How unsatisfactory desire can feel can be gauged by considering our more obviously neurotic cravings, those emerging out of a dull feeling of frustration, boredom, and emptiness. We look for something pleasurable in order to fill that void and relieve the boredom, at least partially and temporarily. You eat a chocolate or drink a cup of tea or put on a piece of music not so much for the positive enjoyment of such things but more because you don’t know what else to do. It is these kinds of craving that should concern us most, more than those that arise out of a strong, healthy appetite. And the way to deal with them is to regard the boredom itself as a positive opportunity. It is like having to deal with fear, anger, or indeed craving, or any other negative mental state. It is an opportunity to experience the energy that is usually drained away by distractions. When you are really bored, the best thing you can do is sit down and let yourself experience the boredom more fully. It may not be a deep or satisfying state, but at least you are not indulging in the things with which you usually cover up this kind of experience. Your real state of mind is more nakedly exposed, because for the time being there are no distractions. If you can stay with the experience of boredom, you can try to feel your way through into something deeper, truer, and more spontaneous within yourself.

This is likely to be more helpful than trying to force a more positive state into being or rushing to alleviate the boredom with a distraction. After a while you should find that the boredom passes. You will start to feel more positive simply by virtue of experiencing yourself more truly. And feeling more positive, you will probably want to get on with actually doing something positive. But if the minute you start feeling bored you turn on the radio or pick up the newspaper or ring somebody up, then you’ve lost the opportunity that the boredom has presented you.

From Living Wisely: Further Advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland by Sangharakshita © 2013. Reprinted with permission of Windhorse Publications.

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? .