As a child I occasionally got bored. I would go whining to my mother, who would give me some ideas about what to do that seldom suited me. Nevertheless, it got me thinking and opening to what it was that I wanted to do and what it would take to get to do it. The period of boredom let creativity and new ideas arise.
Today many of us live lives so full of work, family needs, electronic stimuli, and distractions that we never have time to be bored. We may miss the chance to get out of the rut or off the gerbil wheel and hear a word of new direction or grace. I remember suggesting to a clergyperson with whom I met in spiritual direction that he might want to reserve some unplanned time in his sabbatical. Getting bored would give him time to empty out and be refilled.
Some years ago I attended a one-day centering prayer retreat, with three periods of centering prayer. In my typical experience, I have a busy mind and return often to the sacred word I have chosen as a symbol of my intent to be open to the presence and action of God in my life. That afternoon, in the final period of centering prayer, I wasn’t aware of that busyness. In fact, as I reflected afterwards on the experience, I felt completely empty. And that experience felt boring and uncomfortable.
Although I have continued to practice centering prayer, I haven’t wanted to try an extended retreat for fear I might encounter that emptiness and boredom again. Only recently have I been enabled to see that what I received in that experience of centering prayer was “a gift of time that did not have to be filled.” As Father Carl Arico of Contemplative Outreach told me, I was “already in God’s presence.” I had in me “the emptiness that leads to spaciousness.” When I experience boredom again, I will look for God’s presence and gift.
What is your experience of boredom?
How might you find in your life that kind of emptiness that leads to spaciousness? (Remember that it can come in moments as well as in hours and days.)
Set aside ten minutes. Write or record one thing after another that concerns you until you run out of steam or out of time. Place those concerns, literally or figuratively, in a sacred place (eg., under a rock, on a table, in your Bible), and let them go to the One who can carry them.
For further reflection:
“O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (See Isaiah 40: 3-5).