Rising above ennui or boredom

Our consciousness is constituted of many parts, many personalities and throughout the day one part or the other predominates – sometimes the mental being thinks with clarity, sometimes the emotional being surges forward and acts out of passion, and when all inspiration dries up and nothing works, we just sit listlessly. If you are feeling bored, it means the vital energy is exhausted and calls for rest and recuperation.  For those who aspire to become fully conscious, this phenomenon must be recognized for what it actually is – it is a gap in the consciousness which has to be plugged deliberately by employing refined and uplifting methods of relaxation.

Question: Mother, my life is dry, it was always so; the dryness of my life constantly increases.

Mother Mirra Alfassa: This does not depend upon any outer circumstance but on your inner state. It happens because you live in a very superficial region of your mind. You must try to find some depth in your consciousness and dwell there. [1]

Apart from general lack of physical energy as well as a lack of purpose in life, there are diverse reasons why our consciousness may be descend into such periods of dullness.  In the transient period of our youth, we may indulge in some impulsive sensual passions whose residues create recalcitrant blocks in our subconscious and whose repercussions are felt years later in the form of dullness and sloth.  Once the energy of youth wanes and we enter the forties, we also begin to feel the effects of the nervous disposition that we have inherited from our parents; we may find our body being inconspicuously overwhelmed by the same sluggish habits and foul moods that we had noticed in our parents.  Over and above all, we invariably remain vulnerable to those vital eddies of despondency and despair which swirl through the atmosphere and invisibly influence the energy level of all human beings.  For example, at the end of a busy week, we may feel the air becoming dull and dreary as everyone retreats from work to their favorite form of entertainment – the bar, party, television, movies – and instead of standing back, we may succumb that mood and turn lackadaisical as well.

There is an earlier post which expatiates on this pathological condition – Transcending the work-leisure cycle – but it is an important truth which bears repeating, and the set of monologues below provide complementary illumination.

One who has found the inner light never feels bored

Mother Mirra Alfassa: …Constantly man rushes into external action in order not to have time to observe himself and how he lives. For him this is expressed by the desire to escape from boredom. Indeed, for some people it is much more tiresome to remain quiet  seated, or to be still. So for them it represents an escape from boredom: to make a lot of noise, to commit many stupidities, and become terribly restless; it is their way of escaping boredom. And when they sit quietly and look at themselves, they are bored. Perhaps because they are boring. That’s very likely. The more boring one is, the more one is bored. Very interesting people usually are not bored. [2]

A talk by M.P.Pandit on choosing refined methods of relaxation

(M.P.Pandit was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother)

So many times one feels bored without reason. There is no interest in anything; one can neither work nor rest, neither read nor even play. Time hangs heavy, all appears drab, dull. There is ennui all round.

This happens, the Mother explains, when our consciousness strikes a dry patch and gets into a condition in which it does not progress. This is an unnatural state and it is externally rendered as one of boredom, dullness, depression.  It is during such periods that tamas(sloth) settles in the being and a kind of stagnation follows. Many proceed in the wrong way to get out of such state. They seek to divert and forget themselves by occupying their mind in dissipating movements like drink, merry-making and such. But actually they bog down still deeper in the slough of despond. The remedy is not to slip into movements that pull you down still lower, but to relax, to relax into light and force. Remember your bright moments, summon their memory and invoke the Source of Light and Power which you have breathed before. Invoke and wait upon it with patience in the central part of your being. In the meanwhile there must be a change of occupation; physical work is a dynamic agent for the falling off of this dust and the clearing of damp settled on the being, and for a simultaneous enlivening of the currents of life-force which put the system into a healthier state. Light reading, happy company are further helps for the dissolution of the covering.

These are remedies to be resorted to after the boredom has set in. But it is possible to obviate, at any rate to minimise these movements of depression. Our consciousness is the crux; it is not the environment or the people or the circumstances that are really responsible for such setbacks. Something has gone wrong within ourselves; some weak layer has come up for attention. Our consciousness is a developing entity and it is in a good condition as long as it is progressing. It is intended for progress and the earth is the field of progress; and our consciousness must be ever active using every moment, every opportunity for its growth. As long as it does so we are in a healthy condition of mind and life; we are cheerful, see the bright side of everything, feel a glow of happiness and find time passing very fast. But the moment we slacken and cease to apply ourselves towards the growth and culture of consciousness in its appointed field of life, a moment of regression sets in, inertia gathers, the energies droop, the mental horizon darkens and gloom settles in. The remedy lies, as we have seen, in a vigilant detection of its origin in our own consciousness and taking appropriate steps for turning the consciousness forward through the right relaxation, aspiration and a patient exertion of the will. So done, even spells of ennui, boredom, can be made occasions for closing up gaps and for registering a more rapid progress. [3]

An old pull of subconscious cords renews;
It draws the unwilling spirit from the heights,
Or a dull gravitation drags us down
To the blind driven inertia of our base.
This too the supreme Diplomat can use,
He makes our fall a means for greater rise.

(Sri Aurobindo. Savitri, Book I, Canto III)

Mother’s talk to students on overcoming boredom in studies

Sometimes, if you are not in a very good mood, you say, “How boring it is going to be!” Yes, perhaps the teacher who is taking your class does not know how to amuse you. He may be a very good teacher, but at the same time he may not know how to entertain you, for it is not always easy. There are days when one does not feel like being entertaining. There are days, for him as for you, when one would like to be elsewhere than in school. But still, you go to your class. You go because you must, for if you obey all your fancies you will never have any control over yourselves; your fancies will control you. So you go to your class, but instead of going there and thinking, “How bored I am going to be; I am sure it is not going to be interesting”, you should tell yourselves, “There is not a single minute in life, not one circumstance that is not an opportunity for progress. So what progress am I going to make today? The class I am going to now is on a subject that does not interest me. But perhaps that is because something is lacking in me; perhaps, in my brain, a certain number of cells are deficient and that is why I cannot find any interest in the subject. If so, I shall try, I shall listen carefully, concentrate hard and above all drive out of my mind this aimlessness, this superficial shallowness which makes me feel bored when there is something I cannot grasp. I am bored because I do not make an effort to understand, because I do not have this will for progress.” When one does not progress, one feels bored, everyone, young or old; for we are here on earth to progress. How tedious life would be without progress! Life is monotonous. Most often it is not fun. It is far from being beautiful. But if you take it as a field for progress, then everything changes, everything becomes interesting and there is no longer any room for boredom. Next time your teacher seems boring to you, instead of wasting your time doing nothing, try to understand why he bores you. Then if you have a capacity of observation and if you make an effort to understand, you will soon see that a kind of miracle has occurred and that you are no longer feeling bored at all.

This remedy is good in almost every case. Sometimes, in certain circumstances, everything seems dull, boring, stupid; this means that you are as boring as the circumstances and it clearly shows that you are not in a state of progress. It is simply a passing wave of boredom, and nothing is more contrary to the purpose of existence. At such a moment you might make an effort and ask yourself, “This boredom shows that I have something to learn, some progress to make in myself, some inertia to conquer, some weakness to overcome.” Boredom is a dullness of the consciousness; and if you seek the cure within yourself, you will see that it immediately dissolves. Most people, when they feel bored, instead of making an effort to rise one step higher in their consciousness, come down one step lower; they come down even lower than they were before and do stupid things, they make themselves vulgar in the hope of amusing themselves. That is why men intoxicate themselves, spoil their health, deaden their brains. If they had risen instead of falling, they would have made use of this opportunity to progress. [4]


  1. Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 16, p 173.
  2. Collected Works of the Mother, Vol 2, p 25.
  3. M.P.Pandit. Mother of Love Vol 1 – p 59.
  4. Collected Works of the Mother, vol 12, p 74.

Related Posts

  1. Equanimity as the foundation of Integral Yoga
  2. Towards more conscious sleep and dreams
  3. Stabilizing the body before meditation
  4. Illustrating Integral Psychology using the Gita
  5. Transcending the work-leisure cycle
  6. Triple movement of Integral Yoga (Witness, Consenter and Enjoyer)
  7. Aspects of Karma Yoga
  8. Disrupting the routines of life
  9. Conversation : Self-control over speech
  10. Food : How to eat like a Yogi


4 thoughts on “Rising above ennui or boredom

  1. Pingback: The exchange of vital forces during social interactions | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. hari

    Boredom is hard to overcome. One can do some activity but that’s more like an escape. Ramana used to sit down and do nothing, yet feel bliss. if we do nothing, we feel restless and want to do something, even meaningless activities as long as we are occupied. What’s the reason for this?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Ramana Maharshi felt blissful because his consciousness was open to the Universal Consciousness. He felt waves of bliss inundating his body in a state of rest. By contrast, your consciousness is sealed off from the universal and you are subject to the oscillations of Rajas, Tamas and Sattwa. Sometimes you feel good, but at other times your lower nature takes over and makes you sad, worried, irritated or restless.

  3. Sandeep

    Researchers identify new type of boredom !

    Being bored just became interesting, with scientists identifying a new type of boredom to describe this emotion.

    Researchers identified the new type of tedium as ‘apathetic boredom’, an especially unpleasant form of the emotion that resembles learned helplessness or depression.

    The study is among the first to quantifiably investigate different types of boredom.

    The study builds on preliminary research done by Dr Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz and colleague Anne Frenzel in 2006 in which they differentiated between four types of boredom according to the levels of arousal (ranging from calm to fidgety) and how positive or negative boredom is experienced (so-called valence).

    These were indifferent boredom (relaxed, withdrawn, indifferent), calibrating boredom (uncertain, receptive to change/distraction), searching boredom (restless, active pursuit of change/distraction) and reactant boredom (high reactant, motivated to leave a situation for specific alternatives).

    Read more @


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