How do you overcome boredom?

I think boredom (maybe also known as discontent) is the root problem. It is boredom that leads to distraction and starting new activities.

I know one way to deal with it is to do wholesome or neutral non-sensual activities like cleaning or working.

However, how does one directly deal with boredom? Repressing thoughts can only work for so long, I think what is required is direct insight that the best thing to do here and now is samatha or vipassana and nothing else will be as satisfying.

What are your thoughts and strategies?

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Having cognized a mental phenomenon with the mind, a bhikkhu does not grasp its signs and features. Since, if he left the mind faculty unrestrained, evil unwholesome states of covetousness and displeasure might invade him, he practises the way of its restraint, he guards the mind faculty, he undertakes the restraint of the mind faculty.

Boredom is an issue because it is unpleasant, which means there is going to be craving to get rid of that unpleasantness. “Doing things” to counter the boredom is to go with the grain of craving. Enduring the boredom ensures the attitude of craving is put in check and also an acknowledgment of that great urgency (mahato saṁvegāya). So, while the urge is to get rid of it or to find a way to prevent it from coming up at all, those efforts may end up blocking your access to knowledge about the reality of the body, which is also the reality of death - two things that when developed are of great fruit. Point being, don’t torture yourself with boredom and anxiety, but don’t try to eliminate it altogether either - both are the access to how it feels to know things as they are.

Hope this helps. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I like this question a lot! I have thought about it quite a bit because out of sheer boredom, I have done some stupid, useless, unskillful stuff in the past. I will not go into all the strategies I have employed over time (since starting serious study of EBTs ). I am sure they will emerge in other replies.
One strategy that has worked with longest lasting effects is a scrutiny of pleasant, painful, and neutral feelings. I have noticed that for years and years the mind is so used to fixating on either pleasant or painful feelings that neutral feelings are treated as if they are the worst alternative. Inability to dwell in neutral feeling state for long periods has caused me to do something, anything, to switch the state to pleasant or unpleasant state.
My first step seemed a bit forced but it was necessary at that time; it was to passively experience pleasant and unpleasant feelings when they arise but resist or avoid making choices for either - as in, not to take any action that results directly in either state. This increased my activation threshold and sensitivity to thoughts of taking an action. It increased the duration of stay in the neutral state (relatively speaking) and all of these combined makes it easier to stay in neutral state for longer without feeling restless or bored. At the end of the day, I had created this expectation and mind-state that every moment should be entertaining, positively or negatively (no one promised us that, we train ourselves into that mindset). Anyway, this is a complicated and quite an individual and subjective terrain that has to be navigated for oneself. Hope this helps.
:pray:

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Seems like you’ve grappled with this issue just like me.

For me it’s like this

Stop all activities → calm down → meditate/simply observe → boredom eventually sets whether 20 min later or 1 hour later → mind starts to dream or gets carried away in a thought chain → mind gets tired → fall asleep → wake up a few hours later → start new activity/get distracted

It almost always happens in this order. The only time it doesn’t happen is if I do extremely forced focused meditation like forcing attention on the breath at the nose.

According to the panner sutta we should be using force in the beginning, unless the translation is wrong

When they’ve been given up and eliminated, only thoughts about the teaching are left. That immersion is not peaceful or sublime or tranquil or unified, but is held in place by forceful suppression.

But there comes a time when that mind is stilled internally; it settles, unifies, and becomes immersed in samādhi. That immersion is peaceful and sublime and tranquil and unified, not held in place by forceful suppression.

https://suttacentral.net/an3.101/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=false&script=latin

So my only two options so far is either relax until boredom takes over which eventually results in falling asleep, or use forceful suppression via focusing on the breath at the nose.

Hello,

Regarding boredom there are several skillful ways to work with this:

  • Reflect on the impermanence of your body and death. The conditions called “you” will eventually evaporate, disassemble, and cease. While there’s time, you have the incredible opportunity to practice the Dhamma as best you can. Generally, people are not bored by contemplating their deaths.

  • Generate gladness/happiness of the citta by practicing metta, karuna (compasssion), or mudita, (joy). The citta enjoys these deeper types of peaceful/happiness and is not restless or bored in the midst of this “happiness that need not be feared” as the Buddha said.

  • Focused insight meditation, such as into anicca, dhukkha, or anattā “displaces” restlessness and boredom.

In the end, we each have to find the deep purpose and meaning of the Dhamma in our life. When we connect with that, boredom is replaced with effort and interest. :pray:

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For me, boredom is a sign that I’m a slave to my six senses :joy: They need something to keep occupied. I just try to meditate and enjoy not having anything to do ( as a parent, a VERY rare occurrence :rofl:)

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The cure for boredom is to investigate the Dhamma!

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Great Topic :slight_smile:

On the one hand it is great to have this ‘problem’ or be in this situation. It means that one has seen through the illusion of many of the wordly ‘pleasures’ and now has a gap, where previously there would have been unthinking activity, grasping and creating.

There are many good techniques outlined in the above answers.

My go to strategy: I use the Buddhas simile of the carpenter using a finer peg to drive out a coarser peg as inspiration, when looking to substitute the less wholesome with the more wholesome. IN this way there is a gradual transformation, until it becomes substituting more and more subtle levels of wholesome activity. At a certain point there appears a gap in all activity , including thinking :slight_smile: There is nothing to substitute here, and it is about appreciating and being content in the non doing/non thinking/ non creating space. Initially it is natural to see or feel this as a ‘space’ that needs to be filled - this can be experienced as a tension, as stress and pressure in the guise of boredom :slight_smile: this can be seen as the ‘to and fro’ transition towards the contentment and bliss of emptiness (in the whole of life not just during meditation). How great is it to experience this!!

One can try focusing on the bliss of emptiness compared to the turmoil and agitation of activity. I sometimes think of it as working to overcome an addiction to activity/movement of the mind. Getting a ‘fix’ is only a short term thing, constantly driven by craving. Thinking of it in this way one can see the need for both restraint and wisdom in order to be successful. Beginning to see the peace that comes from the absence of all craving (no longer being addicted) is a great thing.

At some point it just clicks over. So just keep persevering

It is also worth noting that many of us are conditioned to equate doing nothing with laziness (bad and unwholesome :smile: ) so this is one of the early things that need to be examined and contemplated, even at it’s most subtle levels. In the eyes of non-practitioners, I have found, it is virtually incomprehensible how doing nothing can be either good or lead to happiness, peace and liberation. As Ajahn Brahm often says… this is the difference between ‘freedom of desires’ to ‘freedom from desires’ :slight_smile: :relieved:

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It’s a matter of developing awareness of the true position. The real criterion is whether something is unwholesome or not. Any activity that is devoted to the ‘higher mind’ is legitimately pursued and these can be outside strict practice as described here, something the practitioner is interested in and constitutes a “theme connected with what is skillful.” This will require work to build into a theme.

“Just as a skilled carpenter or his apprentice would use a small peg to knock out, drive out, and pull out a large one; in the same way, if evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — arise in a monk while he is referring to and attending to a particular theme, he should attend to another theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful. When he is attending to this other theme, apart from that one, connected with what is skillful, then those evil, unskillful thoughts — imbued with desire, aversion, or delusion — are abandoned and subside. With their abandoning, he steadies his mind right within, settles it, unifies it, and concentrates it.”—MN 20

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Indeed!

Channeling Ajahn Brahm (can’t give an exact reference) : Take interest in your boredom, look at it closely, what does it feel like? What kind of texture does it have? How does it compare to last week’s boredom?

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I think an important part of practice is to learn to appreciate the stilling of all activities. Thatis very diffiicult i notice. If one cannot enjoy that stilling, can one be aimed at peace and Nibbana?

"It’s also hard for them to see this thing; that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment" (SN6.1)

If one makes a problem of the stilling of all activities (because it may be judged as laziness) and always wants to be active, always occupied, always intent on something, always a mind full of energy and effort, how can we discover or see the above?

I think a mind who is used to activity, always intent on something, always connected with reaching a certan goal, will feel bored and disoriented when it missed her usual goals. Very samsaric pattern, i find. The mind gets lost, as it were without goal. So, maybe boredom can be a phase too.

I think @Ficus is right that we have to learn to be at home in, and enjoy the stilling of activities, the peace, the mind which is not occupied and intent on something. Not connected with a goal.
That is hard because due to activities and goals we have a sense of Me and “I exist”, ego. And without activities and goal we become disoriented. That’s why we again graps at activity and goals. I feel this is the base of samsara. The mind want to be busy and occupied al the time and fears to let go. It promotes activity while it is very afraid of letting go and peace.

We never become empty, still, without intent, goal. In other words, we keep on going on the mundane Path and are afraid of letting go. That’s what i see in myself. I also belief EBT support that we must not only see the stilling of activities, but also learn to appreciate it.

Simple, boredom is a feeling.

Either we do mindfulness of the body to prevent the arising of feeling. If so, I believe the guarding door against any arising feeling, Mindfulness of the body, is already breached.

Or if we are the Vedananupassana (if able) to prevent the feeling manifesting into thoughts.

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I agree, it’s helpful to work with boredom the same way we’d approach any emotion. I find this advice from Sayadaw U Tejaniya broadly applicable:

Whenever you are experiencing an emotion, ask yourself the question: “Am I going to feel the emotion, or be aware of the emotion?” In other words, are you going to watch it as an uninvolved observer, or are you going to participate in the emotion?

Boredom may be boring to experience, but it’s quite fascinating to observe.

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A thought experiment I do sometimes is “what kind of mind would be totally, genuinely content with sitting down and just being with whatever is going on?”

In contrast to my own mind, which usually needs something, wants something, which looks for delight now here, now there.

So you know, just make an end of craving and you’ll stop being bored :slight_smile: easier said than done I guess.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt form a short sutta I found during a search (an6.113):

“Mendicants, there are these three things. What three? Discontent, cruelty, and unprincipled conduct. These are the three things. To give up these three things you should develop three things. What three? You should develop rejoicing to give up discontent, harmlessness to give up cruelty, and principled conduct to give up unprincipled conduct. These are the three things you should develop to give up those three things.”

Maybe rejoicing (mudita) is a good antidote for boredom? "Hurray for all those beings who are feeling joy and bliss! hurray for everyone not feeling bored like I am! :blush: "

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It’s always amazing to me how vast and completely the Buddha saw the innermost workings of the mind. Erik’s quote above of AN 6.113 is a prime example of neuroscience lagging behind the Buddha for 2500 years!

I just read/listened to an article about pleasure and pain being co-located in the brain and how chasing pleasure and avoiding pain ruins us. I recognized the teaching and wisdom of the Buddha in the themes of what was said in the article. Indulging in sense pleasure increases our pain. Tolerating pain without distracting ourselves with sense pleasures changes pain. Enduring pain for a greater good changes pain and restores equipoise. Ethical conduct like not lying brings about joy.

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I ran out of thoughts and strategies, and a nasty physical condition came on due to being far too busy, so that had me sit down and face boredom. And it was really interesting to find that facing it was far easier than running away, so now I’m stuck at boring myself to death and beyond :rofl:

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Yes, and the addiction to activity is also because of asmi mana : “I exist because activity exist”…and vice versa…“activity exist, so I exist”. Recognising oneself as activity and activity as oneself.

This is a very strong and deep bases for attachment, holding on to activity. That’s why we are so afraid of the stilling of all formations. It is like our existence (I am) is at stake.

As example: There was a time i had great difficulty to experience the cessation of thoughts but that just happened naturally. My own existence “I am” was always so connected with the presence of thoughts, that i feared their absence or was worried i would go mad, or could not re-start again and live normally. We are do identified with formationsthat when they stop, our own existence seems at stake. There is a lack of wisdom on that spot.

There are also warnings one does not have to become addicted to peace and start to see peace as “this is me, my self”. At least, that is what i have heard and belief.

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Hello,

Thanks for the helpful topic. Good to be reminded its common to many :smiley: Having been bored to death last night, decided to liven up the mind by listening to a dhamma talk by Ajahn Brahm given to the monastics on a Wednesday eve in 2003 at Bodhinyana (talk 20). It had helpful advice to deal with discontent, lack of inner happiness. Listed some of them below as I understood it; Hope it helps;
Inspiration practices (chanting, recollecting qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha)
Joy of reading the Suttas
Observing/understanding our perceptions and perversions that give rise to the mind state
Remembering/keeping in mind that the subtle happiness is more valuable than the gross happiness from activities.
Meditation :slight_smile:

Some other things that help me sometimes :wink:
Recollecting own good qualities/sila
Gratitude for the good teachers and friends I have met, recollecting their qualities
Recollecting any specific good deeds I have done and feel happy about
Recollecting times when sense restraint was difficult to do but managed to do so
Gratitude for what I have been able to let go of already no matter how simple/minor :slight_smile:
Writing down lifestyle changes made over the years in line with Dhamma

also Chapter 4 of Mindfulness, Bliss & Beyond by Ajahn Brahm on dealing with sloth & torpor

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Ajahn Thiradhammo’s rather nice book Working With The Five Hindrances comes to mind as perhaps having some relevance. Boredom doesn’t exactly match perfectly the five hindrances scheme (I guess the “fall asleep out of boredom” variety could fall into sloth & torpor category and the pacing about, “I’m bored out of my mind, I need to get out of here” variety might fall into the restless & remorse category, at least the restlessness part, anyway). However, there are certainly plenty of strategies in the book for both.

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After the ‘calm down’ bit, maybe you might want to make a simple suggestion to your mind to experience pītisukha. Something like in the Ānāpānasati Sutta … “May I breathe in experiencing pītisukha, may I breathe out experiencing pītisukha” if the breath is your meditation object. Something like that? You need to want to stay with the meditation object and so it helps to become friends with it, to gain joy when you see it, and then you want to hang out with it instead of moving off somewhere else. You can develop this during the day too. Every time I catch sight of my breath during the day I get a little leap of joy like I get when I see an old friend - “Ah, there you, great to see you”. The ‘meditate/simply observe’ bit can come later.

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