It’s good to be bored

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“Mom, I’m bored,” said James, lying on the couch in the family room.

I’d like to tell him to get up and go do something, like take the dog for a walk, kick the soccer ball, or call a friend. But I know that giving him a list of suggested activities won’t work. He needs to sit with his boredom.

Instead I tell him: “It’s good to be bored.” Of course, that doesn’t go over very well with my twelve-year-old, and he gives me an eye-roll.

Being bored is to feel weary or disinterested with whatever it is you’re doing at the moment.

When we feel the edge of boredom creeping upon us, we often grab for a shiny object – a new video game, iPhone app,  or pressing this red Bored button, which will take you to a random, interactive website selected to help relieve boredom. Because the opposite of boredom is excitement and interest.

Buddhist teacher, author, nun and mother, Pema Chödrön  suggests that we really shouldn’t resist or change what we do when we’re bored, but observe the physical movement of what we do in the moment of feeling bored. The goal, according to Chödrön in Comfortable with Uncertainty is “not grabbing for entertainment the minute we feel a slight edge of boredom coming on.”

When I’m excited about something, I talk very fast, wave my hands around, stand up, move from side to side and get a little jittery and jumpy. That’s a good thing. I think. My son has similar spazzy movements when he gets excited. But then again, so do most kids when they’re not bored.

When I’m losing ground, or feeling bored, however, I also make jittery, jumpy movements. I can’t sit still. I’m quick to act and deflect because I’m feeling uncertain about something. I might scratch at an itch I don’t have, or eat when I’m not hungry. My son might say that he’s bored while watching TV, when he’s really feeling uncomfortable about what to do next.

There’s something I don’t want to experience, so I avoid it by doing something else. 

Chödrön suggests there’s a connection between the arising of a craving, or aggression, or loneliness that leads to our attachments, and whatever action we take as a result to avoid an unpleasant experience. Addictions and compulsive actions arise out of avoidance. For example, I might eat chocolate to distract me from an underlying uneasiness that’s rising:  Is my article good enough to submit? My son might turn on the TV to have some background noise because none of his friends are around to play: Do my friends think I’m annoying?

Neither my son nor I want to be alone with our thoughts because it’s the uncertainty that makes us feel uncomfortable.

Instead of scarfing chocolate, I try to meditate, but sitting still doesn’t give me peace of mind. I continue to come up with reasons to be somewhere else. I lie on my back, unsure of what to do except stay still for a few minutes while the bronze Buddha laughs next to me.

Instead of turning on the TV, James goes outside and sits on the deck. Stillness and peace come, but alternate with restlessness and unease.

We might not really need to solve our issue with boredom because it might be in our heads.

Maybe we just need to accept boredom, sit with it and say: It’s good to feel bored.

What do you think?

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The uncertainty of weather and teenagers

blue mood2

Uncertainty is a fundamental characteristic of weather and teenagers.

This morning is sunny, dry, and windless. The clouds are playing hooky from the watery blue sky and the birds are singing. My weather app tells me that it is exactly 63 degrees Fahrenheit. With a touch of the screen I also know: the humidity is low, at 65 percent and the wind is moving at eight miles per hour, or what I might feel on my face when leisurely pedaling a bicycle. The forecast for today is wonderful: there is zero chance of rain and later this afternoon the temperature will rise to a balmy 81.

Unfortunately, there’s no app to predict the moods of teenagers.

The weather is fluid and ever changing, much like my son. Not only do I see physical changes in my 12-year-old, but emotional and social changes, too. In other words, my son can be soooo moody.

He’s sad one minute, happy the next. He’s angry with me – something I said, and storms off. Later, he returns, says that he’s sorry. His emotional disturbances are like the waxing and waning of the moon; the ebb and flow of the tide. I fear that I’m ill-prepared for the wave of moods that lie ahead. At times I’m stunned trying to figure out what to say to my son that won’t drive him further away. Other times, I wait for my 4’9″ hurricane to weaken to a “Category 1.” Eventually, the storm blows over and everyone is happy again.

Like a blustery day, my son’s anger and sadness makes me feel uncomfortable.

When he was a baby there was a night or two (probably more than I can remember) that he cried and cried, despite every comfort I gave him. I wanted to make him feel better and couldn’t. There was no escape from the endless colicky, croupy nights. Eventually, however, those nights became fewer and I relied less on Dr. Spock and whiskey (for me, not the baby!). As James grew, other unpredictable things took the place of one discomfort after another: ear infections, pinkeye, bronchitis, Fifth disease, scrapes, sprains, worry, embarrassment, and more. Sickness, injury, hardship, and mood swings are the unpredictable encounters of growing up.

How long does the moody climate of teenagers last?

I had an “Aha!” moment after reading a line by author Katrina Kenison in her book The Gift of An Ordinary Day.  “Adolescence is a mutinous confusing time when everyone’s trying to get off the boat.”  As a mom, I know I’m going to feel discomfort, stuck, and unhappy with my teenager and want to leap out of the boat. I won’t know how long the ride will last, but I have two choices: Resist or lean into uncertainty.

I’m beginning to understand that if I resist change, I only invite more tears and frustration. But if I lean in and let uncertainty flow through me, I just might be able to navigate the weather and my son.

“The future is no more uncertain than the present.” – Walt Whitman

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also post a comment on my blog or Facebook.

How to let go of your attachments

Let go

Can you let go of your attachments? Can you let go of the emotional dependence you place on your identity, things, or people? It’s not easy.

Here’s a little exercise I picked up from Awakened Mind: One-Minute Wake Up Calls to a Bold and Mindful Life hat helps when I find myself too wrapped up in some thing, or someone. Watching my son’s soccer game last night helped put my attachment to a situation in perspective. His team was getting crushed and I was squirming in my seat. There was chaos on the field; another goal scored. The team was going to lose. So what?  So what if they were losing?  I’m not a player on the team. Let go, I thought. Let go of my attachment to losing.

I made a fist with my right hand and in it I put that thought, that attachment to winning a losing game. I inhaled deeply. When I exhaled, I opened my fist and let go of my attachment. I felt much better and could enjoy the rest of the game by being aware and present. An observer on the sidelines, in the right place, with the right people at the right time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The same thing happens with my writing. I pour my heart and soul into my work, and then I choke on the details. I worry about mistakes, urgency, and deadlines. But I’m focusing on the wrong things. I realize that I need to let go, have a little faith in myself, and be present.

The next time you’r faced with anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, or anything depleting your emotional reserves, try this little ritual to rid yourself of your attachments.

1) Think of every little worry, fear, or frustration that weighs you down, or that’s burdensome to you at this moment. It could be the mulch pile in your driveway, or your son heading to college in six weeks, or hurtful words someone said to you.

2) Make a fist with your hand and place all of your thoughts into it.

3) Breathe in. Breathe out.

4) Open your palm and symbolically let it all go.

Feel better? How do you let go of your attachments?

Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please feel free to share it with your friends or send me a comment. You can also share a comment on this post or Facebook.