Isn’t meditation boring?
The short answer is yes.
Meditation is boring.
I mean, what are you doing? You’re just sitting there breathing, with your eyes closed, nothing is happening. Just breathing in, breathing out. Thoughts are whipping through your mental space.
Super boring. Right?
Boring as watching paint dry. Right?
Only… here’s the thing about watching paint dry. If you’ve never done it, I recommend it. I’ve done it a few times. And you quickly discover that watching paint dry is fascinating.
I was wonderfully reminded of this the last time my home office was painted. It needed two coats of paint and I had asked for a simple white colour from my paint consultant, also known as my wife. She’s the artistic one. And I’m the funny one.
I left the specific shade of white up to her. My request was that I wanted it to be a bright cheery room. I wanted it to be a space I would look forward to walking into and working in.
Turns out there are a hundred different white colors of paint.
We chose one, I don’t even remember the name of it, but some so-in-so white. And after we put on the first coat, I decided to wait and watch the paint dry.
Every few minutes, the paint changed its shade, its reflectivity, its intensity, its luminosity.
It was the opposite of boring. It was fascinating.
It was fascinating because I was so aware of the subtle changes in light and reflection taking place right in front of my eyes.
It was as exciting as watching an action movie. Watching that paint dry was like watching the entire wall shift in various white kaleidoscopic patterns.
Why was this? Why was I so fascinated watching paint dry?
Well, I had been involved in choosing the color. I had been involved in doing the painting and I knew this was the color that was going to surround me in my home office for years and years.
I wanted to know if it was going to end up being the same color as the color on the swatch card from the paint store. It was like watching a sporting event with a photo finish. Who knew what it would look like when it dried. How close would it be to the swatch colour?
Curiosity and Interest
I was fascinated watching paint dry because I was looking with interest and curiosity and excitement. And watching paint dry is not boring for someone who is looking deeply with curiosity and interest.
And so it is with our own interior life, the life that we immerse ourselves into, the life that we dive into deeply with keen interest.
When we meditate, we’re trying to get to know ourselves in a deep way. We’re trying to get to know the nuances of our thinking and our feeling, the nuances of our body sensations, the nuances of our hopes and fears and desires and aspirations and loves and pains and heartaches.
We’re trying to get to know the nuances of all of our emotional expensiveness. We’re trying to see the kaleidoscopic images, full of variation within ourselves.
If you have that depth of curiosity about yourself, about your own interior life, then meditation is not boring. There’s a lot going on when you’re just sitting there doing nothing, breathing and feeling.
The reason it’s sometimes feels boring is because we haven’t developed the skills with our attention and curiosity and patience to sit with our whole self. We haven’t learnt how to read ourselves.
Let’s talk about this metaphor about reading.
A Story About You
Imagine you’re looking at a couple of pages written in a script you can’t read. You’re not going to be very interested in the content because you can’t read it. But for someone who knows how to read it, it might be more interesting depending on what the content is.
But now imagine that if you were told what was written on the page, in that foreign script was specifically about you. It could be the story of your birth written by one of your parents or a love letter from a romantic partner or test results about something important to you.
What’s written on the page then becomes a fascinating, intriguing activity and if you don’t know the language it was written in, you will search heaven and earth for someone who can teach you how to read it so you can find out what the words in the unfamiliar script say about you or your ancestors or your childhood or your test results.
So it is with meditation. It is boring when we don’t know how to read or understand what is happening within us, the depth, the complexity, the fragility, the strength. The entire expansiveness of our interior life.
But once we know how to see these, then meditation becomes the most fascinating show we’ve ever encountered in our whole life. A show that has a brand new episode, every day, a show who’s leading star is you.
Meditation is exciting when we gain the skills to observe and sit with our thoughts, to see deeply our feelings, to experience deeply our sensations. But in order to do that, we need to learn how to read ourselves. We need to learn to look with curiosity, with interest, and maybe even excitement at what we might find within. We need the tools of self-compassion and kindness, kindness to ourselves, to dig below the surface layers and look at what we might see within ourselves.
We need to excavate, below to where the good stuff, a deeper us, a deeper me, the me with hopes and dreams. The me who wants to live a better life, a more fulfilling life, a life that has more joy and more lightness in it. When we meditate with these goals, and practice meditation to achieve these goals, then meditation is far from boring.
It is one of the most exciting, fulfilling things we can do for ourselves.
It’s as exciting as….watching paint dry.