The Asian Age

Shake off en­nui

- Swati Chopra

Ac­cord­ing to New­ton’s first law of mo­tion, an ob­ject at rest, or in mo­tion, re­mains so un­less an ex­ter­nal force is ap­plied. This “law of in­er­tia” can some­times af­flict us in the form of a hu­man con­di­tion, ren­der­ing us un­able and un­will­ing to head into chal­lenges, be­gin some­thing new, or even en­gage fully with our­selves and our lives. Noth­ing that we say or do seems to have much mean­ing, and we get stuck in a vi­cious cy­cle where we do not do any­thing for lack of mo­ti­va­tion re­sult­ing in in­er­tia, which in turn leads to fur­ther in­abil­ity to act and en­gage.

Another word, of French ori­gin, used to de­scribe such a state of sta­sis is en­nui. En­nui is closer in mean­ing to bore­dom than in­er­tia, though they might ap­pear to be in­ter­re­lated is­sues. In­er­tia in­di­cates an un­will­ing­ness to act. It is a kind of pas­siv­ity in which we re­main stuck in the ruts that have come to de­fine the phys­i­cal, emo­tional and spir­i­tual con­tent of our lives. En­nui is bore­dom that might be ex­pe­ri­enced due to an ab­sence of ap­pro­pri­ate stim­u­la­tion.

To­day, so many of us ex­ist in an en­vi­ron­ment of hy­per­stim­u­la­tion. Easy ac­cess to the In­ter­net, so­cial me­dia plat­forms, mo­bile phones and tablets mean that we can be “con­nected” all the time. We con­se­quently ex­pe­ri­ence another kind of en­nui, that of over­stim­u­la­tion. All kinds of stim­uli are a click or a swipe away, and yet it is mean­ing­less be­cause it does not have the power to draw us out and make us ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing beyond our­selves, if we are not open to it. En­nui of­ten leads to in­er­tia. If noth­ing has any mean­ing, why bother?

From a spir­i­tual per­spec­tive, cul­ti­va­tion of grat­i­tude and re­ori­ent­ing one’s mo­ti­va­tion might come in handy when we are trapped in an en­nui- fu­elled in­er­tia. His Ho­li­ness the Dalai Lama sug­gests that, “Ev­ery day think as you wake up, to­day I am for­tu­nate to be alive, I have a pre­cious hu­man life, I am not go­ing to waste it.” Just this very thought has the po­ten­tial to im­me­di­ately change our per­spec­tive to­wards our­selves. If life is pre­cious, we will re­gard it as an op­por­tu­nity, a bless­ing, and fo­cus on all the things that are go­ing well in it as op­posed to all that is not.

After shak­ing off the tor­por of en­nui, we need to get out of the in­er­tia of mean­ing­less­ness as well. Ac­cord­ing to the Dalai Lama, we must think, “I am go­ing to use all my en­er­gies to de­velop my­self, to ex­pand my heart out to oth­ers; to achieve en­light­en­ment for the ben­e­fit of all be­ings.” While en­light­en­ment might be far from our minds, by get­ting out of our re­stricted per­sonal bub­ble and con­tem­plat­ing a goal that is big­ger than us will help re­ori­ent and re­vive our in­ter­nal en­er­gies. This could in fact be­come the “force” that must act on a body to end its state of in­er­tia, as per New­to­nian law. Swati Chopra writes on spir­i­tu­al­ity

and mind­ful liv­ing

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