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The Art of Doing Nothing: How Boredom Can Be Self-Development


A illustration of boredom: a man doing nothing

When was the last time you simply sat down and did nothing at all? It seems like we experience a lot of boredom, but we often feel pressure to be constantly productive. Especially in this digital era, we have access to so many entertainment and learning platforms. Consequently, we don't actually spend much time in 'boredom.' And if there's a moment where we don't do anything at all, just sit down and think, it might sound like we're being lazy and unproductive. However, there are valid reasons to consider doing nothing at all.



Increasing Creativity and Problem-Solving Skills


Boredom creates an opportunity for our minds to wander. When we spend time thinking and simply set aside books or phones to watch our thoughts and self-inquiry, it allows us to seek innovative solutions to problems or obstacles that bother us, leading us to creative thinking. Boredom stimulates our creativity and problem-solving skills by giving us the time to think and seek out ideas. For example, many people claim that they come up with ideas in nature or the shower, as these areas offer relaxation and a break from everyday work and digital devices. The brain can think without distractions in such environments.



Increasing Learning Capacity


When we overwork, our brains may struggle to absorb information. Have you ever experienced being unable to focus and concentrate after long hours of reading? If you find yourself re-reading the few lines before because you've forgotten them, it's a sign that your brain is fatigued. Taking a break can help restore your brain's ability to absorb information and improve memory. Additionally, taking a nap is an effective way to rejuvenate your brain. We often view sleep as the enemy of productivity, but the truth is that sleep enhances our brain power.



Improving Mental Health


We often work and study excessively, whether we enjoy it or not, which can deplete our mental energy. Taking the time to 'do nothing' can help reduce stress levels. Dr. Kou Murayama experimented with 259 college students, having them simply sit and think for 20 minutes. The results revealed that sitting and thinking weren't as boring as the students initially expected. In fact, they found this kind of mental break to be beneficial for mental health and happiness, allowing individuals to disconnect from stress and anxiety-inducing factors.



Self-Control


During moments of boredom, we immerse ourselves fully in the present moment. By refraining from using our phones and even abstaining from reading books, we force ourselves to observe the view in front of us, feel the temperature and the flowing air around us, and focus on our breathing and body effortlessly. This practice enhances our focus and attention to detail, creating stillness in our minds. It can help us improve our ability to control compulsive habits.



Experiencing Inner Peace


In our everyday lives, we often spend too much time on unnecessary thoughts. About 80 to 90 percent of our thoughts are often useless or even harmful, as they tend to be negative, particularly those that cause stress, such as anger and anxiety. These thoughts frequently revolve around past experiences or worries about the future. 


However, when we focus on the present moment, we can find happiness and truly live our lives. This is because nothing is happening in the past or the future; it's all occurring right now, in this moment. We don't live in the past or the future; we live in the present moment. 


If our minds are not in the present, how can we experience happiness? Focusing on the present moment is the path to true happiness. Zen teachings emphasize non-attachment to desires and outcomes. By letting go of attachments and cravings, we can attain inner peace and freedom from suffering. 


Taking a break from our daily activities and slowing down can provide us with the opportunity to find peace. Simply enjoying the sunlight and a cup of tea may be one of the most peaceful moments.





Self-Realization


Just like Zen, the primary purpose of Zen is to realize the true self, to discover the direct experience of our essential nature beyond ego, conceptual thinking, and conditioned beliefs.


Embracing boredom can lead us to self-awareness and help us realize how to become more conscious of ourselves. Sometimes, when we just sit down and 'watch our thoughts,' it can lead to realizations about what may be missing



Finding New Goals or Purpose


Boredom can be a signal that we're not doing what we truly desire. Perhaps we've lost interest in something we were previously passionate about or have achieved our initial goals. When we fulfill our purpose, we often need time to find a new one. It's common to feel the urge to try new things in the quest for a new goal and purpose, but we should take the 'time' to 'think' about what's next. Thinking in silence can be purposeful and enjoyable. Boredom encourages us to shift our focus to goals and projects that are more fulfilling than the ones we previously pursued.



Enlightenment


Boredom can be a manifestation of enlightenment. Zen practice is aimed at attaining enlightenment, which is a profound awakening to the nature of reality. It involves transcending the duality of self and other, subject and object, and experiencing a profound unity with all things.

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