With the exponential growth of technology in our lives it seems even more difficult than ever to find time for ourselves. We are connected day and night, day in and day out. We once carried pagers, which gave way to text-based systems and ultimately to cell phones and now smart phones.
While this connectedness can certainly enhance our lives, it too can it detract.
It would seem that anything to excess can have the opposite of the desired effect, and so it is with perpetual connectedness.
Do you take your smart phone to bed with you?
Does it sit proudly on the night stand in case someone needs you immediately while you sleep?
Do you text and drive?
Does the phone sit on the work surface during meetings?
Is it face up for all to see?
What does all this virtual availability do to your ability to be in the now with the person or persons who are in front of you at that moment?
Does it steal you away for seconds or minutes and make the current experience of you less than idyllic for others?
Is that what you intend?
What about your own mental state?
Are you more or less fatigued by making yourself available all the time and compartmentalizing your mindshare beyond the here and now?
Does this resonate?
Does the device allow work to be with you all of the time thus penetrating your home and personal life?
Here is an interesting experiment: consider going a day without your cell phone. You can leave it with someone responsible who will notify you in the event of a true emergency. Beyond that, however, the idea is to be free of the device and allow yourself to be in the moment without distraction. Even as you read this experimental suggestion, notice what images your mind may be projecting to you. Does the thought of disconnecting make you uncomfortable? If so, why? Are your concerns grounded or are they little more than scary projections of unlikely events? For the majority of history humans have existed without smart phones or connected devices. If a full day is overwhelming, what about just separating from the device during dinner or some other segment of the day?
Beyond the distractions of our technologies, what of the mental gymnastics of how we spend our waking days? How often are we carrying on conversations in our minds and disconnecting from the events in front of us? Do you ever “check out” of the now, and drift off into a conversation in your mind? If you are like most of us, not only do you do this, but you do it a lot. Our minds are busy places. I for one have gotten in my car, driven all the way home and had no real memory of the 15-mile drive. The entire time I was having conversations in my head and was ‘checked out’. Does this ever happen to you? Are there consequences of being checked out? Do co-workers of family and friends ever experience you as checked out when they want you checked in? I would contend that the ability to be in the now, when you choose to be is an important attribute of how people experience you. Being in the now allows you to fully experience the moment. It helps connect people, and ultimately it helps create joy.
Imagine sitting outside on a warm summer day with a light breeze and birds chirping. How long can you sit in nature and experience this without “going in your mind” and carrying on an inner dialog about something else entirely? Some work item, a chore you intended to do but forgot, a conversation you had or are going to have. In this scenario going in your mind becomes a thief. It steals you away from experiencing the moment. People often tell me how difficult it is to disconnect from work even while on vacation. How it takes days or even weeks to ‘unplug’ and settle in. Increasingly people enjoy vacations where technology is unavailable, yet these technology dead zones or better stated nowness sanctuaries are difficult to find.
Now please recognize that I am not suggesting that our inner voice is to be turned off or disregarded as some wholesale recommendation.
Instead I am suggesting that we may spend more time in our minds than we currently recognize and that there may be consequences of that behavior.
Furthermore, that developing awareness around our ability to be present in the now is an important skill that can enhance the experience of our own lives as well as the experience of us by others. Thus developing the ability to be in the now when you choose to be is an important and useful skill that is worth the effort in terms of leading a happy and fulfilled life. In addition, taking the time to decide not just when but what those conversations will be – call this authorship, are vital ingredients of happiness. So, give it a try - practice being in the moment, perhaps lose the device and better yet, listen, smell, feel and see with intent and be the boss of your thoughts!
Do be careful though as mindfulness can be habit-forming and from this authors perspective, what a wonderful addiction to have.
Copyright © 2020 Bruce Flareau
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