I was reflecting recently on how many of my problems in life come from a fear of boredom.
Boredom feels like death. You know? Like if I sit still and do nothing, and boredom appears, it feels like I’m literally going to die.
Here is Chögyam Trungpa speaking about basic sitting meditation:
There is no promise of love and light or visions of any kind — no angels, no devils. Nothing happens: it is absolutely boring. Sometimes you feel silly. One often asks the question, “Who is kidding whom? Am I on to something or not?” You are not on to something. Traveling the path means that you get off everything, there is no place to perch.… ”I’m supposed to get something out of meditation. I’m supposed to attain different levels of realization. I haven’t. I’m bored stiff.” Even your watcher is unsympathetic to you, begins to mock you. Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential. Credentials are entertaining, always bringing you something new, something lively, something fantastic, all kinds of solutions. When you take away the idea of credentials, then there is boredom.
We had a film workshop in Colorado in which we discussed whether it was important to entertain people or make a good film. And what I said was that perhaps the audience might be bored with what we have to present, but we must raise the intelligence, the standards of the audience, up to the level of what we are presenting, rather than trying to constantly match their expectations, their desire for entertainment. Once you begin to try to satisfy the audience’s desire for entertainment, you constantly bend down and bend down and bend down, until the whole thing becomes absurd. If a film-maker presents his own ideas with dignity, his work might be ill-received in the beginning but possibly well-received once people begin to catch up to it. The film might raise the audience’s level of sophistication.
Similarly, boredom is important in meditation practice; it increases the psychological sophistication of the practitioners. They begin to appreciate boredom and they develop their sophistication until the boredom begins to become cool boredom, like a mountain river. It flows and flows and flows, methodically and repetitiously, but it is very cooling, very refreshing. Mountains never get tired of being mountains and waterfalls never get tired of being waterfalls. Because of their patience we begin to appreciate them. There is something in that. I don’t want to sound especially romantic about the whole thing, I am trying to paint a black picture, but I slipped a bit.
It is a good feeling to be bored, constantly sitting and sitting.
[Excerpted from The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation, by Chögyam Trungpa. (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1976.) As included in The Basket of Tolerance by Adi Da Samraj.]
- Chögyam Trungpa mentions “dignity”. Is there a relationship between dignity and being willing to endure boredom?
- What does he mean when he says, “boredom is anti-credential”?
- Does a fear of boredom make us needy? Scattered? Unable to commit to anything?