The Gift of Boredom

Recently several long-time clients and friends have shared their sense of boredom.

“Life just seems too calm. Flat. Like there’s no problem, sure, but also no excitement. What do I do about it?”

Nothing, I think, getting very excited. Because this is what I keep learning over and over: boredom is the first sign of breakthrough.

I’ve learned about this from my dog Calvin, who spends large amounts of time appearing bored (my thought), and then, when it’s time, he plays like a maniac. When I watch him, I see a biological necessity to move from slowed down to awake, alive, and playful.

Sure enough, this week two people relay the amazing discoveries that happened the day after we talked. Just on the other side of boredom came some calm knowing about the next step. Or a burst of energy to move forward.

From the fertile ground of a calm mind the new springs forth, unadorned, but ready to bloom. Come to think of it, sometimes it’s in full bloom already, when we get our shriveled sense of what’s possible out of the way.

This reminded me of Gay Hendrick’s approach to creativity in his book The Big Leap.

He suggests noticing “worry-thoughts” (which can include the thought that I’m bored). Then he suggests you begin to wonder what positive thing is coming through. He suggests shifting awareness to the body, where he notices a feeling-sense long before an actual idea comes through.

Applying this kind of attention takes mindfulness and patience, like most sound approaches, and it works.

Boredom. I look closer. There’s an emptiness there. I notice I don’t like that feeling. I wait, sometimes getting busy with other stuff, the stuff that doesn’t call my creative Muse into being. I can go on this way a long time. Filling the emptiness.

But what’s sometimes harder is to take the next step. To watch, along with the Muse, for the emergence of some slight inner movement or burst of insight.

This can seem boring … pointless … in a world full of dazzle, distraction, outer movement. We might even call it “resistance” and decide it’s a sign we’re not meant to take the next step toward our calling.

In my experience, that would be cheating ourselves of an authentic life, one that is rooted in gifts and creativity. New ways of thinking. Of being. Including the welcome feeling of boredom.

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