In a recent Maitri Bootcamp session, a course through the Elephant Journal Academy, Waylon Lewis, editor-in-chief, spoke about boredom.
No worries, we did not nod off to a droning monologue. Instead, I sat a bit taller, elephant-in-training ears flapped open to hear every word.
In Buddhism, per our chief elephant, he stated there is both hot and cool boredom. Really? How cool is that? Pen in hand, I scribbled my notes in my red and white flower-covered spiral notebook. Extra pen nearby in case I ran out of ink.
Hot boredom is filling every space with busyness. So many examples, but some that come to mind include:
1. Once a sure shot to a corner office job you want. The one with the large window looking out over the tall buildings in the city below, vehicles of all makes and sizes honking, idling, and busses crammed with tired workers. The need to do multiple tasks at one time and check off that list.
2. Multitasking. It does not need to be in a career; it can be multitasking at home, juggling feeding children, piling dishes in the dishwasher, talking on your phone while listening, sort of, to the news for weather and traffic reports.
3. Multitasking. Getting in the car, phone on hands-free, bagel on a lap, extra hot no foam venti latte in one hand, radio turned up, mascara wand nearby for the first red light. Weaving in and out of lanes, tapping the steering wheel with frustration at the stop sign and an overly cautious driver in front of you.
4. Multitasking. Long line at the cashier, so out comes the phone to make that all-important call to schedule a mani-pedi, then the vet since Arvin needs his rabies vaccine, and then a call to Vivian to tell her you saw Susie’s husband talking to some red-haired long-legged new neighbor.
There are plenty more, I am certain. However, how many of us recognize ourselves in one or more, or all of these scenarios? Or, maybe you were one or more, then for whatever reason, and yes, we can add the pandemic, realized it had to go. Good news is that multitasking is last century and more employers may be wise to the fact a job can be better handled with concentration and focus on one thing.
So, what is cool boredom? I like this one; it’s simply chilling out. Minding the gap. Not feeling the need to fill every second of every day.
Some examples that come to mind:
1. Walking outside without a phone. Tuning in to see what is around you. For me, I see birds, ducks, and folks walking their dogs, cats sitting on windowsills, the cars, and now, more people bicycling past me. Listening. Just listening.
A dog barks and more join the chorus, children laughing at recess at the K-8 school next to my apartment complex. The owls hooting, the crows crowing, the beautiful songs of the mockingbirds. The smell of fresh grass after a rain, the scents of cooking coming from apartments. The feel of the wind on my face.
2. Waiting in line. Just waiting—no flipping through the magazines at the counter, no talking on the phone. No texting, no social media, no checking email.
3. Just driving the car. I keep Scarlett’s radio off, long ago cancelled the subscription to XM radio. No food, no drink. Definitely no makeup to put on. Phone secure in my small cloth handbag with a green dragonfly hand-painted on it from a local vendor. No weaving, no speeding, just focusing on the drive.
4. A newer addition to my life. Since I am still learning, I try to focus on the task at hand. I hear some of you laughing (insert smile). If you have read any of my vegan recipes, I disclose my bloopers. Yes, not focusing, I have left out key ingredients and screwed up meals. However, as I learn, I lean into the gap here and focus only on my task.
Not having a TV nor radio lets go of distractions, and since I live in an apartment, I use earbuds to listen while sitting in front of my laptop. Cooking is quickly becoming a meditative experience and some might call it cool boredom.
I hope this helps you find a way to think about what areas in your life you want to mind the gap, just be still. I leave you with a poem.
Why do we rush to fill the spaces
To get to multiple places?
Why does a red light have us drumming our fingers
And not enjoy the moment to linger?
Long lines in a store, or anywhere
Do they cause one’s temper to flare?
Why not just mind the gap.
Take a pause, check in with our breath.
And do nothing.
Not a thing. Just be.
Mind the gap
No, it’s not on a map,
It’s in the stillness, the cool boredom.
Enjoy the present moment.
It won’t be there long.
Mind the gap.