How To Make Friends With Boredom
Have you ever sat through boring meetings at work, watching each slow and agonizing minute tick by? Have you ever wanted to scream and bolt?
For example, in the late nineties, I taught at a high school where the principal had no clue about how to run meetings. She would allow staff members to drift off track, drone on about unrelated subjects and basically hold everyone captive.
Simple issues would be overly complicated. Some people would use meetings as an opportunity for grandiose self-promotion.
Others would deliberately arrive late. More jaded teachers would take out tinted glasses and settle in for a good snooze.
For me, this dynamic turned out to be a blessing. It forced me to wake up to what I really wanted to do with my life. (I eventually accepted a position at an ashram in India and quit my job.)
In between, I made good use of the time. I took to writing questions to myself.
As it turned out, this impulse was not as crazy as it sounds.
Back then, without consciously realizing what I was doing, I was engaging in an age-old method of contemplation. I was practicing Atma Vichara, which is the yogic practice of self-inquiry or the act of becoming aware of oneself.
It's the polar opposite of endlessly ruminating and trying to dissect an issue to pieces in your head, this process is energizing, effective and empowering.
Here’s how it works:
- In a clear and pithy way, articulate to yourself, or write down a question.
- Then, step back and allow space for it to breathe rather than trying to ‘hot-house’ an answer.
- Do something else, meditate; take a walk, read a book. In other words, switch off.
- Wait for answers to be revealed in their own, often surprising and unique ways.
For example, in those mind-numbing meetings, I'd scrawl questions to myself such as,
What am I doing in this situation? and Is there something I am supposed to learn here?
Leaving the questions open-ended, I'd draw and doodle around them. Soon, the paper would be covered in swirls and circles, leaf and flower motifs, Om signs, pathways and question marks.
Then I would have my internal antennae up, on hyper-alert waiting for answers. At times, I'd hear an inner message.
On other occasions, friends or co-workers would say something obviously "meant for me." Usually, I would chuckle to myself with the realization that the person delivering the message had no clue what they were saying.
Doodling was also not as loopy as it sounds. Again without consciously realizing it, I was getting out of my head and opening a direct line to my intuitive wisdom.
The swirls, motifs and images were visual markers showing how my soul wanted to be given voice and point the way. Later, as synchronicity would have it, at the ashram in India, I was invited to teach other staff members how to tap into this magic.
I was asked, “Would you give art classes to staff? Can you do it in a way that links intuitive, creative and spiritual wisdom?”
Happily, I responded, “Definitely! I’m your girl.”
Pretty soon (even if they first believed they were not arty or could even draw) everyone was tapping in, receiving insights and having fun with it. We would also work together as a group asking such questions as,
Where am I in my life right now? or, What do I need to know?
Then we'd let the doodles and swirls lead the way and together, spend time deciphering what we saw.
Try it. I’ll bet, before too long you will be creating some wild and wonderful doodles in the middle of mindless meetings or during long telephone conversations.
And watch out! In there somewhere, you might just throw in a question or two that once answered, could quietly change the course of your life.