It seems like everywhere you look, people are looking down- constantly looking at their smart phones, ipods, or tablets whenever there is a break in the action of day-to-day life (and often even in the midst of the action).How does it affect us to be constantly entertained, to live in a world where you need never be idle, where you can always be looking at Facebook, or checking email, or reading an article?
On one hand, this ability to be constantly occupied allows us to be more efficient; to respond to email more quickly, to stay engaged in the world in a different way than before we had this capability.
On the other hand, we no longer have the ebb and flow of activity in daily life that allowed our minds to rest periodically throughout the day. We are constantly stimulated, and constantly expected to respond and engage. This can be exhausting, to say the least.
More than just the exhaustion, I see this pattern of constant availability affect our ability to experience sparks of insight or “ah-ha moments” that can be powerfully transformative. Have you ever been in the shower, thinking of nothing, in particular, when the answer to a nagging problem just “pops into your head?” Often when our minds are quiet, we are able to synthesize information and come to novel solutions that we would have missed had we been actively “working” on finding a solution.
When we allow our minds to be still, rather than constantly engaging in the world around us through texting, tweeting, consuming social media, we open ourselves up to experience the world in a different manner, and to allow ideas, reflections, feelings, to just “pop into our heads.” When allow for the time and opportunity to be still and contemplative, to focus on just BEING instead of constantly DOING, amazing things can happen.
A mindfulness practice I ask many of my clients to experiment with is to “practice the art of waiting.” Try it out for yourself and comment below to let us know how it went for you:
The next time you are waiting in line, for a friend to arrive, for the light to change, for your date to get back from the bathroom, etc… instead of pulling out your phone and engaging, allow yourself to be still and quiet your mind. Focusing on your breath can help you to find the still place within. See what this feels like, at first it may be uncomfortable; you may want to pull that phone out, or start making a grocery list in your head, or go over your unending “to do” list, but try to resist the urge and just quiet your mind and be still. You may be surprised what you experience when you practice the art of waiting.