Oakville Zen Meditation

#95. Can meditation be boring? 8FEB16.

Yes! Absolutely! But don’t judge! You may quit. Zen says that meditation can be boring...very boring! This is a tool used by the mind to challenge you and force you to quit. Your mind hates meditation and it will let you know. It is like a wild horse under a lasso; it will jump and kick around. If you are not bored it means that your mind is wandering and you are not meditating 100%. Being boring is a big problem since everyone starting meditation is excited about it because everything new is perceived being exciting by default. After few weeks most of the new comers are gone because they are attached to their judgments regarding meditation.

You sit still like a statue for an infinite numbers of minutes waiting for the liberating sound of your timer or for the teacher to tell you that your self-induced suffering is over and you can be a living human body again.

Also you are trying to glue intensively your attention on your exhale breathing or another mind anchor. Trying to focus 100% on the same stupid target is an intensive work of desperation. It is also like a drill to bore into the mystery of the mind and meditation. Maybe you are counting each exhale 1- 2...10 then 10- 9-.1 expecting that this simple grade 3 mental activity will facilitate your focusing skill. Finally and despite all your postural and mental efforts your mind doesn’t give up. It will escape from its anchor zillion of times and run around non-stop like a de-headed chick. After paying attention to your incoming thought you will delete it one at a time and go back to your breathing. 1...2...3...4. Back and forth from breathing to thoughts, from thoughts to breathing can be boring. Finding something more boring than this is difficult.

Because our mind is so used to jumping from one thing to another, as we settle into meditation our drill bit is dull.  When our drill bit is dull, meditation becomes dull, so instead of a boring meditation, we become bored. Zen is teaching us that boredom can be part of meditation and, like any feeling we have to control it. That’s why there are so many instructions to help you stay seated.  You can watch and count your breath. You can watch your posture. You can focus your attention on your forehead or below your navel. You can focus on a koan, a question like, “what is awareness?”  or “what is mind?” or “what is this?” or “what am I?”

Where this boredom is coming from?

For meditation and, in fact, for almost any activity, the main cause of boredom is the impossibility to focus on something for more than a few minutes. Our restless mind becomes bored and will wander here and there endlessly. If you arise your curiosity you will not be bored.  If you reboot your attention by refocusing you will not be bored. When your attention becomes sharp again you go from dull boring to drill boring.

As you sit and bore into your mind, there is a certain excitement in knowing that you are likely to strike oil at any time. At any moment your mind could explode into the vast universe. If you realize this, you are losing your attention and should return to a more boring stuff such as your focusing anchor.

When we practice formal sitting and walking meditation the mind will fight to avoid being told what to do that is to focus on the same target for a defined period of time. The #1 tool used by our mind to push you to quit is to judge your meditation negatively and it works for over 85% of the participants within 6 months.

Boredom is one but many other excuses are created by the mind to fool you: Not for me, too busy, too difficult, need a quicker fix, I don’t see any benefits after few months, too time-consuming, cannot stay still, I don’t believe in it anymore, etc.

Remember this:

  • The ultimate purpose of meditation is to control your mind that is its thoughts and emotions in order to achieve inner serenity and,
  • In order to neutralize your meditation your mind is using also thoughts and emotions. A perfect deceptive strategy like a Trojan horse.

If you are judging your meditation as boring, difficult or, on the contrary, exiting and enjoyable there is something wrong. This is sort of a red flag telling you that your mind is taking over slowly. If these judgments appear, just pay attention to your judgment in a mindfully way and delete it as you do when meditating. When you feel it is boring, try to figure out if your meditation is boring or if your mind is bored; then check your posture, focus on your breath, and bore on.

Thank you.   Ven. J.G. Sunim. 8FEB16.