The Benefits of Boredom ⎢ Hidden Wisdom of Self-Quarantine
Amidst the pandemic of the Novel Coronavirus, an opportunity of inner peace is presented ~
Likely, the last time you were forced into a "time out" you were a child. These "pause" moments were meant for self-reflection, to cool off, and then return back to an activity or interaction with freshness. Although not everyone is experiencing this "time out", most are. Let's explore how this can be an extremely healthy and even enlightening opportunity for humanity.
A dull life can make the mind sharp as a knife
Excitement, pleasures, daily busyness and human interactions all have a tendency to distract us from ourselves. By being constantly engaged with other people and participating in stressful or exciting activities–rarely do we get the chance to be fully present with ourselves, or even the people we're experiencing life with.
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
During this time of pause, we may seek to remain busy or distract ourselves from the anxiety, fear, grief, anger, and boredom. My invitation? Don't. As Thoreau expresses, it's not enough to be busy–the real question is, what are we busy for?
This is an excellent time to explore your mind, your consciousness, your habits, and all of your triggers and beliefs. Why do you feel the way that you feel? Why do you think the way that you think? Why do you behave the way that you behave?
As humans, we tend to only place importance on our experience of reality. Such as, if we don't experience something ourselves, it must not exist or that it must hold less importance. This tendency allows us to justify our lack of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. How truly easy it is then to devalue the lives, experiences, and feelings of others!
When our mind is busy and overcrowded, is it any wonder why so few of us genuinely take the time to contemplate the lives of others and how they uniquely experience reality? And when we do think about others, even from a place of love, we're usually projecting our version of reality onto them vs taking the time to deeply understand their desires, needs, and viewpoints. As a relationship coach of ten years, I can attest that this is a problem most couple's face–even after ten, twenty, or thirty years of being together! Ironic, isn't it, that the length of time spent together doesn't necessary lead to mutual understanding.
The opportunity that the Coronavirus presents is more time for introspection as the world's gears slow down, at least for most people. Rather than continuing to distract ourselves from discomfort or project our frustrations onto the world, we can use this time to dig deep and learn about ourselves, and as a result, also cultivate a deeper understanding with our loved ones.
When we allow room for "boredom", such as limiting stimulation for a day or week, we begin to naturally notice more things about our minds, bodies, emotions, and behaviors. Normally we're moving too quickly to notice, but by slowing down, the subconscious wisdoms become conscious.
I'd like to conclude this blog with a powerful story from Thich Nhat Hanh's book, At Home in the World, pg. 74, titled Prisoner of Conscience:
"I know a Buddhist nun who had graduated from Indiana University in the US and who was practicing in Vietnam (during the 60's). She was arrested by the police and put into prison because of her actions for peace and reconciliation. She tried her best to practice in her prison cell. It was difficult, because during the daytime if they saw her practice sitting meditation in her cell, they considered it an act of provocation and defiance to be siting like that, experiencing peace. So they forbade her from sitting in meditation. She would have to wait until they turned off the light in order to sit up and practice. They tried to steal from her even the opportunity to practice. Yet she was able to continue. She did walking meditation, although the space she had was very small. She was also able to talk with kindness and gentleness to the people who were locked in the same cell. Thanks to her practice, she was able to help them suffer less.
I have another Vietnamese friend who was put into a "reeducation" camp in North Vietnam, in a remote jungle area. During his four years there, he practiced meditation and was able to live with inner peace. By the time he was released, his mind was as sharp as a sword. He knew that he had not lost anything during those four years. On the contrary, he knew he had 'reeducated himself in meditation.'
Many things can be taken from us, but no one can ever steal our determination or freedom. No one can ever steal our practice. Even in extreme cases, it is possible to maintain our happiness, our peace, and our inner freedom. As long as we are still able to breathe and walk and smile, we can be at peace, and we can be happy."
Listen to our recent Zen Sermon:
"Peace in Uncertain Times"
by Rev. Alaric Hutchinson
Or visit our Youtube Channel for numerous past filmed videos.
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