using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : September 2012
pretty picture. One guy faces the wall. Another one stands frozen in a colorless landscape, going stir-crazy. It’s the crazy part I relate to. Bring Me Your Boredom “I’m bored.” Schoolchildren can be afflicted with it by the second day of summer; workers by the sixth month on the job; spouses by the seventh year of marriage; and readers by the tenth paragraph. Or before. Are you bored yet? Nowadays, boredom is considered a scourge. We blame boredom for the death of curiosity, learn- ing, productivity, innovation, and commitment. Boredom is the antecedent to all kinds of distractions, disengagements, overin- dulgences, and infidelities. The worst crime is being boring, the joke goes, but we all know that the real crimes are likely to come after. In the name of boredom, we overfill our minds, our bodies, our senses, and our time. We flee what fails to amuse. Boredom breeds contempt, and contempt breeds calamity. If boredom is such a menace, let’s bring it out into the open. Can you show it to me? Like the other thoughts and feelings we use to torment ourselves, boredom is something we can’t locate except in our own deadly pronouncement: “I’m bored.” By the time we say it, we believe it, and believing is all it takes. This is where the story can get interesting. When we’re bored, we go looking for something new. And let’s face it: we’re nearly always looking for something new. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we’ve got—how well we each manage our store of talents or prospects—we are somehow con- vinced that we haven’t yet got “it,” not enough to be completely satisfied or secure. We might think we need something as harm- less as a cookie, a game, or a gadget—or another career, lover, or child. We might call what we want higher purpose, wisdom, passion, or simply a change of scenery. Until we are at peace with ourselves, the quest continues. Until we know that there is nowhere else to go, and nothing more to get, we are trapped in delusion. We cannot resolve delusion with more delusion, but we try, and in the search we drive ourselves further away from reality and into raving madness. Fighting boredom is a full-time occupation. What does it take to liberate ourselves from the chase? What if we could release the grasping mind that is always clawing after some precious new thing, even if it’s only a new fantasy? That would be excruciating, or so we fear. It’s the fear of letting go that afflicts us, but letting go is pain free. Search the Mind One time I was interviewed by a radio host about meditation, and she seemed alarmed, even offended, by the idea. Staying put runs contrary to the religion of self-gratification. “It seems to me you’re telling people to settle,” she said. I was flummoxed, and I searched my mind for a response. If I’d had the equanimity of my Zen forebears, I would have said what I really meant. I would have said, “Yes.” What’s wrong with settling? What’s wrong with being patient and making peace? What’s wrong with quieting the crazy-making, egocentric mind? And for that matter, what’s wrong with bore- dom? It’s not the feeling of boredom that hurts us; it’s what we do when we try to run away from it. If we find one thing boring, we’ll find everything boring, so we’d better learn to look at boredom differently. We’d better see things as they really are. This is why we begin our practice, and this is why we keep practicing even when we are no longer enter- tained. If we are really committed, we can indeed bore ourselves out of our ruminating mind and into a world at rest. In the Soto Zen tradition, we meditate with our eyes slightly open, facing a blank wall. Like Bodhidharma, who was said to have faced the wall for nine years before his first student appeared in the snowdrifts, we are called wall gazers. People often ask about the meaning of the wall, since it seems so extreme, or at the very least, extremely boring. It’s true; sometimes the wall we face is a bare white wall, where we are looking at nothing. This wall is called a wall. At other times, we turn around and face another kind of wall, where we are looking at everything. This wall is called the world. There always seems to be a wall of some kind or another in front of us; the question is whether or not we can face it. Whatever the scenery, our practice is the same. Our practice is to face everything life is, and everything it isn’t. Everything we think and feel, and everything we don’t. Wall gazing is a very thorough practice in facing the fleetingness of things, and not getting trapped in momentary apparitions. All apparitions, it turns out, are momentary. When your eyes are open and you are intimately engaged with what appears in front of you, it’s hard to stay bored because nothing stays one way for long. Even walls disappear. When my husband comes home, he asks me what happened during the day. There were no piano serenades at my house. No misty mead- ows or fiery sunsets. No newborns. No birthdays. I did not make a pie. It was a day like any other that can bore you out of your mind. “Nothing,” I say. But that doesn’t mean I’m bored. I have been facing the wall where the snow falls, paint dries, towels fade, and mildew spreads—the same wall where the light blooms in a continuous spectacle of color, sensation, and imagery that is the undivided whole of life. I have been practicing the equanimity of my Zen forebears, but even now I have not said what I really mean when I say, “Nothing.” I mean, “Everything.” What could ever be wrong with this picture? ♦ KAREN MAEZEN MILLER is a teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. Her most recent book is Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 20