How boredom can lead you to bliss
Boredom gets a bad wrap. We simply cannot handle those moments when there’s nothing to distract us from the fact that we’re alive. Alive and inside our heads, counting down the minutes until the next available distraction arrives.
We’re programmed to ‘do’. We value activity over inactivity, yet it’s those moments of inactivity, of boredom, that can actually add immense value to our lives. It’s right up there with prayer and meditation and daydreaming.
When we prioritise sitting still over running to keep up, we actually cover a much greater distance — one that takes us inward, towards ourselves. When we’re in active mode, we’re always switched on. But when we sit still, embracing a moment of boredom, we don’t actually switch off — we simply up the ante on our on-ness. Martha Beck calls it accessing our inner compass.
We can harness the energy of doing nothing to achieve so much more — we awaken to a much wider personal context. You see; boredom is actually an emotion. We feel it. And emotions are incredibly powerful instigators of all manner of activity and inactivity in our lives.
But we have to pay attention to them. When boredom arrives without extreme, when nothing is out of the ordinary, the conscious mind tends to jump up before we do, looking for new ways to occupy its neurons. It sees inactivity as an anomaly, even though it needs these moments of deep inactivity, of contemplation.
It is during times of inactivity that we can work with our emotions and listen to what they are trying to tell us. When we sit with them they can lead us to prayer or meditation or daydreams. So, if you’re bored, draw your conscious attention down from your mind and into your heart, away from thoughts, towards feelings.
When we embrace such downtime, we naturally become more intuitive. We relinquish our grip on time and experience ourselves in the moment. We come back to centre.
Left brain, right brain
Most days, the left leads. This is the domain of logic and linear thinking. It looks after analysis and problem solving and navigation from A to B. It likes life to be sequential and sensible. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it the masculine brain, the realm of the conscious mind.
Now, the right side of the brain is much less linear, much more spatial. It’s the big thinker, nevermind the detail. It focuses on interpretation and context and feeling. It is creativity and intuition and daydreaming. We can call this the feminine brain, akin to the heart, if you like.
Now, you need both, the masculine and the feminine, and we each contain the energy of both, men and women alike. In fact, the harmony of your personal universe depends on the balance of the relationship between the two. Interestingly, moments of boredom allow you to assess your imbalances.
Masculine energy likes to keep busy, to be useful. It’s active and positive and motivated and outwardly focused — all good stuff. But too much of it will have you running on empty, burning out and doing everything you can to avoid feeling your feelings. You’ll spend most of your days within the realms of go get ’em.
Feminine energy, however, is all about being. It’s inwardly focused, passive and intuitive. It incubates feelings and ideas. It befriends boredom and together they sink into a space of self-exploration and nurturing. Sounds wonderful, but too much of it will have you unfocused and away with the fairies.
One without the other simply doesn’t work. In fact, the whole universe depends on the energetic principles of gender to keep it running smoothly. The Kybalion explains that absolutely everything depends on this interplay of masculine and feminine: “No creation, physical, mental or spiritual, is possible without this principle … [it] works in the direction of generation, regeneration and creation.”
What’s more, the word gender derives from the Latin root “to procreate, to generate, to create.” So, you see, your masculine brain activates, it is the will, and your feminine brain manifests, it is the womb. Which, believe it or not, brings us back to boredom.
Boredom becomes you
Boredom is where you tap your feminine brain, where all the good stuff is gestating, waiting for you to tune in. And when you do, it tells you, yes it is time for change, but no knee-jerk reactions please. Let’s work together on this, feminine and masculine, left and right, heart and mind.
Boredom provides a space in which you can honour your natural cycles of generation and regeneration, birth and rebirth within yourself, within your life. We go through these like seasons with relationships and jobs and projects and all the things that make up our different chapters. The chapters that keep us growing and evolving.
In boredom we must turn from the masculine demands of ‘make change happen’ and tune into the feminine hum of ‘let change become’. While the masculine mind inspires ideas, the feminine mind incubates them. And so you move from mindless change to mindful change by noticing the detail of your inner world. Let it speak to you, guide you and show you the secrets of your heart.
The Soul’s Code
James Hillman writes about the acorn theory. He pooh-poohs the notion of the tabula rasa and says we’re all born with a soul that shapes our destiny. As babies we already contain our full potential, just like an acorn contains an oak tree.
Now, this potential lies dormant until your life conditions allow you to sprout, as it were. So your soul, your original self, has been waiting for you from day one. Might your acorn be incubating in that magic place where masculine meets feminine? The masculine activates it and the feminine manifests it, so we could say that boredom builds a bridge between the two.
In moments of inactivity and intuition we are able to integrate what our hearts and our minds want. We look at who we are and who we want to become, and we assess the gap between the two. Only then can we find ways to grow and evolve and make sustainable changes for the right reasons — not just for the sake of distraction. We embrace the moment rather than looking for ways to escape it.
Hillman writes: “Imagining demands absolute attention. The mind in the imagining zone cannot tolerate interruption.” In other words, take your moments of boredom seriously because it is here that we encounter the visible manifestation of our invisible calling — our acorn or dharma.
So next time you enter into mind-numbing boredom, let it truly numb your mind. Allow yourself to not only experience your being, but to open up to your becoming. Boredom really can lead you to bliss. Do as Joseph Campbell tells us and follow it.