Next time boredom hits you, don’t give in to that craving for the next high. Let the creative muse in you take over.
It is the mantra of our times — a group of friends have just met for coffee at a mall, headed for a three-hour film, followed it with a speedy fast-food dinner and then looked at each other and chanted the mantra “so boring, what next?” The speed at which boredom hits us is indeed alarming and it blissfully cuts across all age spectra. You see it in parties where kids overloaded on a diet of high sugar and aerated drinks, are subject to a series of high-energy games and return home with obscenely expensive gifts, chanting the mantra, “we are bored, we are bored.”
Families on vacation complain if their resorts do not have television or Wi-Fi. Apparently, after a while even nature becomes boring. Like a friend once remarked, “Really how many trees can one keep looking at, they all look the same.”
Around this malady of boredom is an industry that works actively to ensure that you are never bored. From high-calorie snacks, to high-decibel entertainment, to movies you can download, you actually will very rarely experience boredom. The minute you feel the twinge of restlessness setting in, a universe of choices are available, sometimes just a click away.
In most of our lifestyle choices and environments, we are constantly bombarded by sensory stimuli. In our neural networks, this sets up a kind of craving for the next high. The mind finds it difficult to just observe. Attention then moves very quickly from one stimulus to the next. What happens in this space is a lack of staying with one particular idea, thought or image. It is a constant fluttering from one movement to the next. There is so much external noise that when we are confronted with the sounds of silence, it creates an anxiety. We are wondering why there are no phones ringing, messages beeping or channels to flip.
Many years ago, at a friend’s place, we experienced the blessings of a power cut. Suddenly, there was absolute darkness and silence. The televisions were out, the laptop became a non-living entity and the mobiles that were being charged lost their power (literally). We then stepped out into the garden and were silenced by the beauty of a moonlit night and a sky scattered with a canopy of twinkling stars. Sitting in a circle, our bare feet touching grass and earth, we started sharing stories from childhood. Those who had grown up, when power and televisions were just making their appearance, shared stories of the many childhood adventures and experiences that they had lived through. Someone started singing an old Hindi film song. Often there were long periods of silence. Some took the opportunity to nap. It was a memorable evening and somehow, in the absence of gadgets that are meant to relieve boredom, we connected in a far stronger way.
Have you ever allowed yourself to enter the paradise of boredom? It is an interesting exercise and one that will bring many unseen gifts.
The first step is to be completely comfortable with the idea that you are bored. Just sit still and watch your mind as it struggles to occupy itself. You might find that just observing boredom, dissolves it completely. You feel calmer inside and ready to really enjoy the world you live in, without the anxiety that marks it normally. When you operate from that space of stillness, you enjoy all your gadgets even more. In a strange way, being comfortable with boredom, creates a sense of focus and awareness. It seems like a paradox but it works!
Have your Eureka moment
Boredom lends itself to great creative experiments and there are numerous examples in the fields of literature, science and innovation that stand testimony to this.
The famous Bronte sisters who wrote some of the finest work in literature were brought up in an isolated environment where their only form of entertainment was to create stories and go for long walks in the moors. Their novels (Jane Eyre, Wuthering heights) explore the complexity of the human relationships and their stories reflect great depth and sensitivity. Numerous scientists have had their “Eureka” moments in periods of contemplation. Mathematicians have discovered the magic of numbers and patterns in moments completely unexpected.
Many years ago, a student was brought to me, with the complaint that he was not paying attention in class. Apparently, he was doodling and “wasting” time drawing. When I looked at the notebook he was drawing in, we were astounded. He had made intricate drawings of the concept that the teacher was teaching.
He had created a comic strip about the planets and solar system. Each of the planets and their attributes had transformed into characters and he had translated all the facts into a narrative. The boredom of listening to a class had translated into something far more productive. The teacher incorporated his drawings into her lesson and he was allowed to doodle after her class!
A favourite cartoon strip, Calvin and Hobbes, is about a young boy Calvin and his stuffed toy-tiger friend Hobbes (Who only comes alive when Calvin is alone.) It beautifully explores the various adventures the two have when they don’t have anything to “DO”. In a world where everyone tells us that we need to be constantly doing something, it is a wonderful reminder to see Calvin and Hobbes sitting under a tree proclaiming, “summer vacations are meant for nothing!”
The world today values busy-ness and activity — everybody seems to be running all the time. However, give yourself in a day a few minutes of silence, stillness and the freedom to daydream. To let your mind wander to possibilities. To let your imagination soar beyond the conventional. To enjoy that beautiful silence within. Let’s be earnestly bored!
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