As the season changes to the caressing comforts of spring and we are called on by budding nature to feel hopeful and light hearted, it can be shocking to feel boredom. It seems as if we are co-creating a world of reaction, resistance, avoidance, distraction, opportunities, intentions (keep adding all of your favorite pastimes — I am in the process of learning basic Klingon for a disowned parts party) as a major hedge against the potential onset of boredom. Since we spend so much energy avoiding boredom (healing from any addictive pattern requires facing the dread of boredom), I thought it would be useful to face it straight on with an exploratory approach. In the Gestalt world this means putting our interest into boredom.
Engaging with boredom means finding words to describe the bodily sensation itself. There is usually something in the atmosphere that can activate the sensation – it could be the time of day, dust mites in the air, the sound of a distant train. To this atmospheric mood, our body responds in a withdrawal,
a dulling of the senses, a cardboard sensation on the tongue – you need to find your own words to identify these responses. Often we want to yawn but stifle it, missing out on an amazing health opportunity as per the doctors health service on the web: Yawning helps cool your brain by forcing you to breathe deeply and by increasing blood flow to the brain through the act of stretching your jaw. In our classes at the GIT we encourage people to exaggerate every yawn that arises, as a way to further engage with the experience of boredom.
Another way to engage is to not fight it. This will take several attempts. You will need to set a strong intention to stay with the feeling of boredom for several minutes, to endure what to many of us is the most difficult feeling of all, until a new awareness arises. Any engagement with what is requires energy and at the same time restores that energy. Sometimes effects of early trauma have seriously reduced our body’s ability to pull on available energy in order to release our inner desire to move, to play, or to confront. This level of boredom covers up a deep desire to engage as if we were trapped inside an endless battle.
Children are never bored – their attention goes from attraction to attraction along with their full energy of exploration – every minute of the day brings a new color, new slant of light, new angle to see something, new smell, new taste, every snowflake’s unique – remember those days? Then someone put you into a schedule, a routine, a seat in a classroom, and the only way to endure the discomfort of all of that energy trapped beneath your skin was to numb your senses.
Why is boredom the most dreaded of all emotions? It seems to be very close to our fear of purposelessness and the connection between that and our ability to be loved, loveable, and not to be abandoned. In our productive societies where doing is more valued than being, we seem to have lost our natural rest cycle – to do nothing as a productive state. I remember a description by Bruce Chatwin of climbing a hilltop in an aboriginal district in Australia and finding an old man sitting and looking outward to the further hills. He writes that he approached the man and asked him if he was an elder and the man said no he wasn’t. Chatwin then asked him if he was dreaming, for the people, and the man shook his head again saying no. So Chatwin asked him what are you doing? And the old man replied: Just sitting.
Our ancestors had this skill to just sit. Recovering this skill does not mean meditating which has a purpose, or planning, or dreaming, or resting – it is a not doing. It is a missing piece. The doorway to it is through Boredom.
Copyright Jay Tropianskaia 2017