Dealing with Boredom and the ‘Seeking Mind’
Yoga is moving meditation. One of the reasons why I started practicing yoga and Aikido more seriously was because I had started Zen meditation and was struggling with boredom and a chattering mind. I figured, if I could just move around more, I could overcome this. Or so I thought! That actually does work in the beginning and can go on this way for years, but soon enough you realize that this mindset---I’ll call it the seeking mind---IS the issue. Sooner or later, you will experience this, and learn how to practice through it.
What is the ‘seeking mind?’ It is that part of your mind that is always looking for the next thing. That is always wanting more, never satisfied, reacting, chattering on and on, offering an everlasting stream of comments about every aspect of experience. That is critical, needy, fearful, boastful, striving, competitive...and basically that will do anything and everything to avoid just being in the moment.
Some yoga teachers indulge the seeking mind by always having a brand new challenge, creative choreography, or new music. I’m not saying any of these things are wrong in and of themselves---I do some of them myself in my class. But, it is important to understand that our practice is not there to entertain us. It’s not there to give us the next new thing for the mind to latch onto. It is not there to indulge our need for achievement, to indulge our habit of self-criticism, or to provide a means of avoidance.
Our practice, as a most basic foundation, balances our nervous system. Because if we are always anxious or revved up, the mind is obstructed. Once we come back to a balanced state and relax...what is the next thing that usually happens? Well, we enjoy the relaxation for a bit because it is a blessed relief from what we are used to, but soon enough the mind does what the mind does...it starts to strive and seek. It says “this is nice, but I’m bored now…” Just like little kids on a long road trip: “Bored now...how much longer...are we there yet?” This is a really important landmark in practice. Know that is it normal, and it is not your teacher’s responsibility to entertain you. It is your teacher’s responsibility to help you practice with it and through it. This is the advanced yoga! Ask yourself...who is it that is bored? What happens if I just let the “I am bored” thought come and go without indulging or resisting it? Where does it go? Where did it come from? What is it that is behind this thought stream?
Most importantly, talk to your yoga teacher about these issues in practice. She/he can help you practice with them so you can grow deeper. Don’t worry that a teacher will be offended because, I assure you, we’ve all been there!