[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 2 on -empyre-: Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

Emilie St Hilaire esthilai at ualberta.ca
Tue May 12 20:12:51 AEST 2015

 Hi Ben, Lyn, and all.

I would like to address Ben's question from last week's thread regarding
meditation, and I am pleased to have read that Lyn also has a meditation
practice, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, Lyn.

Ben wrote:
"I'm trying to get my head around what a non-task oriented, not
mind wandering, boring mind-state could be. Perhaps deep meditation could
be a state of mind that is neither task positive nor negative? Any
thoughts on this Emilie? Is meditation a task oriented activity? I would
expect that the suppression of mind wandering would require a lot of
mental control, the same kind of control used in task-oriented behaviour."

I do think the task of meditation could be described as a resistance to
mind-wandering and while there are various approaches to meditation
(applying either focused attention or open awareness, for example) the
'goal' or end result is the same. It is challenging, as you suggest, but
the important difference I would note as compared to concentration applied
to other tasks is the level of awareness being exercised. As I engage in a
specific mental task (like writing this message) I am not simultaneously
following the trajectory of my thoughts and employing a 'meta-awareness' to
the process. That said, one goal of meditation as I have been taught is to
eventually have the ability to extend the practice into all aspects of
daily life so that one is actually meditating all the time, while engaging
in other tasks.

I offer this exercise: sit comfortably (leaning against a wall is fine),
tune into your bodily awareness and breath, then turn to your mental state.
Recognise the thoughts that arise but don't attach to them (as my teacher
says "put them on a cloud and watch them float away"). Try 5 or 10 minutes.

It may forever remain a challenge but what this process exposes about my
own mental attachments is revealing and humbling. I find that the
relationship between discipline and boredom is highlighted in yoga and
meditation practice due to the heightened level of awareness and because it
is task undertaken at my own will. In these activities I'm not accountable
to anyone but myself, I am the principal labourer and benefactor behind my
efforts. Defeating boredom in meditation as Lyn pointed out is a huge
factor that doesn't necessarily get easier over time. I think expectation
is a related factor.
Could expectation be the trigger for boredom?

Om Shanti

- Emilie

On Sun, May 10, 2015 at 1:46 PM, Lyn Goeringer <lyn.goeringer at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi All,
> Thank you for making our introduction, Renate. It is really nice to be a
> part of this discussion.
> My interest in boredom comes from a deep interest in essentially the
> function of boredom in the workplace, and how we work to challenge and
> diverge from our daily routine and attempt to reclaim our own sense of self
> when we find work dissatisfying, unchallenging, and, by extension, what
> happens when boredom sets in. It's those little moments within our workdays
> that we find ourselves mindlessly doing other tasks: scribbling or doodling
> on the margins of a piece of paper in a meeting, folding a paper clip, or
> doing really any other thing we can. These small moments where we begin to
> diverge from the task at hand so that we can maintain some sense of
> awareness, or even presence, so that we don't mire in the nothingness that
> boredom threatens to make for us.
> As John mentioned in last weeks discussion about boredom and it's outcomes
> that "It's non-productive of capital, and so boredom very much is a problem (I
> think). But is it just a problem for capitalism?"" I would say that it
> most certainly is, or at least a problem for contemporary labor practices.
> Each moment we are not doing the assigned or intended task, we are, in
> essence, 'stealing time' from our employers. These moments where we doodle,
> play with other items, surreptitiously check Facebook, these are moments
> when we steal time, when we create within boredom, a byproduct of labor, to
> work for ourselves, to work to escape from things we cannot. In our
> boredom, we begin to find a place for ourselves, we make an effort to shift
> towards something other, some other state of being, as soon as we
> acknowledge our moments of boredom and try to alleviate this.
> I can't help while thinking on this topic from the perspective that I've
> come to it from (from labor and learning, where people focus on things that
> are distinct from the often assigned task at hand) to thinking about
> childhood and boredom. Most immediately, I find myself thinking of the zine
> Murder Can Be Fun, Issue #17, "naughty children".  This comes to mind
> because so often childhood delinquency is blamed on 'boredom'. Of course,
> the subject of the zine is children who murder, but there is always the
> threat of children being mischievous or bad when bored, because they lack
> the discipline to not misbehave when bored. I am no expert in children, or
> child psychology, but I do find it interesting that before we reach a state
> where labor and work is a primary factor in our boredom, boredom was once
> assigned to youth as something to avoid at all costs: we must avoid
> boredom, lest we become delinquents. Idleness brings us to the devil, as it
> were.
> I do wonder if this has much to do with contemporary fears and attempts at
> assuaging boredom. Without constant occupation, without keeping busy, we
> would fall into the devils hands. Or, more contemporary, to be idle would
> lead us into a state of non-productivity, and without productivity, we
> cannot have equity, we cannot have goods to sell. Production at all costs,
> regardless of the needs of the person involved.
> I would like to suggest, however, that the function of boredom is actually
> a moment of downtime, a moment of void, from which anything could grow. In
> meditation practices, it is what is done with boredom that gets
> interesting. Boredom becomes a state that the practitioner is expected to
> see through to its every possible end: what happens if, in a state of
> boredom, we do nothing, and we just accept it? This is an interesting
> question. I don't have an answer for it, but it is one of the many states
> that must be dealt with. As an active meditation practitioner, I can tell
> you that for me, when boredom sets in I get antsy. I want to get up and
> move around. It's one of the biggest factors in why people stop meditating.
> It is not entertaining.
> But what happens on the other side of boredom? That's the question I want
> to ask. How can boredom work for us?
> Thanks again for having me here, and I look forward to continuing the
> discussion.
> best,
> Lyn Goeringer
> www.lyngoeringer.com/portfolio
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Emilie St.Hilaire
Research and Accreditation Coordinator
Alberta School of Business, 3-30Q Business Building
University of Alberta, T6G 2R6
(780) 492-3054
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