Ep. 203: Cool Boredom – Why It’s Necessary for Our Practice

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As a teen, I was an only child in a violent neighborhood. I couldn’t just go outside to play or walk to a neighbor’s house. I even had bars on my window growing up (though I had learned to take those off by the time I was about 15 years old;). Netflix didn’t exist and I definitely didn’t have an Atari set. I did have books that I sped through – thank goddess. But there were many days I was So. Effing. BORED. 


I swore that when I moved out of the house, I would NEVER be bored. 


Which means I avoided silent retreats for a LONG time. Most people I talked to who did them said that while they felt better after, they were often bored out of their minds.  


No thanks. 


But later in life, I realized that’s exactly the point! 


Chogyam Trungpa said, “Boredom is important because boredom is anti-credential.” A “credential” is anything that reinforces ego/self. It can be literal credentials like a degree, or professional accomplishments, people making small talk with us, or it can even be trying to accumulate spiritual progress, accomplishments, or insights. 


Basically, ANYTHING that affirms the false existence of the ego. 


The thing is, we all try to avoid even the smallest gaps in these events. We fill in silence. We fill in stillness. If it isn’t with external things like music or reading or DOing or meaninglyess conversation, it’s with our inner mind chatter. 


What Rinpoche was saying was that when we take away these ego-affirming events, we have boredom – and what’s great is that what arises within it is the juicy stuff! 


Boredom is important in our practice because it helps increase our psychological sophistication for dealing with not constantly being entertained by life so that our ego feels affirmed.  


It helps us become less agitated in the gaps between stimulation, and eventually, boredom can have a more cooling effect on our nervous system (instead of the “hot” effect of being annoyed and feeling trapped). 


Chogyam Trungpa described this “cool boredom” like a mountain river. It flows methodically and repetitively, the same shizzle every day…but it’s cooling and refreshing. 


In this way, boredom can be a good feeling that arises even if we’re repetitively sitting in meditation, or doing the mundane tasks of daily life. Or simple BEing in quiet and stillness. 


Creating this relationship with boredom allows us to become the dharma without the reinforcement of these ego boosters. Without it, we won’t have the skills we need on the path to deal with the parts of life that aren’t as entertaining as psychedelic trips or adventure travel. 


One of the first practices we can do to destroy the ego’s game is a relatively strict discipline of sitting meditation practice. No intellectual speculation, no philosophizing. Not trying to fill the silence with anything. This can allow us to be in the present moment with just ourselves. To experience the gaps. 


When we do nothing, what does it bring? Discomfort or relief? What arises at this moment? 


Chogyam says one gift of this type of meditation is that we have the opportunity to meet and see ourselves clearly for the first time. We have never spent this kind of time with ourselves before. 


He says, “We have more in us than our bundles of thoughts, emotions, and upheavals. There’s something behind this whole facade. We discover the reservoir of softness within ourselves.” 


And this allows space for us to see the whole of our truth. Not just how we’re good little practitioners, but the entire truth of us, the shadow sides as well. A more honest view. We can BE with ourselves, not needing to change or fix anything. It’s so liberating! 


What’s the opposite of all this? HOT boredom. This was the boredom I experienced as a child. Miserable and agitated. This can arise a lot in our meditation practice as well, and we can learn to be with that hot coal feeling before it cools down, too. 


But with cool boredom, we don’t feel trapped. Cool boredom is liberating, spacious, and leads to compassion,  and softness toward ourselves and others 


In hot boredom, we crave spiritual highs, ah-ha moments, and proof of our evolution and progress. 


Once when I was struggling with hot boredom in my meditative practices, one of my teachers suggested a play and have more fun. So I did. I didn’t sit for months! But when I finally did again, I was able to sit in cool boredom and be completely present for a long time. 


Now, I’m not saying our purpose on this earth is to be bored and that is the way of enlightenment. There is a time and place for the ecstatic and psychedelic experiences. 


Instead, it’s about finding a middle way. We don’t want to chase the ecstasy, but we don’t want to avoid the ugly either, right? 


So we can examine our relationship to boredom AND ecstatic experiences. We can crave and follow the call to adventure and experience the exciting and wild parts of life. AND we can intentionally come down from that high and get to know ALL of ourselves. 


So this week I want to invite you to embrace this cool boredom. It can open us up to the many skills needed on our path, including learning to not need constant ego-affirming stimuli, and the capacity to allow inner peace and self-inquiry.  


The goal isn’t to live a life of cool boredom – it’s a middle way between that and ecstasy. 


See what happens when we can just be with it. 


You will learn: 

// Why boredom is important in our meditation practice 

// How boredom opens us up to many skills needed on our path 

// The difference between hot and cool boredom 

// How to find a balance between wild adventures and cool boredom 



// Episode 65: The Art of Doing Nothing 


// Episode 109: The Gift of Silence 


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