For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. People become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. To such persons, stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.”Dr. Gabor Mate
Which one of you relates to the above, especially in the midst of the pandemic?
I definitely do.
I had a high stress job where every 3 weeks I would travel to the head office in another country. I’d spend one week there before flying back home to Dubai.
My work and home life seemed like a blur, but the consistent high of running from one project and meeting to another was exciting and addictive. I had a one-day weekend, which was on a Friday. On Fridays, I was up with the sound of the early morning Azan – usually around 5:30 am. But although it was my ‘weekend’ I would struggle to hold myself back from running downstairs to immediately turn on my laptop.
I had to have a program for Fridays or else I would be bored, or even worse anxious! Oh, that dreaded anxiety.
Relaxing equals boredom, right?
My husband and I and sometimes our teenage son would head to the beach to, you know, take time out and relax. I was quite good at leaving the phone at home, but without the temptation to pick it up and work I would create other ways to avoid truly relaxing and enjoying the surrounding nature.
Even at the beach I would need to achieve something. For example I would set myself the ‘task’ of walking to the end of the beach club and hotels until I came up against a physical barrier.
I would also make sure I swam for at least three hours in the sea. My only break was to lie on my back in the salty water for a moment or two. On the sunbeds, I would ruminate over my agenda for the following week and what my work, home, and child to-do list would look like.
Then, someone told me to work on “just being instead of always doing”.
This was such a foreign and outlandish concept to me. I started laughing and said that I am a doer, a builder, a project starter and manager. And I retorted back, “but don’t you get BORED?” She being a very wise teacher and mentor said, “No, I don’t” and went on to explain how she can sit for hours in meditation or spend the entire Friday at home and not get bored.
Coming face-to-face with boredom
Let’s move forward to March of 2020. I am now living in Toronto. The pandemic hit. The head office overseas was shut down due to COVID19. Suddenly I could not travel, the stores were shut down, and everyone was social distancing. I was catapulted into an abyss of nothingness. I was forced to “be” because my hands were tied for doing.
The early morning anxiety called me out of sleep instead of the beautiful azan in Dubai. What was I going to DO? Being cornered with little to do and nowhere to go and the intense worry about my aging parents overseas, whom I couldn’t rescue; I decided to focus on the simple things of life.
To avoid the early morning anxiety, I pulled out my purple Pilates mat and started doing all the exercises that I remembered from Dubai. I then started meditating. Just sitting and not thinking of anything and trying to focus on my third eye or breath is very challenging, but I persevere. It is difficult and paradoxically relaxing. Try meditating even for 5 minutes. It helps slow things down for you to sink in the present. The beautiful present moment where your life is happening.
My way of “being” has just started to unfold. I have discovered wonder in cooking and going on long walks. I found myself thanking the meat and the herbs that provide sustenance to my family in the stew that I was gently stirring. It was very satisfying.
It seems there is nothing to fear from stillness and in fact, it’s where we can really find meaning.
I’ve found that mindfulness and meditation are keys to “being”. Stay tuned as my journey unfolds.