People ask me what it was like to be cut off from the world for ten years — wondering how I might have spent my days — often struggling to believe that it was even possible or true that I strayed so far away from “normal” life.
“Weren’t you bored?” they’ll ask.
“Sometimes,” I’ll answer.
But boredom isn’t what you imagine it to be.
You see, when you’re accustomed to noise and activity and planning and doing and shopping and entertaining and being entertained and being busy and busier and busier and busier, boredom might sound, well, boring.
But not-doing is only initially uncomfortable.
It does take a while to down shift.
But it’s so worth it.
Here’s why …
Living simply and going slow brings things into a unique perspective. From this vantage point, being alive takes on a certain gravity, awe starts to emerge, and sincere gratitude for the gift of your human life begins to break your heart open.
At least that’s how it went for me.
Here’s my radical proposition:
What if, even amidst the choreography of your life right now — with its pace and chaos and all that you are busy with — there’s a way to slow down? Even while the world continues to reel from a pandemic and to pummel your news feed with the latest sure-fire way to achieve some elusive success or happiness that’s just beyond your reach … it is possible to turn away from it all. If only for a minute.
What if you could forge a space within your crowded schedule that would provide you the opportunity to recognize the majesty of your life just as it is, without any need to fix yourself or change your circumstance in any way?
Well, you can.
Begin right now.
Read the next eight sentences, then pause for a minute to do them. Then return and finish reading this blog.
Breathe deeply in and then let the breath out.
Feel the breath in your body.
Feel your body.
Take another deep breath.
Breathe normally and stay still.
Notice what you notice.
When we regularly sit down, get still, and breathe in this way, over time we stabilize within the pause. Once steady, we can begin to reflect on our desires and values, and discover other aspects of ourselves lying dormant.
From here on it’s only when we choose to be hijacked by our mind that we might call what we experience in the pauses as boredom. In this case your mind is telling you to get up, get going, don’t just sit there, do something. This is one of the mind’s jobs. It’s the mind’s joy. To keep you busy doing.
As it should be.
But here’s the secret.
We are not seeking to get rid of our mind, or even to change it. We are simply intending to see it, appreciate it, and then not allow it to be the boss of us.
Just not easy.
Still, intentional boredom, otherwise sometimes known as meditation, is a skill you can learn, and one that will serve you — if you understand what you are doing and why.
I admit it took me a while to settle into my retreat life. The mind’s preoccupations, and even the habits and addictions of the body, are incredibly persuasive when you take a bold stance and decide to not listen or follow them. They get incredibly loud, at first.
But over time I began to settle into the power and beauty of the moment and the breath. My mind faded into the background — long enough for me to see more of myself.
And, don’t worry, the mind doesn’t have to stay in the background forever. That’s not the goal of intentional boredom as a tool for self-discovery, nor the point of meditation in the way I teach it. The intent is to create space from your mind in order to know yourself more fully.
Truth is, you are so much more than you think you are.