I read an excerpt by Richard Carlson this afternoon that I think ties in very well with two blogs I read on a regular basis. Anvilcloud’s 'Dear Doctor' speaks, among other things, of anxiety and the stress of restless nights. Over at Sarahspace the discussion has been revolving around Doing V.S. Being, physical fitness and balance. I’d like to share these words with you:
ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE BORED
For many of us, our lives are so filled with stimuli, not to mention responsibilities, that it’s almost impossible for us to sit still and do nothing, much less relax – even for a few minutes. A friend of mine said to me, “People are no longer human beings. We should be called human doings.”
I was first exposed to the idea that occasional boredom can actually be good for me while studying with a therapist in La Conner, Washington, a tinny little town with very little “to do.” After finishing our first day together, I asked my instructor, “What is there to do around here at night?” He responded by saying, “What I’d like you to do is allow yourself to be bored. Do nothing. This is part of your training.” At first I thought he was kidding! “Why on earth would I choose to be bored?” I asked. He went on to explain that if you allow yourself to be bored, even for an hour – or less – and don’t fight it, the feelings of boredom will be replaced with feelings of peace. And after a little practise, you’ll learn to relax.
Much to my surprise, he was absolutely right. At first, I could barely stand it. I was so used to doing something every second that I really struggled to relax. But after a while I got used to it, and have long since learned to enjoy it. I’m not talking about hours of idle time or laziness, but simply learning the art of relaxing, of just “being,” rather than “doing,” for a few minutes each day. There isn’t a specific technique other than to consciously do nothing. Just sit still, perhaps look out the window and notice your thoughts and feelings. At first you may get a little anxious, but each day it will get a little easier. The payback is tremendous.
Much of our anxiety and inner struggle stems from our busy, overactive minds always needing something to entertain them, something to focus on, and always wondering “What’s next?” While we’re eating dinner we wonder what’s for dessert. While eating dessert, we ponder what we should do afterward. After that evening, it’s “What should we do this weekend?” After we’ve been out, we walk into the house and immediately turn on the television, pick up the phone, open a book, or start cleaning. It’s almost as though we’re frightened at the thought of not having something to do, even for a moment.
The beauty of doing nothing is that it teaches you to clear your mind and relax. It allows your mind the freedom to “not know,” for a brief period of time. Just like your body, your mind needs an occasional break from its hectic routine. When you allow your mind to take a break, it comes back stronger, sharper, more focused and creative.
When you allow yourself to be bored, it takes an enormous amount of pressure off you to be performing and doing something every second of every day. Now, when either of my two children says to me, “Daddy, I’m bored,” I respond by saying “Great, be bored for a while. It’s good for you.” Once I say this, they always give up on the idea of me solving their problem. You probably never thought someone would actually suggest that you allow yourself to be bored. I guess there’s a first for everything!