There are times, during your journey towards improvement when you’re beset with a level of such boredom and restlessness it feels like you’ve come to a complete standstill. Perhaps you experience this in meditation, too; it’s a cousin of the “monkey mind” or “busy mind”.
It’s important to remember, firstly, that meditation is not designed for “entertainment” purposes. Meditation is, by and large, designed to push your system beyond what it can handle to force it to change into something stronger and better — to raise your current stress threshold so that you can handle more in a stronger and functional way.
This is what you’re feeling.
Boredom (which is a perceived lack of stimulation) and restlessness is a form of overwhelm. We tend to think of overwhelm as an overload of emotions — anger, sadness, grumpiness, frustration. But it can absolutely come in the form of feeling like you’re pat an absolute standstill.
Or, in the case of meditation, doing “nothing”.
Both boredom and restlessness can come when we’re overwhelmed by too much stimulation and too little. Both can be beneficial.
Soreness from exercise, or fatigue from learning something new is a form of overwhelm from too much stimulation. Too much healthy stimulation. (As long as you’re learning and exercising in healthy doses.) When you’re over-stimulated, you can also feel restless.
In the case of meditation, your body–used to over-stimulation, perhaps–is now overwhelmed by the lack of no longer doing something. It’s resisting the perceived lack of stimulation. It’s “bored”.
So what’s the answer?
The interesting thing is that under-stimulating our bodies and minds (such as with meditation) has the benefit of raising our threshold for what we can do when we’re over-stimulating ourselves.
But in this post, I’m going to talk more about the kind of emotion-based boredom and/or restlessness that can come as you chip away at your goals.
As I say in the title of this post, those two things are sneakier forms of resistance to change. It’s a way your mind/body tries to trick you into quitting and go back to the status quo.
Resistance is what flares up when you’re out of your comfort zone; resistance can be healthy — i.e. resisting something that’s truly life-threatening, and also dysfunctional — such as refusing change because you’re getting knocked out of your normal routine. Learning how to recognize the difference between the two will help you learn how to let go of it when it’s interfering, and keep it when you really do need it.
Your subconscious mind likes to resist, likes to get you to stop listening to wise advice and working on yourself because it’s lazy. It likes the set routine. It doesn’t care if you’re happy or unhappy…it likes comfort.
And if it’s been doing A – B – C -D for quite some time, it fills with belligerence when you have the impertinent audacity to ask it to shift to A – B – C – F. That it’s more efficient or better doesn’t matter. It will try to pull you back to A – B – C -D because it’s a comfortable routine.
When you’re in this place of boredom and restlessness, practice witnessing your thoughts and emotions. The arguments and whining your mind is tossing at you like a tired, didn’t-get-its-way child. has set up to get you to stop listening. Notice the thoughts you have regarding your future steps towards your goals, even if it’s just finishing your workout. If you pause and listen, you gain control over it (even though you’re letting the thoughts run).
Otherwise, it’s going to continue to keep making those arguments reality and keep you in your present state.
…maybe it’s time to take a short break from your goals and just coast for awhile.
If you can look at these as just thoughts, not as good or bad ﾭ or even necessarily true ﾭ you will be able to step back and listen to what’s going on internally — in other words, create stillness. As I talked about with the “monkey mind”, if you let it go while in a place of curious observance, that’s what creates eventual stillness. Like popping the lid on a soda can to let the CO2 out.
Boredom/restlessness can be a way your mind is attempting to create noise and movement. Stillness is a foreign concept to most of us. After all, when was the last time you heard a friend say, “We’re so proud of our children — the meditate quietly for two hours after school before homework!”–?
Instead, it’s soccer, music lessons, gymnastics, ballet, art classes, go go go go go go go go go do do do do do. (Is it any wonder why children are getting slapped with the diagnosis of ADD right and left?)
If we instead remain present to the thoughts and sensations boiling around in us, accept them for being part of the meditation and of personal growth work in general, we let go of our essential addiction to busy-ness.
(such as in the middle of the night…same idea, same practice: let it happen. Don’t force it to stop; that just exacerbates it and causes you to fret about the lost sleep. If you let the thoughts happen…you fall asleep again most of the time.)
In time, the mind/body/spirit begins to see and feel two things: that you’re actually listening and it begins to feel “heard”, and that stillness is actually beneficial. Even safe.
Something else you can do is to keep bringing your mind back to the moment, then observe different parts of your body and how each one is experiencing the boredom and restlessness.
See if you can…casually, curiously…determine from where the sensations seem to well. Stomach? Chest? Head? Neck? Middle right toe? Then watch/feel the flow. See if you can…casually, curiously…amplify it and turn it down. This will stop the subconscious thinking that is creating this reaction.
(A couple of questions you could ask yourself is, Why do I feel the need to move? Why do I fear / find stillness frustrating? Then, let the answers come.)
Remember, witnessing is not figuring out, it’s observing.
It’s not your job to do any kind of “figuring out” whatsoever. Asking yourself to be present to the thoughts and feelings without judgment. This allows us to get out of the way of whatﾒs wanting to come up and be released. We may learn what it is, and we may not; whatever the outcome, as long as weﾒre present and non-judgmental, healing — and the sense of getting back onto a more lush, entertaining road will come in the timeframe it needs.
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.