Bore and Peace
“All I can say is that my life is pretty plain. I like watching the puddles gather rain”
— Blind Melon from the song No Rain
An old mentor of mine Thomas Leonard once wrote, “Boredom is the gatekeeper of peace.” As was often the case, his words resonated with me even I could not fully grasp their meaning.
Like most people, I found myself attracted to the concept of peace. But boredom? Who wants to be bored? Never before had I seen the word “boredom” appear with a positive connotation. When I first read the quote, I was 26 years old and thought boredom was the antithesis of cool.
That was a decade ago and now I feel I have a better understanding of the powerful message inside Mr. Leonard’s words. Back then, I equated feeling bored with being clueless as to what I really wanted. These days I feel that being bored is a prerequisite for consciously creating my life.
By some measures, my life has officially reached boring status. Outside of my work, I have few plans or commitments to do anything. I work in my home and many days I do not leave my property. I spend more time alone than I do with other people. I have fewer friends than I used to. The vast majority of my neighbors are cows. I do not have any children and I am in a committed relationship. I am usually asleep by 10PM. Overall, there’s little drama in my life.
While the 26 year-old version of me would be shaking his head in disbelief at the 39-year-old model, I have never been happier in my life. I am happier than ever before because my life is more peaceful than ever before. And my peacefulness is a reflection of my boredom.
From my experience, I interpret Mr. Leonard’s use of the word “boredom” to refer to the space in your life where you are free to experiment with the art of bel far niente – the beauty of doing nothing.
I recognize that my life currently falls on the extreme end of the Quiet Scale and by no means am I proposing that people need to join me here in the cloisters to lead a happier life. Yet, I’m convinced that a willingness to be bored and to seek out stillness on a regular basis is one of the essential keys to clarity and serenity.
As much as I currently revel in the quiet, occasionally a pang of anxiety will wash over me when I feel like I have no clear direction as to what to do with myself. Wire by wire, I am still disconnecting the old circuitry of my ego that pressures me to do something – anything – in order to remain in compliance with the old belief that I should always be doing something “productive.” I know I’m not alone in holding on to that old belief.
From my conversations, I notice that people are very much in tune with that which makes them unhappy. However, when I ask them what they wish to create for themselves, they often have no answer. This reflects the fact that they have never consciously created the proper space in their lives to hear their true desires. In the stillness of boredom, the truth speaks.
We are so used to identifying with the events of the world outside of us and keeping our minds busy that the prospect of turning our focus inward can feel as daunting as jumping into a cold mountain lake. Faced the terrifying tedium of being alone, having no plans, or just being quiet, many people cling to the numbing familiarity of busyness. However, just as the experience of the lake water changes from shocking to invigorating, with time, the experience of being quiet transforms any anxiety to feelings of peace. All this requires is the willingness to experiment and some patience.
How you create and interact with your environments will have a massive impact on the degree of peace you experience. You do not have to move to the country, but may wish to try spending more time in Nature. If you’re not ready to mediate, try turning off the television when you’re not really engaged in a particular program. Schedule a weekend where you make no plans. Drive with the radio off. Stare at the stars. Stop answering your phone after 7PM. Experiment with creating space in your life.
I’ve learned from my current experience that peace attracts more peace. In other words, the more I choose to be quiet, the greater my clarity. The greater my clarity, the better my choices become. The better my choices become, the more quickly I manifest my desires. The more quickly I manifest my desires, the greater my peace.
My life may not always be so tranquil (one day I may have children), but I will forever know that boredom is my ally, not my enemy.