Monday, June 15, 2009

Curing Boredom

This post was originally an article for my monthly e-zine, News from Jamie Ridler Studios. If you'd like to subscribe, just add your name and email to the box on the right. It also includes dates for upcoming dreamboards (online and in-person).

What makes something boring?

This question sprang to mind when during a recent trip to the zoo, I saw more than a few people take a quick glimpse at an animal, declare it "boring" and move onto the next. Anything that wasn’t moving or putting on some kind of a show, whether it was a big cat or a bug, was “boring.” One little boy asked his dad, "What's going to happen?" To which his father responded, "This isn't a movie, Jared."

What is someone seeing when they look at a lioness and label her “boring”? What does it take to spark our interest when a 400-lb predator from another part of the world cannot do it? What hope does our work have or our neighbourhood or our partner? What pressure are we under to “perform” so others will not take a quick look, label us “boring” and move on?

How exhausting!

What if boredom, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder and all we have to do is switch the lens? I invite you to give these lenses a try. They are tools for life adventurers. Use them with wild abandon:
  • The Lens of Awareness. Boredom often strikes when we’re floating through a habitual situation without actually engaging in it. Washing the dishes is so dull and familiar that our minds do busy work or numb out. Turn up your awareness and change the experience. Feel the water temperature as you immerse your hands. Notice the curve of a plate, the rim of a glass, the edge of a knife. Hear the sound of the sloshing water. Discover the richness of the moment.
  • The Lens of Curiosity. When boredom creeps in, get curious. Explore new angles and possibilities. In that mind-numbing meeting, what question would your 9-year-old niece ask or your 87-year-old grandfather? What question could you ask your partner, co-worker or friend to discover something fresh and new about them? What don’t you know?
  • The Lens of Presence. Let yourself be bored. Don’t try to make anything happen. Just give yourself a few minutes to experience boredom. See if anything shifts. See if there’s anything hiding in there, like tiredness or emotion. Give yourself and whatever it is that bores you an opportunity to be together and see what happens. Jared’s dad was right; this isn’t a movie. We don’t know what’s going to happen next and that’s the adventure, even if what happens next is nothing.
I’d love to hear how these work for you and what your strategies are for curing boredom.


Holly said...

This is a terrific, powerful article. Thank you. For reminding us that our lives are meaningful or mundane just as we design them.

When I am doing something necessary, unexciting, "Boring"...I often drop my focus to my hands. Let's say I'm dusting, or housecleaning...I'll look at my hands, tensed with holding the rag or the item to be dusted, and then it brings my attention to the moment.

It brings my attention to the 'thing' that I spent so much time and energy acquiring. And, I spend some time, 'visiting' with the piece I thought was so lovely, fascinating, wonderful. Or even better, the face of the person who cared so much to gift me with it.

I use my hands to bring me into the moment of my life. It keeps me from feeling like the 'hired help' in a process that none of us much like.

Anonymous said...

Oh Jamie!! Yes Yes and YES!! I loved this. How can anyone find God's beautiful creatures boring? That is insane to me. When I see a lion in the zoo just sitting I wonder what he's thinking about. Is he in awe of me as I am in awe of him? Probably not, but boring he could never be.

I LOVED This!!

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering what to say to my boyfriend's teenage daughter when she says she is bored..........

Hybrid J said...

Great Post! Enjoy reading and contemplating on it tremendously.

To cure boring, I always ask if the boring feelings are the same or they are different each time. By asking this question I turn the "Boredom" into something dynamic and a subject to muse about.

Or I go back to one of my creative essentials - there is nothing that cannot happen today. Just sit still, breath, open up all the senses and see what happens!

Thank you for such wonderful post! You did it again, Jamie! :)

Genie Sea said...

Ah my ever-present Nemesis: Boredom. Not mine. I don't recall ever being bored. My students suffer from chronic boredom mostly because they were raised to be over-entertained. I might send them to read this :)

LMA said...

Excellent insight on how to battle boredom. I'm going to use it on myself and on my tweens. Regarding the nine-year-old, I agree with the previous poster: so many of their generation has been raised on a steady diet of activity I believe the concept of "stillness" (i.e. a lioness "just sitting there") is alien to them.

Tess said...

This is so right. I sometimes think we never quite recover from those teenage years when you slouch around feigning boredom because you want to look "cool". (Well at least, I did!)

I love the way you focus on these three lenses, it's very helpful.

Melita said...

loved this post. i always say that boredom is a lack of creativity.