Disconnect from your favorite distractions and reconnect with yourself.
When is the last time you paid attention to something? Really, really paid attention. That is, you put down your cell phone, closed your laptop, turned off the TV or radio, took out your headphones and really paid attention to the moment. If you are like most people, it will take you some time to come up with something.
For you see, these days, distractions abound. If you have a cellphone, more than 90% of the U.S. population does, chances are your receive some kind of alert anytime anyone that you know, or don’t know, decides to send you some information. We are constantly barraged with phone calls, texts, emails, news alerts, sales, weather updates, flight schedules, and more. Just today, the Couch to 5K app took it upon itself to send me a text to let me know it was time to dust off my shoes and go for a run (I didn’t). Your screen may light up, or you may even get a sound or other signal when this information comes in. And, no matter what else you are doing, it is hard to resist that signal. And when you check to see what it is you immediately the leave experience of the current moment and allow distraction.
This happens so much that we cultivate the habit of seeking distraction and lose the skill of focus or presence. Suddenly, the present moment isn’t compelling enough. Do you check your computer or phone while eating? While watching TV? While talking to a friend? Do you listen to music or podcasts while your drive? While you work? While you workout? These are very commonplace habits, and many of us enjoy working out with music, or chatting and driving. However, each of those things does represent a form of not being fully present, and weakens our ability to stay focused.
I had an interesting experience recently. I was headed out on a 10-hour road trip. To prepare, I had loaded my phone with podcasts and music. I had phone numbers programmed in my phone, so I could catch up on phone calls. My phone had the route already set, and was ready to alert me when it was time to make a turn or exit. I was driving my son’s car and picked up the charger that was there to connect my phone. Well, I don’t think it was the right charger for that phone because my screen went black and my phone died instantly. So there I was. Just me, in the car for 10 hours without my podcasts and music and phone numbers. I was forced to just do the thing I was doing–driving 10 hours. And so I did. I looked for distraction via FM radio, yet there were long stretches without reception. So I got to actually experience what I was doing. I felt the road under my tires and heard the rush of other cars. I noticed the clear blue of the sky–it was a gorgeous day. I saw and felt the character of the small towns I passed through, and even got to investigate my feelings, assumptions and judgments about them. I noticed formations of birds and shapes of clouds, and dense forests flanking the highway. I noticed, and accepted, my impatience, and my frustration when I saw a sign that indicated I had more time left to drive than I thought.
And then I arrived at my destination, and the experience ended. Like most things, it was temporary. So I decided to reflect on the lessons, which I am still doing. And I decided to surrender. I had two more days before my phone, with one week left on its warranty (when does that ever happen, right?) was replaced. I knew I was missing calls and texts. And I realized that most of those were distractions, and that I could mindfully decide who I truly needed to communicate with. Most things are not as urgent as we think–we just create more distraction by crafting a story about how important everything is, how involved we need to be, and how busy we are. I am very busy, and I know that some of that “busy-ness” is of my own creation and not truly necessary.
I am committed to continuing to learn from this experience. I am checking my phone less, and only after I had been present for what I need to do. This morning, instead of picking up my phone first thing to check messages and email, I left it on my nightstand while I went through my morning rituals, including oil pulling and meditation, which I often do only after I have filled my mind with whatever popped up on my phone. Only after meditation did I check my phone, and, guess what. Nothing was urgent.
I challenge you to disconnect from your distractions. Just a little. And when you do, see if you can detach from some of the stories that create the urgency. Can you then come back to reconnect to yourself, just a little more, and bring more of your present self fully into each moment? Try it. And let me know how it goes!
At Being Well Yoga, we have workshops, retreats, and classes that let you practice disconnecting from distractions so you can regain perspective, reconnect to yourself, and manage work and stress more mindfully. Read on about what we have going on, and sign up for a workshop or retreat today. It may be just the pause you need to make a change.