How often do we find ourselves in boring situations? Maybe we’re sitting in a waiting room, attending a work meeting, standing in line in a crowded coffee shop, or stuck in a traffic jam. Can we notice how our minds tend to think about something pleasant from our past or anticipate an exciting event in the future? When we jump back and forth in time it gives us a sense of relief, we are no longer stuck in an unpleasant situation but inhabit a delightful illusion of the mind. What we don’t realize is that those moments when we are daydreaming are the times when we train our minds to be absent from the present moment. In other words, we train our minds to be unconscious.
“So I tend to daydream now and then. Can it really be that bad?” I used to think to myself. As I look back, the most unbearable situations for me were taking a subway to and from work, the last hour of the workday, standing in line in the supermarket. To lessen the stress of waiting, I would start thinking about my future plans. I would mentally go over every little thing that I needed to do. This kind of rehearsal gave a little sense of relief because I knew what I needed to do. If I had no particular projects or plans, I would start thinking about something pleasant that happened to me recently, about my friends or family. Another thing I would do was take out my phone and start reading a book. I found this particularly useful because I had no time to read when I was at home, so I used this as an opportunity to catch up with my reading goals.
But these activities served only as a temporary patch, they could never ease the tension completely. And so I would live through this drudgery day in and day out. This feeling of unease and tension, the desire to be somewhere else is what spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle explores with great insight and wisdom in one of the chapters of his book Stillness Speaks, a collection of short teachings for daily reflection and practice.
by Eckhart Tolle
The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more. When you are identified with mind, you get bored and restless very easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought, and its hunger is not being satisfied.
When you feel bored, you can satisfy the mind’s hunger by picking up a magazine, making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the web, going shopping, or — and this is not uncommon — transferring the mental sense of lack and its need for more to the body and satisfy it briefly by ingesting more food.
Or you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and significance. So even boredom can teach you who you are and who you are not.
You discover that a “bored person” is not who you are. Boredom is simply a conditioned energy movement within you. Neither are you an angry, sad, or fearful person. Boredom, anger, sadness, or fear are not “yours,” not personal. They are conditions of the human mind. They come and go.
Nothing that comes and goes is you.
“I am bored.” Who knows this?
“I am angry, sad, afraid.” Who knows this?
You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.