your doubt, laziness, hesitation and
we have found magnificent soil in which to sow the
seed of the buddhadharma.
When you sit with your mind, working on yourself
by yourself, all kinds of obstacles manifest.
You may encounter boredom, frustration, agitation,
forgetfulness, laziness. These obstacles are
in a sense the guardians of our wisdom, discouraging
us all the time.
Fortunately — because the obstacles can
be quite overwhelming — the difficulties
you as a meditator encounter on the path of meditation
have been documented by a very long lineage of
In this lesson you explore the obstacles that
can arise in meditation and the antidotes you
can apply, techniques that have passed the test
In your meditation
sessions, have you experienced boredom?
If you answer yes, what does it mean
to you to be bored? What did you
think you were bored with?
How did you respond to the boredom?
In meditation you're
isolating yourself — first
your body, then your mind. Are you
used to this — being just with
your body, your mind? No? Where are
you then most of the time?
If, when we meditate, we're able to slow down
and abide in our internal space, we can begin
to appreciate the lack of stimulation compared
to the chaos of normal life. But we will, as
well, be bored at times, not wanting to be where
we are. This boredom can be a real threat to
our ability to fully experience peaceful abiding.
Being bored may even incite us to walk away from
"You mean I'm
just supposed to sit there doing
nothing? I'll be bored to death!" Have
you experienced just the fear of
boredom keeping you from meditation?
Have you experienced or can you
imagine experiencing fear of putting
yourself in a situation where there
will be nothing to entertain you,
nothing to hold your interest
Boredom can take many forms.
There's "hot" boredom
There's "cool" boredom
Habituated to speed and stimulation, we sit
down to meditate and suddenly have no external
amusement, no way to satisfy ourself. We feel
stir crazy, like a child with nothing to do.
Our agitation wants to reach for something
to fill the space. But you can’t reach
for a magazine or our cell phone. So you try
to cope by making your own entertainment, amusing
yourself with a little sound or the movements
of an insect, instead of following the breath.
can be rooted in fear. Unable to relax with
our mind, we're afraid of being left alone
with ourselves. Unaccustomed to quiet, we fear
resting with no activity. Unsure of what will
happen if we totally let go, we want to maintain
our comfort zone. Unable to go deeper with
ourselves, and with nothing else to do, we
experience fearful boredom.We can't imagine
the mind at peace.
In these last two kinds of boredom,
we want things to be different from how they
are. We've been sitting there in meditation waiting
for something to happen or not to happen, and
we feel angry and frustrated at our predicament.
You can take another approach
by observing the boredom and tasting
it completely. Settle in to your
boredom. You're stuck on the cushion
where nothing is going to happen,
so just settle in. You may sink
into yourself and become somewhat
glazed over, the world may feel
distant and fuzzy. Even if you’re
not embracing your practice, but
you may be able to relax enough
to experience the dullness without
grasping at amusement or pushing
away the pace. To do this is to
begin to accept boredom as part
of the landscape of peaceful abiding.
This is a good way to gauge our progress. Look
how far you've come: in the beginning you couldn't
sit still, didn't like your waterfall of thoughts,
and could barely fight the constant urge to get
up and do something else. You thought of washing
the dishes, making lists of what we needed to
do at work and of returning phone calls. The
mind was so speedy that your body wanted to get
off the cushion to relieve the pressure. Now
things move a little more slowly, and the impulses
to move don't seem as strong.
Being faced with the boring quality
of meditation perhaps makes you
want to quit. If you don't give
in to this impulse, you'll begin
to reap the benefits of boredom.
Boredom as a step
on the path
order to make the discovery that meditation
isn't going to fulfill our need for entertainment
or fortify our comfort zone you need
to be thoroughly bored!
While you may think you’re bored with
peaceful abiding, what you're really bored with
is your repetitive thought patterns. Meditation
is just the trigger. Even after your thought
patterns have become predictable and transparent,
somehow they keep arising. You can see how you
get hooked into chasing fantasies and schemes
that have as much substance as last night's dream.
You discover that the thought, "What's for
lunch?" never tastes anything like the meal,
that philosophizing about practice can't hold
a candle to being grounded in the present moment
When your boredom — your need for entertainment,your
fear of your own aloneness, any desire you have
to gain something from meditation — takes
on a seasoned quality and is no longer needy
but is spacious, comfortable, and soothing, this
is a breakthrough.
When you just can't settle in and you find yourself
avoiding meditation, you need to actively counter
Experiment with your practice.
Focus on different aspects of the
practice at different times. For
One day highlight awareness
of the posture. While still following
the breath and recognizing thoughts,
pay extra attention to the body.
At another time we can become
intimate with the process of
Another time, sharpen your
ability to spot thoughts or to
cut through a chain of discursiveness
that's taken you on vacation
to the Himalayas. Focus on the
spotting the tail end of a thought,
Everyone has days when practice
is difficult and boring. It can
help to be aware of your state
of mind before taking your seat.
When you sense that you 're totally
distracted, try sitting down on
the cushion and thinking away.
Think about whatever difficulty
you 're facing and let the thoughts
and fantasies play out. But do
it with awareness! Then after ten
minutes of thinking, place our
mind on the breath.