing boredom and instructed me just to observe it.
The very next morning, as I was reaching that itchy sensation of wanting to get up and do something else, his words came to me; and I glimpsed out of the corner of my eye the beautiful olive tree I planted in my garden five years ago. And in that moment, I experienced the essence of being a tree.
I connected with, and truly knew what it was to be a tree. Happy, grateful and at peace with my roots reaching deep into the soil, receiving all the nourishment I need, my branches and leaves reaching up into the sky, and absorbing and transforming carbon-dioxide and daylight into energy. No need to go anywhere or do anything other than simply be a tree.
Perfect contentment, perfect acceptance, perfect bliss.
Time/boredom is a hurdle for many meditators, but it can be overcome.
From that moment on, the meditation became far more profound as I realized that I had connected with nature and my own deeper essence of being a part of creation, the same as the tree.
It was a profound moment for me, and one that I am happy to share with my students to help them also deal with the concept of time. It is one of the things that prevents us from accepting things and people as they are; and it is a key hurdle to overcome for a free-diver struggling to relax into the free fall or falling short of max performances in the pool, or even someone starting out on a new meditation program.
This morning, after our chat about being a tree, I received a lovely e-mail from my client:
Thanks for our call yesterday and just to let you know—today’s meditation was the best one so far, quite relaxed with the timer behind my back and me being surprised as it went off. Some small steps forward on the path to accept boredom.
Boredom can be a wonderful state—just that moment of stillness without having to fill it with anything other than appreciation for the moment, whatever it is. Try it some time…
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