So basically I consider it a fundamental responsibility in my job to inspire curiosity in those around me. On days when my mind has just discovered amazing new things about the world around me, and is reeling in expanses of new inspirational territory, this is easy. That’s not what I want to write about. What do you do on days when you are in training, and it feels like it’s exactly the same thing you’ve seen three times before, and you already know everything that’s being said, and your eyes start to glaze over, and with pangs of guilt and frustration you are forced to admit that you are bored? At first I struggle to pay attention. I pinch myself to stay alert, but in the end this is not a successful strategy. I’ve thought a lot about what are better strategies, and here is what I came up with.
Prerequisite: Admit that you are bored. Take a deep breath. Forgive yourself.
Strategy #1: Facilitate Others’ Learning
If you are working in a small group or with a partner this is not too hard. You can help by structuring the exploration or you can show off your knowledge to your friends. If there is a large group, you can help by asking questions that you think might be getting left out. Warning: beware of overloading the group with cool facts. They will probably just dislike you for being a know-it-all. Instead, ask guiding questions. If you already know the answer to the question you are asking, practice humility by pretending you don’t know.
Strategy #2: Meta Analyze the Situation
If you are in a particularly postmodern mood you can jump up a level in analysis. Instead of focusing on whatever it is the group is focused on, focus on the group being focused on it. How does the facilitator lead the exploration? What works and what doesn’t? Are other people interested? What kinds of questions are they asking? What kinds of strategies are they using? How can you apply these techniques later? Are any of them meta analyzing your behavior?
Strategy #3: Ask Advanced Questions
This is best done in your own head I think, or on a piece of paper. Start asking yourself more advanced questions about the topic. Write them down to answer them later, or try to work them out in your head. Sometimes the things you come up with will be interesting to the group later on. Warning: This is essentially just a directed form of day dreaming. You are checking out of the current situation to find refuge from your boredom in your own mind, but in certain circumstances I think it is okay, and will often, eventually, lead you back into the exploration at hand with a deeper feeling of curiosity.
Strategy #4: Meditate
When all else fails, allow yourself to simply exist. Focusing on your breath, and then perhaps moving on to some loving kindness meditation, will help you feel more relaxed and more capable of simply enjoying the beautiful learning process that others are going through. Maybe this particular morning is just not something that you are going to get a lot out of, and that’s okay. Letting go of your attachment to constant stimulation is a central theme in Buddhism. Take this moment to recognize your attachment and let go.
That’s it for now friends. Please add your own strategies for dealing with boredom. I would love to hear them.