Television programming, the internet, and the streets of our major cities are snapping, crackling and popping with stimuli: advertisements for things to do, get, buy, all towards the singular end of being happy. Thus, when we begin to feel that inexplicable hunger or emptiness growing inside us we immediately want to fill it with something. We are inclined to do something differently, to do something more, or to look for a new toy or experience.
Perhaps we send charges of excitement into our inner black hole by hooking our senses up to any technological or media outlet we can find, whether it’s Facebook, the latest reality show or the newest mp3 download by our favorite group. Maybe we do something as seemingly innocuous as going to a movie or registering for a class.
However, the problem is, the more we throw into it, the deeper the pit inside seems to get, and the bigger and greater the things and experiences we need in order to (at least temporarily) appease its ever-widening fury.
The reason? Well, first of all, as Vedanta, an Eastern spiritual path, states, all of these things and experiences electrifying our streets, airways and shopping malls are just part of a grand illusion attempting to ensnare us. This illusion, or Maya, as it is called, is everything that we experience through our physical senses, and is basically a fraud, a sham, posing as real fulfillment and happiness. According to Vedanta, we don’t ever achieve happiness from the things of this world. In fact, the more we try to, the greater our dissatisfaction or world-weariness becomes.
That’s not to say that we should sit around doing nothing so as not to stir the emptiness. It’s simply the notion of running from one thing to another, in a frantic attempt to fill ourselves that they warn against. According to Vedanta, the greater the world-weariness, the louder our call to something much greater and promising—true fulfillment in the spiritual realm. That is, the more dissatisfied and world-weary we become, the more likely we are to look towards the spiritual.
Buddhists also regard boredom as a symptom of spiritual agitation:
“It is always something else, someone else, somewhere else; never now, never this. You may be eating a marvelous meal, delicious cuisine, but already you are thinking about the movie you are going to go to afterwards,” writes Ajahn Jagaro, former resident monk at the Buddhist Society of Western Australia.
The solution, according to the Buddhists, is not so much the spiritual realm as it is the realm of mindfulness. That is, boredom is really an indication that the mind is not here, present, alive in this moment, which is, according to Buddhists, the only moment and source of true happiness and spiritual enlightenment.