returning to our selves

we’ve all had times when we’ve been appalled by someone else’s technology use. recently i was aghast as i witnessed a father and his young daughter share a meal wherein he scrolled through screen after screen on his phone, interacting with his precious one only to tell her to stop fidgeting and eat. he, literally, never made eye contact with her. i know you’ve seen this too. this and so much more. i imagine we also share a nagging sense of wonder about our own engagement with the glowing screens that occupy so much of our days. it’s easy to notice what is wrong about everyone else’s use and to ignore our own growing dependence.

we move through our days in so little touch with our selves. we attend to dizzying sources of stimulation and respond to message indicators of all sorts. we carry on “conversations” in brilliantly effective asynchronous manners, typing and talking into our devices and pushing “send” without forethought or consideration of how said messages will be received. we consume complex ideas (think your favorite news/information site) and inane ones (think you tube) with little distinction all while standing in line to retrieve the coffee order that we’ve texted and paid for in advance of our arrival. we exercise when our fitbits tell us to, feel tired when they tell us we haven’t slept well, and drive where the google voice directs us. so much for listening to our bodies or looking to the sun, stars, or street signs for guidance.

i have to believe we are missing out.

neuropsychologists, philosophers, theologians, poets, contemplatives, and grandmothers of all stripes offer evidence that the way we are (or are not) present in and to our embodied experience shapes not only our own personal experience but also the experiences of those around us. the ways in which we are listened and attended to impacts the manner with which we share ourselves. the attention we pay to the sights, smells, and sounds around us determines the level of impact that our context has upon our being. when we move through such context filtering out embodied stimuli by attending to our digital devices we miss out on opportunities for real time stretching and growth. 

our devices have become familiar friends, allowing us places of refuge and “known-ness” whenever we need them. our reliance upon them makes life comfortable and convenient to such a great extent that we are rarely required to dig deep to find out what we are really made of. gone are the days of wrestling with a map, of having to memorize an address or phone number, of happening on a complete flop of a restaurant, of having to wait until morning for just about anything (a conversation, a purchase, to be entertained). with this has gone any kind of consistent internal checking in with ones self about how resilient and resourceful we really might be able to be. while this is not, in and of itself, a terrible thing, i believe we are at risk of conveniencing ourselves to death. 

it is time to engage; time to put our phones down and look up and around, to smell the smells that offend and taste flavors previously unknown. it is time to look into the eyes of the person taking our orders and to catch the eye of a passerby even if only to acknowledge a shared humanity with a caring, empathic glance or to grow our ability to handle awkward moments. time to leave the phone in the trunk or backpack in order to really notice the space that we are in, to listen more fully to the sounds or the people we are with. it’s time to step outside to check the weather and to look inside to see if we are tired, or hungry, or need a good long walk. time to stretch ourselves to enjoy an experience without taking a single photo or posting anything about it simply because it might grow our internal world to do so. it is time to wrestle with a complex thought or two rather than skimming unending sources for more more more.

living in a culture and time that glorifies multi tasking means that a majority of us have come to think that attention divided between our devices and whatever else we are doing is a benign reality. more than anything else, i would like to question this assumption. when we are attending to a screen (of any kind) we are less present first to our selves and second to others. this is everything but benign. it makes our awareness of our own selves less atuned which deeply impacts our relationships with the people, things, ideas, and realities around us.

in the coming month i am making a concerted effort to expand my single mindedness and committing to expand my comfort with checking in with my self before doing so with a device or content that a device brings to me. i am going to work at being present to the sensual stimuli around me, the ideas and feelings within me, and the message indicators of my body more and those of devices less. i intend to encounter others more fully and to grow my ability to tolerate discomfort and inconvenience in every good and stretching way.

would you like to join me and the community of others who are doing the same? if so, click here to sign up for a ten minute device free experiential challenge to be delivered to your email box each day in april. these will be stress free, easy to do experiences which will require almost no pre-preparation (some days you might need a writing tool and paper). you choose your ten minutes and go from there. i would love to embark on this experience together, knowing our shared health and groundedness will only make the world a better place to truly live.