A friend of mine (LL) showed me her ring yesterday and explained that the jeweler damaged the original stone and replaced it with a less spectacular stone. She was naturally disappointed, but since our connection is through Breema, our conversation naturally switched into how dull sometimes is good.
In what ways is dull good? The main one that comes to me is that dull is less distracting. It leaves space to notice. For instance, it may help me pay more attention to what someone is saying, or to relationships or people, or to what’s meaningful to me and so on. It can also help me notice what I am.
Also, for instance in Breema class, I notice that whether the instructor is charismatic or not doesn’t matter. The essence is still conveyed. The atmosphere, the sequence. In that sense, dull is good because it shows me that I don’t have to be charismatic. I actually typically enjoy and benefit from classes where the instructor is not.
I notice the same with writing. Sometimes, dull writing is good. If it’s concise and to the point, less flashy or eloquent writing helps me focus on the content. It helps me explore it for myself. I don’t get distracted by the form.
Dull times can be good. If I don’t have so many distractions, it helps me notice what I really want in life and what’s more meaningful to me, and it allows me to find my own creativity and initiative. For instance, being at the cabin can be dull because there are fewer distractions. But it does give me the opportunity to read books, write, swim, go hiking, and have good conversations. And it does help me notice, clarify, and find excitement for what I wish for myself in my life.
Sitting in a meditation retreat for hours, days, and sometimes weeks can be dull. And that dullness is good. It helps me notice the dynamics of my mind. It helps me change my relationship with the content of my experience and befriend it. It helps my mind bring content to the surface so it gets to be seen, felt, and attended to.
When it comes to awakening, a dull experience is good. If the content of my experience is less distracting, it’s easier for me to notice what I am. It’s easier for me to notice myself as that which this experience happens within and as. (As Adya sometimes says, there is a reason why flashy experiences fade and we come back to our ordinary experience. What awakening really is about is here independent of content of experience, and dull experiences are excellent for noticing what we are.)
And more mature spiritual teachers can sometimes seem a bit dull. The flashy ones are often earlier in their awakening and human maturing, and the more mature ones can seem more ordinary and even slightly boring. I would take a boring mature guide or coach over a more flashy one any day.
Dull isn’t better (or worse) than exciting. But it certainly has its own value and gifts.
Note: I think it’s clear from the context but I’ll mention it anyway. Here, I am using dull in the sense of unspectacular or even boring. Not in the sense of a dull mind, one that doesn’t pay attention. The value of something unspectacular is most easily found through noticing and attending to what’s here.