I first learned to meditate more than forty-five years ago and I’ve been meditating fairly regularly since. People have asked me if I get bored while meditating. My answer to that is an unqualified “no” — I find meditation as interesting and fresh as ever, perhaps even more so.
Fritz Perls, who helped popularize Gestalt Psychology, said “boredom is a lack of attention.” We can never have a lack of attention in meditation — the moment attention wanes, meditation slips away. Meditation is paying attention. I sometimes think of meditation as like whitewater canoeing. That may seem a strange analogy, but what they have in common is they both require one’s full attention.
Rather than paying attention, though, I should say giving attention. Our attention is nothing like cash, our reserves of which diminish as we use it. Our reserve of attention is not diminished in being used, but enhanced — giving attention pays interest.
Attention is not a commodity that can be bought and sold. It is a gift that we can give or we can withhold. If we withhold our attention, we lose interest; if we give it, we gain interest. How tremendous, that we have a resource that grows in being used!
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The question of boredom is somewhat on my mind right now. I recently retired and I now have a lot of time. I worry a little that I might not have enough to do to fill this time. Remembering that “boredom is a lack of attention” reassures me.
One of the worst things about the process of retiring is that you get asked a hundred times things like, “What do you plan to do with retirement?” “Do you have any exciting travel planned?” “What’s on your bucket list?” I want to say “My retirement plan is simply to go on doing the things I have always done, but more so” and “I plan to attend as deeply as I can to whatever time is left for me on this wonderful planet.” Instead, I usually say the usual things that people expect to hear.