(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report)
Recently, I was talking with a friend about the challenges of keeping her teenagers busy during the summer holidays. She created a list of activities for them so that they wouldn’t get bored. As we chatted, I thought about the word “bored” and how often I hear it in everyday conversations – “I’m bored to tears”; “school bores me”; “work is boring”; “I’m bored out of my mind”. Boredom has become something to avoid.
Many of us pride ourselves as multi-taskers who can juggle several things at the same time― our heads filled with a million thoughts and “to do” lists, we leave no room to daydream, an activity that can lead to enormous creativity.
Instead, we have become a generation of bowed heads and earbuds. Everywhere you look, someone is staring intently at a small mobile device cupped in their hands – behind the wheel, on elevators, crossing streets. It’s an epidemic that touches all ages. In restaurants, I’ve stared in amazement at whole families indulging in this activity. And I wonder, what is the impact of constant screen activity on our nervous systems?
A while ago, I met with a coaching client who was feeling increasingly anxious about having to be available by BlackBerry, long after leaving the office for the day. She was sleeping poorly and her blood pressure was inching dangerously up. She had her device set to “ping” every time a new message arrived. To alleviate some of the stress she was feeling, we worked on breaking a habit of putting the Blackberry on her night table in the bedroom before going to sleep. I also introduced her to a short, daily meditation practice. At first, she resisted, calling the idea of sitting with eyes closed “boring”.
To me, when someone says they are bored or describes something as boring, they are expressing their own restlessness and revealing an overactive nervous system that responds on cue like the urgent “pinging” of a Blackberry. Meditation provides an opportunity to break that pattern and to sit with mindful attention with what is happening, gently allowing the breath and breathing to ground the body and mind in its own spaciousness.
This is the way I introduced meditation to my client:
- Create a space in your home or office that is airy, clean and free of clutter. Place a comfortable chair in this space.
- Sit on the chair, your feet touching the ground and open at hip width apart. You may sit against the chair back or sit forward with your back not touching the chair.
- Place your hands on your knees or thighs, roll your shoulders back, engage your sitting bones and find your comfort zone on the chair.
- Take a deep breath and autosuggest to yourself the length of time you wish to sit. At first, autosuggest a sit of five minutes. Gradually build up to 20 minutes at a time. Between meetings at the office, sit for one to three minutes.
- Now, feel your spine, connect with its natural curvature and once again roll your shoulders back, let your neck sit over your shoulders and let your chin be neutral. Soften your jaws and eyes and let your skull be at ease. Close your eyes.
- Gently bring your attention to your nose. Inhale through both nostrils and, if possible, exhale through both nostrils. If you find exhaling through the nose difficult, exhale through the mouth and inhale through the nostrils. Be gentle and attentive. Attend momentarily to the space between the breath before inhalation and before exhalation.
- Be kind to yourself. If thoughts arise, simply let them come, gently let them go and return to your breath and breathing.
- When you have finished sitting, open your eyes, look around the room, rub your palms together to create friction and heat, cup your eyes gently and wash your face with your hands. Take a breath, then attend to your day feeling rejuvenated and at ease.
What’s wonderful about meditation is that it interrupts the agitation that constant “pinging”creates. And you can apply this practice anywhere and anytime.
As for my coaching client, “boring” dropped from her vocabulary when she felt the effects of a daily sit on her body and her mind and learned to embrace meditation as a good friend to help her navigate the demands of the workplace.
Batia Winer is a meditation teacher and a certified Integral Master Coach™. 613-327-7522; firstname.lastname@example.org