Is there something wrong with boredom, during meditation?

Merely putting the question answers it, I think: No, there is nothing wrong with boredom during meditation, at least, that’s how I feel.

My recent blogposts about meditation have evoked many responses about my attitude towards that boredom I wrote about.

And then, especially on my Dutch blog, my analysis of the responses was apparently a problem. Well, I am after all a thinking person, so I analyse what I feel. That is, for me, part of being human. You can only overcome or change what you face up to. Whether it’s feelings, or relationship issues or any other problem in your life. More, in a recent (not yet out) book on mindfulness I read that you have to be willing to do this kind of mental gymnastics in order for mindfulness meditation to be a viable path for you. What I do bears a lot of resemblance to mindfulness meditation.

But let met start by facing up to what boredom is:

  1. Boredom is unrest
  2. Boredom is awareness of emptiness
  3. Boredom is uncomfortable
  4. Boredom feels lonely

I have numbered them to be able to refer to them easily, but the main one is the second: boredom is consciousness (of emptiness). Normally we overwrite that boredom with a visualization exercise for instance or a movie, or a good book.

Look into your own boredom and see if I’m right. If you sit yourself down inside that boredom, there’s consciousness there. Not for nothing that Krishnamurti said to a bored student in one of his schools:

Most people are bored. Why? You asked how to get rid of boredom. Now find out. When you are by yourself for half an hour, you are bored. So you pick up a book, chatter, look at a magazine, go to a cinema, talk, do something. You occupy your mind with something. This is an escape from yourself. You have asked a question. Now, pay attention to what is being said. You get bored because you find yourself with yourself; and you have never found yourself with yourself. Therefore you get bored. You say: Is that all I am? I am so small, I am so worried; I want to escape from all that. What you are is very boring, so you run away. But if you say, I am not going to be bored; I am going to find out why I am like this; I want to see what I am like actually, then it is like looking at yourself in a mirror. There you see very clearly what you are, what your face looks like. Then you say that you do not like your face; that you must be beautiful, you must look like a cinema actress. But if you were to look at yourself and say, “yes, that is what I am; my nose is not very straight, my eyes are rather small, my hair is straight,” you accept it. When you see what you are, there is no boredom. Boredom comes in only when you reject what you see and want to be something else. In the same way, when you can look at yourself inside and see exactly what you are, the seeing of it is not boring. It is extraordinarily interesting, because the more you see of it, the more there is to see. You can go deeper and deeper and wider and there is no end to it. In that, there is no boredom. If you can do that, then what you do is what you love to do, and when you love to do a thing, time does not exist. When you love to plant trees, you water them, look after them, protect them; when you know what you really love to do, you will see the days are too short. (Krishnamurti on Education)

Now perhaps that was what some of you were trying to say. What I was trying to say is that you can’t get through that without facing the boredom. Just look at what is, when you do that with love and acceptance, it changes on you. And that’s how I experienced it.

More Krishnamurti on boredom.

11 thoughts on “Is there something wrong with boredom, during meditation?”

  1. Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke…

    “There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”

  2. Ha! That joke is very funny!
    Katinka, thank you for sharing the writing by Krishnamurti on boredom. I was not familiar with his teachings and love what he says. This discussion reminds of the head of a successful company who was interviewed just before he retired. When asked the secret to his success, he responded that, the more he learned, the more interesting the job became. He started out as the Janitor and as he learned that job, it became interesting. He was promoted to the mail room and learned everything there was to know about that job, and it too became interesting. He was promoted to administration, then management, and the pattern continued until he was finally running the company, which he found fascinating. He started out knowing nothing about the company, but as he put forth the effort to learn, everything became interesting. I think Meditation is similar. The more we practice it, the more accomplished we get at it, the more interesting and diverse the meditation experience becomes, and the boredom falls away.
    Light, Love and Joy, Elizabeth Rose,

    1. I must confess I tend to think that for most of us the process of meditation is less linear. Just like for most people their job life is less linear. A reader said that in response to a previous post, and I think it’s a realistic assessment.

      However, all this talk about boredom isn’t meant to suggest I’m actually bored during meditation these days. It was just one of the things I noted happened occasionally in my first month of meditation. I’m now in my second month and boredom is no longer an issue. Somewhat linear, clearly.

      1. Most authors craft their title to communicate a sense of their book. In Suzuki’s case I wonder whether the book is crafted to communicate the title. It is a good koan.

        How does one realistically maintain a beginner’s mind? Sit straight, breathe this way, thought watching, it all becomes complicated so quickly, no?

        I wonder whether the more analytical, the more questioning one’s mind, although the less likely one is therefore to be deluded by the certainties of others, perhaps the more likely one is to become “advanced” and therefore to become bored? Won’t an analytical mind always intrude, try to lead, take the credit for any perceived “advance”, ultimately to become bored, and frustrated, should one’s path not be linearly upwards in its trajectory?

        Mind the beginning; mind the first step; is there really a second step?

        I enjoy and appreciate your blog.

        1. Totally off topic, but Suzuki’s book was edited to such an extent – and this includes the title – by his students, who knew way better English than he did, that in some ways it really wasn’t his book any more. He literally said he read it to find out what his students thought about Zen.

      2. I believe to guess exactly what Mr. SUZUKI means!?
        However, being everyone a different projection of the cosmos on earth, it is at all impossible for all of us to experience the same, while totally absorbed in a dhyana session or while engaged on an anapanassati-vipassana retreat, or in a zenna sesshin?


        Best regards

  3. Shunryu Suzuki’s comment about joy makes sense to me because joy is an emotion and is fleeting. Apart from love, which governs the cosmos, emotions tend to be earthly things that might, for example, reflect attachment to a person, place, thing, …or moment. Perhaps Buddha’s teaching of detachment is just as applicable in meditation, as in life. …and then, the practice of detachment can be just as challenging as meditation :o)
    Light, Love and Joy, Elizabeth Rose,

  4. I am a teacher of Spiritual Science and as such I have people speak to me all the time about problems in their attempts to meditate.
    Meditiation begins with concentration and concentration requires a meditative statement or a SUBJECT. If you pick a subject that truly interests you and arm yourself with some left brain information first, bordom will never be an issue. Begin by linking thought to thought. Continue with the same subject for a few days. One day new thoughts, new ideas and new information begin to come to you. You are begining to “recieve” or tap into, the One Mind.
    I highly recommend subjects of a universal nature. What is a subject of a universal nature? One that anyone on this planet could be contemplating; evolution of (appearance of ) sound is an example. The evolution of motion in the four kingdoms of creation ( mineral, vegetable. animal, human) is another.
    Hope this helps, God Bless

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