May 12, 2009

Waiting for a Whim

I am waiting for something to come along and entertain me. That something could be a person returning home, a new television show debuting on cable, a breaking news story, a cat to rub against my calf, or merely my own facile mind.

Boredom is inevitable. Boredom is eternal. Or so it seems at the time. It is an overwhelmingly sick feeling of chronic dissatisfaction. A silent cry of “Someone please shoot me now!” to the uncaring universe. Yet it’s also totally made up. Or, my favorite new word, illusory.

Sometimes I think sitting with boredom can be a good thing. Of course, it can also be a masochistic thing. And a pride thing. “Look at me, I’m such a good little girl, I don’t need to glut on bland pop culture to keep my ego addiction fed.”

But you know, besides all that, it’s not so bad. It’s a good feeling to explore, especially since its avoidance is one of my greatest skills and lastumbling blocks.

Let’s face it folks, meditation is boring. Sure it can be calming and relaxing, but that usually lasts a minute or two and then it’s just downright, numbed out of my skull, waiting for my foot to fall asleep because then at least I’ll have some semi-interesting stimulus boring. B-O-R-I-N-G.

Here’s the kicker, though – meditation isn’t boring. Meditation no more has the quality of boring than tofu has the quality of spicy.

I could say “it is what we make it,” but that’s just positivistic salve to make it sound like we have control of our lives. I know that the next time I meditate, it’s going to be boring. I know I’m going to run through my inner routine of adjusting my posture, watching my breath, feeling my shoulders relax, noticing thoughts, getting caught in thoughts, letting go of thoughts, noticing my body begin to ache, and after a while just wishing and hoping and praying to any god that will listen for someone to ring that damn bell already so I can get the hell out of here. That isn’t going to change just because I tell myself it ought to.

Hell, think if that actually worked! We’d all be cheerfully enlightened, multi-millionaires, living in cute little beach huts, eating bananas and fish we caught because (after all) we can be happy on anything and that leaves more money to give to orphans in Africa. And when not fishing or writing obscenely large checks, we’d be meditating with a cat-in-the-sunbeam look. That’s how we all “ought” to be, right?

But we don’t work that way. In fact, I sometimes wonder how we manage to “work” at all, but somehow we do. We’re here, after all, and we, each and every one, have the potential for buddhahood. All our problems are basically workable.

So what’s my problem? Barry told me that I have no motivation and I couldn’t agree more. Some people, most, I think, come to Buddhism and meditation because they feel that their lives have become fundamentally un-workable. “I was heading for prison or death,” Barry told me, “when I walked into the Zen center.”

I can’t say the same, or anything remotely like some of the other stories I’ve heard.

It was a whim. Buddhism was a whim. Since that whim it has shaped my life in strong ways, but mostly through its ethics, philosophy, and intellectualism – in other words, the interesting parts. Whereas meditation, the real life-changing meat of the practice, if you will, is firmly on the shelf labeled “boring parts.” And no matter how I study and talk myself in circles, I just can’t seem to talk meditation down off that shelf.

Intellectual knowledge is a bitch.

And as much as I tell myself that someday I’ll come around to it (as I’ve come around to so many, many other things), that sometime my mind will fundamentally change, my resolve will shift, and I will begin a meditation practice in earnest, I wonder if that too isn’t positivistic salve. Barry believes me when I say this will happen, but I have lately begun to wonder. Is that just a cop out so that I don’t feel too badly about my current failure? Or so that I can more easily let myself off the hook and not meditate?

There is every possibility that meditation will always be boring, every likelihood, in fact. There is every chance I will always hate it and that I will never “come around.” It will stay firmly up on that shelf.

So then the question becomes, go on stumbling like I have been, give it up, or power through? I can image what many people would say. I have been told often enough that I “must” meditate, that it is “necessary.” Other than the fact that I don’t respond well to words like "must, "I would generally agree, but again, it is an intellectual agreement. Such is not a useful motivating factor.

While everyone I can think of would council me to power through ,I know myself well enough to know I’m more likely to keep on stumbling, making incremental improvements as I have been, and waiting for that pivotal moment. Such moments tend to come quietly, with no great tipping point or fanfare.

The moment I decided to stop, once and for all, biting my nails. The moment I decided to go back to the University. The moment I decided to take my first lover. Nothing about these moments stood out. They were each as unremarkable as a moment could be until the thought entered my mind and I decided – on a whim, it may have seemed.

So maybe someday I’ll have a whim to just sit anyway, bored, not bored, or not even marking the difference.


john said...

Meditation sounds like a tool you can leave on the shelf until you need it. No worries. : )

Anonymous said...

There are some who do not initially meditate when starting this practice. In some schools of thought it is recommended that you wait until you have reached specific milestones.

Alternately, you may just need something to do. Have you considered using a mantra?

Monica said...

John, love, stop talking out your ass. You're just trying to make me feel better about myself, which is well intentioned, but hardly helpful.

greenfrog said...


You probably saw this at Integral Options Cafe, as I did:

Monica said...

That's f'n brilliant!

DB said...

Whatever you do with your meditation practice, keep on writing regardless.