Just before I sat down to write this post, I was in full-on productivity mode. I was checking things off my to-do list at a fairly rapid pace. If I were using my words, I'd probably say I had so much to do. As I often do when I feel like I'm running around in accomplish mode, I sat still for a few minutes. Rather than give into my mind's urgings to "get on with it" and warnings of "I don't have time for this," I sat with the feeling. I noticed that what I normally label as running around/so much to do/I don't have time is more like some sort of buzzing energy. It didn't have the frantic quality that I would have initially labeled it with. It felt alive. What I'd call excitement feels very similar. Why, then, is one description negative while the other positive? It's much better to be excited rather than stressed and running in accomplish mode, right?
In our conditioning and over-zealousness to ascribe meanings to these feelings, we attach labels that are just plain inaccurate (or what we've been conditioned or habituated to believe). I had a teacher who had deep roots in Taoist teachings and he used to always say that things only have the meaning that we give them. So very true. Just now I had some feelings and I gave them a meaning, which convinced me that I was stressing and short on time. The truth is that I had some buzzing energetic feelings that mean...nothing. They were just energy, only becoming emotions when I put a big ole label on them. The truth is that my energy was buzzing and I got a bunch of things done and I still have some things I want to do before my day ends.
When I sat with the buzzing feeling, my brain came down off the "I have so much to do and not enough time" ledge. Rather than fret over what the clock says, I just sat down and started to write. Now I'm feeling nothing - no "so much to do" messages. There's just me writing this post. My energy is humming pleasantly (much like a cat purr).
This brings to mind my childhood when school was out for the summer. Many of my friends were whining, "I'm bored." I was lucky enough to have a mom who regularly planned outings and fun stuff for us to do, but there was still a lot of downtime. I remember lying on the floor of my room doing nothing. Yet I wasn't bored. I was merely at peace. Sure, I could have labeled it as bored, but to me it felt peaceful so that label never stuck for me. I suppose it's no wonder that I can do the same today. I rarely get the "I'm bored" feeling.
Last year, I was on an almost 4-hour flight from Atlanta to Phoenix. I couldn't help but notice the activities of my seatmate. He started off plugged into his iPhone, which he unplugged only for taxi and takeoff. From there he switched to the in flight TV programming. He watched two movies in a row (even watching through lunch). He also averaged about one alcoholic beverage per hour. I was amused by this, his constant need for engagement. It reminded me of another flight I was on years ago on which a young mother was flying alone with her toddler. The toddler stayed darned near silent for the entire hour long flight because mom had just about every mode of distraction in her bag. She had food, books, games, toys, music. Her bag was like a clown car -- a seemingly never-ending source of amusements (I was actually a little jealous...those Cheerios looked tasty). I actually commented on her being a total master of distraction.
The thing is, my seatmate wasn't a toddler. He was a businessman in his late 30s-early 40s. I had reading material and music, which I enjoyed on an off. Sometimes I simply closed my eyes and meditated. I felt like the time went quickly. Four hours isn't really a long flight, if you ask me. Yet my travel buddy did everything possible to not be bored. [Hmmm...perhaps the fact that he kept earbuds in his ears the whole time meant he didn't want to chat with his seatmate. Then again, other than a greeting and a smile, I didn't try to engage him prior to takeoff, so I doubt he was protecting himself from a "chatty" seatmate.] So the question I ask is, is it really boredom or peace?
I've been on meditation retreats in which there was nothing to do -- no reading, no journaling, no taking, no listening to music -- but meditate and adhere to the almost monotonous schedule of eating, sleeping, napping, and meditating. I just sat there. I walked around a bit. I didn't do anything. But was I bored? No. And after a few days, I found myself feeling quite energized. Yep, no boredom.
Yet when there's nothing to "do," we immediately get uncomfortable, cry boredom, or plan something, feeling the need to be active. Interesting. I once dated a man who wanted to plan just about every hour we were together. That poor man didn't realize that dating me was going to practically make him cry, my being more into being rather than doing (apparently, he didn't get the yoga memo). He'd come to my house with a number of suggestions of things for us to do (when we'd only have 2-3 hours together) and I'd say something like, "Why don't we just play it by ear today? Let's sit for a minute..." I'd slow him way down. Way. Down. When he wanted to know what the plan was for our relationship, I was a bit dumbfounded. I seem to remember my response being something like, "My plan is to love you and enjoy being with you." Needless to say, that wasn't the answer he wanted and our relationship faltered soon after.
It's like this -- you're lying in Savasana and your mind is racing. You're thinking about what you need to do after you get up off the mat. You're trying to focus on your breathing. You're starting to zone out what the teacher is saying. You want to get up and move but you can't. After a bit, you start feeling restless and...bored. You might even start to fall asleep. Lying there with nothing to do, nowhere to go...that, my friends, can be called peace. We just label it boredom.
The next time you're feeling something -- sadness, anger, boredom, overwhelm, etc., stop and just feel it. Resist the urge to label it, judge it, attach a meaning to it. Notice the quality of the feeling instead. Then think about what label you would have initially given it and other possibilities. Like the boredom example -- what you once labeled boredom could morph into peace. Most times, it's not what you think. And that's a good thing, yeah?