On Boredom

Eventually, all meditators run into the same problem: boredom. Boredom usually arises in one of two ways—as a constant sense of sleepiness or as a kind of free floating anxiety and agitation.

Yes, agitation. I would like to tell you right now that you do not have ADD. If I had a dollar for everyone who said to me that they had ADD, I would be a rich woman indeed. I’m not trying to dis anyone who has actually been diagnosed and is benefitting from medication. More power to you for defining and treating the problem. But most people who have self-diagnosed as ADD sufferers are actually suffering from something far more insidious: boredom masquerading as anxiety.

To explore this a bit more deeply, review this checklist and see if any of the following apply to you:

• If you accidentally leave your smartphone at home, you panic.
• Every time you stop at a red light, stand in line at the bank, or wait for an appointment, you compulsively check email, Twitter, FB and so on.
• You finish one task and immediately line up the next one.
• Not having an overwhelming amount of things to do is anxiety producing.
• The idea of spending time alone is frightening.
• The idea of spending time alone with no smartphone, online access, or television is unthinkable.
• You actually believe that there is no possible way to take a day—much less a week—off. Everything would fall apart. You simply have too much to do.

We are all struggling to manage so many inputs on a daily basis. We (myself included, certainly) have become addicted to input and when it is removed, rather than feeling, “phew, a minute to relax,” we become quite agitated. So of course when we sit to meditate, that agitation makes itself felt. In truth, though, we are bored because there is nothing external for our minds to chew on.

We are perpetually engaged in a choice between two minds states: we are either bored or entertained. And like a strained muscle that has “forgotten” how to relax, we have forgotten how to relax our minds into a state that is neither bored nor entertained. Meditation reintroduces us to what it means to actually rest our minds in a state of openness, simply at ease.

But don’t take my word for any of this! Instead, practice and see for yourself what is true.

Susan Piver is an authorized meditation instructor in the Shambhala tradition who will be leading a weekend retreat for writers at the New York center from Dec. 7-9th. 

Visit her website for more articles and videos on meditation: susanpiver.com