Zen and the Art of Boredom
In my work, I often consult with clients who tell me they have no zest for life, and things that used to interest and excite them now seem mundane and everyday. In a word, they are bored.
When I first started Zen practice, I can remember going through a period of boredom as I began to realise that my achievements didn't seem to mean very much in comparison to the inner experiences I was getting - in other words I was bored and as I carried on with my daily zazen (meditation), the experience grew more and more intense as if something were telling me, "pay attention!"
Since paying attention to what is so is what Zen practice is all about, I stayed with this experience and really focused on my boredom, and at first my boredom became interesting as I realised that it was the function of my analytical mind - the ego-mind that is always looking for reward in our physical reality. After a while (I can't remember how long this was), I began to commit myself to extending my mindfulness into all things that I did. I began focusing on my breathing and giving my 100% attention to all tasks, so that each daily task was becoming an act of Zen meditation. But why did all this boredom happen in the first place? I think the main thing with Zen practice is that it puts us in touch with who we really are as "creators". Therefore what tends to happen is that we literally have to create interest in life - it doesn't just come on its own.
If I was for instance, washing dishes, I focused completely on every dish and every move I made. It continued to feel like a boring activity, and then gradually the boredom began to fall away. I started to see life as pointless and in fact in a different sort of way, I can still see this pointlessness. But this view of life really started to fascinate me and sometimes even amuses me. I observe how as human beings we just HAVE to have a goal, HAVE to have something to reach for or achieve, HAVE to have a new this, that or the other. I see this trait in myself, but I just let it be there. I create things to do, as before I used to feel I had to do them. Nothing has changed except my attitude. Dramas will still come into my life, but now I fully realise that I am creating them out of nothing. Situations I experience as dramas, I recognise don't really need to be dramas, but that's just the way they are at that particular moment of now. Something may happen, something small, and out of the blue my ego-mind seizes it and tells me how "important" it is and other such "warnings" of impending doom. I fully see now that life doesn't really mean anything, it just is. All moods come and go and will always come and go. The difference is the way we see them. But who is seeing? The self. Who is the self?
Well that's the problem, if you can describe the self, that isn't it! The self is a state of being and something that is pure being cannot look at itself or describe itself, it can only BE.