Did you know that depression is the number one complaint of newly retired women? In fact, boredom is a key symptom. Mistakenly, many women turn to different forms of distraction (TV or Internet surfing) to feel better.
While that does briefly divert your attention, it doesn’t solve the problem. To find a permanent solution, you need to look inside yourself and find out what is causing your pain. To get some answers, I turned to an unlikely source – a monk!
If you’re not familiar with Dada Nabhaniilananda, aka, “The Monk Dude” you need to be. He’s not your typical orange-wearing monk.
He’s charismatic, laughs easily and has a great sense of fun when teaching people how to develop creativity and achieve peak performance through mindfulness, meditation, and music.
I had the fortunate opportunity to interview him about boredom on a beautiful sunny day in La Jolla, CA, in my good friend Bharat’s living room.
I asked the Monk Dude for his take on boredom. He laughed and said, “This is a very interesting subject. It’s so funny because I thought, ‘Nancy’s writing a book about retirement boredom; that sounds really boring!’ And, it’s not!”
He continued, “Being bored results from actually not paying attention to what’s going on… being distracted, remaining on the superficial. Fleeting from this thing to that thing – on the surface of things.” He then added, “If we pay attention to life, it becomes interesting.”
Dada’s recommendation is to first start by slowing down and going deep inside of yourself.
Research has repeatedly shown this to be effective. People who are attuned to what they feel tend to be happier, less depressed, less anxious, and less bored.
He explained that every spiritual tradition uses music to create a sense of awe, peace, or devotion. And for him, “Music is a tremendously powerful way of altering mood. And, if it’s used deliberately, it can really help people who are suffering from depression or different mood problems (such as boredom). It’s the quickest legal way to change your state of mind.”
Laughing, Dada told me, “You can quote me on that.” But to get the most powerful form of a mood enhancement from music, he said is to skip listening to it, which he labeled as “passive.”
Instead, “If they actually engage in it – sing. It is a huge mood changer, especially in a group. Oh my god! It’s therapeutic!”
When was the last time you sang along to music? It’s time to start! Sing like no one is watching. Better yet, invite your friends and family to sing with you.
Hesitantly, I asked how someone (me included) can avoid getting bored while meditating. Dada cut right to the chase: “The reason they’re bored is because of not paying attention. It’s not because something’s wrong with the mantra.”
He then offered a couple of interesting ways to maintain focus:
“One of the most effective ways is to do something slightly dangerous.” He gave the example of meditating in a scary place, “A graveyard at midnight. It forces you to focus.” Adding, “I don’t want to think about what’s out there; I’d better focus.”
Of course, he cautioned, “This is a little extreme, and I would not recommend it for most people.” Then he offered a milder version that’s appropriate for anyone, even children. “It includes minor fear to enhance focus.”
Dada got a bowl of water and one teaspoon for each person in the group. Each spoon was filled to the brim, and they were instructed to hold it at eye level and walk around the room slowly, paying close attention to the movements of their bodies.
“It’s a very good concentration exercise,” he stated. “There are a couple of things they’ll learn from it. One is that they don’t want the water to spill.”
His explanation is that the group members’ reasons revolve around fear, “Because I was told not to,” “There is a little bit of fear that Dada would be upset with me if I spilt the water,” and, “I would be disappointed in myself.”
He clarified, “There is a little bit of fear motivating them to make the effort to focus. And also, it’s ambition. They want to achieve it. It’s competitive.”
The other thing they learn is, “If they get distracted, it spills. Even if their body doesn’t do anything. It’s really a matter of your mind being focused.” Then he added, “It shows you that making a little bit of effort for 10 minutes, your mind becomes still automatically.”
When you experience boredom, your mind is anything but calm. The best gift you can give yourself is the ability to calm your thoughts. This exercise will help you accomplish that.
Looking at the clock, our time was running short. I asked Dada for simple suggestions to help people focus when they are bored in retirement. In quick succession, he rattled off, “You know what might be nice? Origami… you have to concentrate.”
His favorite, though, surprised me, “One thing I do is coloring. Oh yeah, it’s very relaxing. And it’s so much fun. It helps people be in the present.”
The Monk Dude pulled out his phone and recommended using guided meditation recordings to help with boredom. He excitedly showed me his meditation app, Bliss Timer.
He explained, “If you’re using the app, you’ll be able to design your own meditation experience using chanting, guided meditations, and silent meditation. Best of all, you can personalize it by choosing the background tune as well as the length you’d like to meditate, even as brief as one minute.”
In parting, I asked him to give me a one-sentence description of meditation. With a joyful smile, Dada said, “The process of connecting with the source of infinite love within yourself and becoming one within that.”
I believe the Monk’s techniques are a great place for you to begin your path away from boredom. Look inside yourself and you will see the most interesting things life has to offer.
What do you do to escape boredom? Does it work? What do you think about meditation and active engagement with music? Please share your take on the Monk Dude’s anti-boredom strategies.