People have a difficult time doing nothing. Nothing has become interpreted by our identity as wasteful, unproductive, even lazy, yet we depend on empty space and downtime to rethink our lives, and see new anew by pulling back.
We need to listen to what is not obvious when we’re occupied in doing something. Remember when someone said, “You’re blinded by love.” When you stepped away or let the person go, you saw what was true. Dynamics were at play that you deluded yourself from wanting to see to get a temporary sense of status, comfort and security.
We delude ourselves by being busy to the point that it’s an addiction. Our brain chemistry produces serotonin and dopamine while moving because it makes us feel safer. Yet life itself is a wildcard and nothing is permanent. Everything must change; in fact it is the only constant. Stop and go are inevitable in the ebb and flow of change. Be flexible in giving your attention to the presence of it.
So boredom can be a positive thing. The restlessness it produces is getting you to listen. The resourcefulness of it is getting you to rethink, refocus, and reflect. And if you remember that everything the future needs is given to you this moment, you begin to embrace the present moment even if it lacks flare, entertainment value, and justification. You’re able to be amazed, surprised, and moved, even challenged by the present moment when you take away something to make you busy. By relaxing your attention to what is here, you bring a “don’t know mind.” Let go into what is unfolding now. Life is in the business of creating life. You might begin to hear things that were absent to you before, or notice things that you didn’t when you were sunk in your phone.
I remember a flight delay for 2 hours in a Mexican airport. The first inclination is to occupy my attention with my gadgets—text, watch a movie, and lose myself in something to pass the time. Minutes later, I looked up; everyone around me either was doing the same or enjoying a good talk. There was only such much a smartphone could do to resolve the dead space, and then humanity seemed to take over and connect strangers. How profound it was to connect people during this moment of waiting!
Remember the last time your electricity went out. Mine shut down for three days due to a traffic accident that knocked out the power in our street radius. For three days we were without anything but candles, water, a barbecue, and all the primitive living elements to sustain us. We played board games, talked with neighbors. After it all I felt more connected to everyone than ever! It reminded me that I had a choice to be bored, restless, and irritated, like a complainer, or alternatively present, connected, and curious. The more I let go of my habitual tendency to get my fix, the more I brought myself to enjoy something new like a picnic on the lawn, or learning something new of my neighbor.
I learned that the need we each have to consume masks the true longing for real connection. Speed has hypnotized us against time being an advocate. What’s ironic is that time is just a mental construct of the world to avoid being controlled by it. We relate with time from our mental models dictate, not as we choose to pay attention. If I believe I have no time then any time I presented to me that is free I won’t even regard.
We are all locked inside our view of quantity time due to thought, and liberated by a view of quality time when we suspend thought. When we make this shift every moment we have is a chance to have meaning and significance either by intention or revelation. We can learn to trust the life that is here, as an invited guest. Every moment is unexpected perfection, or put another way “life is messy therapy.” To let it be as it is requires wise innocence. We must learn to maintain our inexperience to cultivate the level of wonder and awe to remain astonished. Seeing everyday miracles isn’t seeing new things, it’s finding new things to see in the ordinary. I love my wife after twenty years more than ever because of this.
We forget we have choices when our habits run us. We need to remember that reacting and responding is not a choice, but a lack of choice. To live the life we love, we can choose what matters to us, and this orients us more creatively in the present moments, regardless of the circumstances. We can re-orient ourselves to be the predominant creative force in our lives.
If business is boring, choose to create something you love, or focus on a skill you enjoy doing. You can rethink your life, your next moment, your next week, everything is up for grabs. When you experience the joy of creating, and apply skills that energize you toward an outcome, you’re involved. This involvement is what human beings hunger for because it transcends the way they experience time. When creating they get immerse in bringing something they desire into being. Time slows down almost as if they’re in a warp. As time passes, it appears it was so fast, how could so much time have gone by? When creating, you lose your sense of time because you’re so pleasurably involved in your creation. Life can be the subject matter of your creative process and you work with it the same way as art.
You can learn how to embrace the periods of slow down and assimilate what is emerging just as much as embrace the periods of intense activity. Boredom is a like renewal in this sense. Just look back at where you were compared to where you are now, and then look forward toward where you’re going. Holding the space between where you’re going, and where you are now positions you to lower your desperation and determination. It brings a wiser attention to where you are right now; an acceptance. This tolerance is composed of knowing where you are is only a stage.
How much do you listen to what life is telling you? Current reality is a resourceful place from which you sense what is coming next and act from that place. You take meaningful leaps into uncertainty. Instead of attempting to reduce boredom, stop and take stock—what am I creating? What matters to me right now? Can I stay with what is happening right now? Taking action is the only way to learn. When you learned to walk or talk, you didn’t prepare and then do it; you fell down—failed repetitively as you got better. You learned in stages through this action. But you had to work with time, space, and pressure.
Integrity is the ability to stay in the ambiguity of these swaths of time without compromise, all the way until a resolve. These ambiguities may be both long stretches of confusion and uncertainty, inviting the intestinal fortitude to tolerate and manage the emotional tension that seeks relief. This takes practice in the creative process. I look at it like scratching the lottery ticket…keep scratching an eventually you’ll get there.
Slow is the new fast. The boredom effect is a positive aspect of current reality that is a necessary ingredient to the creative process. Boredom can either be resourceful as a tool for reflection, refocusing and rethinking, or a source of restlessness to seek relief with a fix to pass the time. There is no better time than this moment right now, and it is precisely what the future needs, so pay attention. Creators don’t complain.