Tending To The Moment

This weekend I started a simple experiment: to pay attention to being moment.

In the last week, I’ve kept coming across different blog posts, TED talks and reflections on how being constantly focused on our smart phones or our technology is damaging. A quick sum up of the argument is that being engaged with our devices all the time gives us an excuse to be around people without engaging with them, it lets us edit ourselves to a huge degree, and over time it builds the tendency to fill any moment that we’re alone.

I can definitely see the wisdom in that assessment, but I’m also a lady who loves carrying my iPad with from room to room, listening to podcasts. I love my gadgets and I’m more than a little attached to my twitter feed. I can understand scaling back, but as a policy I’m not going to axe anything that adds to my life.

{image: watering can by Sadie Olive }

The argument goes that by being engaged in our devices or just by letting our minds do their thing, without realizing it we put up a buffer between us & what’s happening around us. We’re present but not really listening to the people we talk to, we’re listening to our internal assessment of what they’re saying. We’re checking Twitter instead of actually listening to someone we’re talking to. We can remove ourselves from emotional situations by diving into a window of escape. We can let our minds wander into the past and beat ourselves up for mistakes, or vault ahead into the future and imagine the effect of our actions. We spin stories about other people’s intentions and compare ourselves to them instead of working with what we have.

I have a relentlessly active mind and, as my blog banner suggests, I’m a rampant daydreamer. For me that means that my head is often far removed from where I am at a given moment. I work around it by tying lines that will tug me back to earth when I start to drift into the clouds, usually in the form of lists or alarms on my phone. That works for me, by and large. But sometimes I don’t give the focused attention that I would want the people around me to give back, and I know that my G.A.D. makes me especially prone to daydreaming out negative consequences that will be the end of the world! Or the end of the world in my head, at least.

It seems to me that it would be better to focus that energy on cooking, quantum physics or almost anything else.

So without being to woo-woo about any of it, this is what I tried:

  1. I turned off the most frequent notifications on my phone & made the choice to use my devices when I needed them, but not to check them whenever the thought crossed my mind.
  2. I tried to notice when my mind is starting to imagine the future or re-playing scenes from the past & ground myself in the moment by shifting my focus to what’s happening around me.

The results were really amazing.

{ image: butterfly bouquet by Nikki Cross Applesauce }

In the first day I had an amazing & simple idea that’s going to be the next big thing for Freckled Nest and noticed that I was having so much more fun with my friends and with my husband. The day seemed to stretch on forever, I felt more able to adapt to what was going on around me and to make choices (like working out) that usually hard for me to commit to. I was less frustrated, more positive, and I actually accomplished more than usual. I loved it, and I’m going to work hard on continuing it to see how it effects my work life and how it works once my beginner’s luck wears off.

My weekend experiment also snapped a strange (and obvious) realization into focus for me: we put so much time into tending to the things about us that people can see, when we could be putting that energy into shaping how we feel every day.

It’s worth considering, especially since you don’t have to choose between them. :)

How do you tend to your inner life? Do you have any techniques or little rituals that help keep you grounded and in the moment? Does keeping connected charge you up or do you need time to unplug?

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There are 27 responses already, join in!
  1. I love this! I related to so much of what you were saying in the beginning about being with someone but not *really* listening – I may try this each night this week!

  2. I’ve found myself in a similar space recently and made the decision (like you) to re-evaluate and change some of the notifications on my phone. I also completely removed the Twitter apps I had and am leaving my Twitter time to when I’m physically at my computer or on the iPad. I’ve also been frustrated lately that I haven’t had the time to work out that I’d like, except that the days I HAVE made time for it (first! prioritizing!), the work I do when I am working is more focused and productive. Interesting :)

  3. A few weeks ago, I was reading one of those “what’s in my bag” posts and somewhere in there was a line roughly said “My Iphone! Without it, I’d actually have to think when I have nothing else to do and that’s not happened in a few years” This sentence really hit me. I think she meant it as a joke ( I rather hope she did) but it still make me quite sad because she is right: If we fill every second, every waiting time, every one of those little spaces that always create themselves during the day with our electronic gadgets and silly games then we have absolutely no space left to think. I find that sometimes the best ideas come about when I’m literally staring into space or when I keep my hands busy with something practical (sewing, washing up, braiding my hair etc) that doesn’t require too much attention. Listening to a podcast while doing so is fun, but it does take away that room to let my thoughts expand into because they are automatically guided by what I’m listening to.

  4. A very interesting post. I often find myself wondering where days are going and why not as many things as I would like have been crossed off my to-do lists… I am full of ideas, yet not full of productivity. Maybe this is something I need to try….

  5. I can totally relate to this. I also have GAD and I too tend to daydream about my world turning upside down! One little trick I was taught to stop this downward spiral, was to ask myself “Can I FEEL my feet on the ground?”, and then stop and really FEEL my feet on the ground. I grounds me every time!

  6. I love this Kyla. I am bad about being tied to my phone and email and twitter and etc. I find that keeping my phone on silent helps a lot because then I only check it when I want to / have time. Eric and I have also started leaving our phones at home when we go out for dinner and such.

  7. I uninstalled Facebook from my phone and I’m debating on Twitter too. During work Twitter is going to be shut off so I’m not constantly picking up the phone when the red light flashes.

  8. I love this post. I really need to try this. I am so bad at all being connected. I fill my time with stuff but have no time for me and I fuss when I have no me time =/ I need to break the cycle.

  9. I instituted a no email after 5pm during the week rule & on weekends I really try to not connect too much with the internet past my morning coffee and blog reading. It helps to get perspective and not always be wondering or checking in with people around the world, as well as allows me to be more present with myself, though the productivity part I was hoping for in disconnecting for a bit has not quite kicked in yet!

  10. Hi Kyla,
    I just wanted to introduce myself and say hi. Sarah from SillyGrrl sent me over to your blog since you talk openly about GAD. I recently started blogging about my struggles with an undiagnosed illness as well as depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. I made the comment that when I was really struggling I couldn’t find any blogs I wanted to read that openly blogged about their struggles so she suggested your blog. I’m glad she sent me over your way!
    Abby
    beekneelife.blogspot.com

  11. “We can let our minds wander into the past and beat ourselves up for mistakes,”

    This is SO true for me! I loved this post and I am definitely going to try your tricks to be more in the moment.

  12. This is so great, Kyla! I struggle with this too, for sure – the siren song of all the gadgets… My two big motivations for keeping boundaries around all the social media/ phone apps/ etc stuff are 1) as you said, not being distracted all the time opens up so much more time to create. There’s this Gertrude Stein quote that “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.” In other words, your creativity needs nothing-time to just simmer and stew in order to come up with good ideas. You can’t be distracted and do the physical living on auto-pilot all the time and ALSO have a rich creative life, any more than you can be that way and parent a small child well. Which brings me to 2) my kids – I’m so aware of them watching me interact with the world and I don’t want them to see me in front of a screen, big or small, 24/7. When they complain about being bored, I say “good! You’ll probably come up with something really fun to do next because you’re bored right now. Go be bored and see what happens.” They don’t like it when I say it, but they usually DO end up thinking of some awesome new game or project soon after. So I have to practice what I preach, and try to keep screen time and family time from overlapping too much. Super hard though. Good for you for this experiment!
    Alison
    findtruenorth.typepad.com

  13. Thanks for this post and a great reminder! I take my weekends computer-free and try to be really consistent about it. It makes them a true “weekend.” It helps that I don’t have a smartphone. I love knowing the computer is in rest mode for two whole days…makes the whole house seem quieter and the days longer. ; )

  14. so true!! I feel sometimes like my attention span has gone to mush because of the ease of being connected instantly to everything. I’ve been working on developing two hobbies lately—yoga and hiking—which both force me to be disconnected. In yoga I’m not allowed to bring my phone into the studio, and there is a big emphasis on keeping your thoughts focused during class, so that’s been a huge help. And when I go hiking I don’t usually have a phone signal so that forces me to enjoy the outdoors and my time with Ben :) technology can be such a great tool but it’s super easy to abuse and I struggle with that a lot. thanks for sharing some of your ideas and experiences!

  15. Wow! What a great thought provoking post. Your line about putting enery into shaping how we feel everyday really rang true for me. Thanks:)

  16. When I feel I’ve been online etc too long, I pretty much say to myself “that’s it” and turn off the computer or put the phone away, and then go pick up a book or go join people in another room. I’m a bit of a daydreamer too, but I got in the habit of checking the clock when it happens so I keep myself grounded when needed.

    Holidays away from the internet is a brilliant way of living life in the moment. I actually found it difficult to get back into blogging after a holiday like that.

  17. I love this. I’m actually pretty good at switching technology off when I don’t *need* to be using it, but I have friends who are not. They can’t sit and talk to me for half an hour without having three simultaneous conversations via Facebook… and it’s irritating. I’d go so far to say it’s insulting to me. I would love to see more people switching off their smart phones and focusing on what’s right in front of them.

    Oh, that sounds so grumpy!

  18. Madre

    What an excellent post! On a recent trip out of the country I was quite surprised at how anxious I was to leave my iPhone at home. I hadn’t expected that feeling! But after almost two weeks of cold turkey no-phone, the cycle was broken, and limiting my phone checking habit has been easier. Also, I hadn’t realized how much I did check it until I didn’t have it. While away, it was far easier to be in the moment without the too-easy distraction of the phone. Being here now is a lifelong quest. One of the best tools for encouraging being present is a few deep slow breaths. I try that before I check my phone sometimes, and it slows me down.

  19. Clare Devine

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. I was hoping you could direct me to the TED talk you are referring. Today at university we had a talk about mindfulness and I thought about your blog post. I would love to watch the talk that spurred you to this post.

  20. Lo

    Blogging out and making lists are my way to tune out. I found with a blackberry I turned it off more because it was easier, now that I have to press more buttons on my android and can actually USE the browser I find my laptop has become a portable TV and my phone an extra hip bone. It seems that I need to pay more attention to life…truly inspiring!

  21. I am so guilty of spending too much time on my phone. I am embarrassed to even say that sometimes when my husband and I go out to dinner, while waiting for our food we will both just sit there on our phones. I really want to make it a rule that we don’t do this. Especially in public.

    I also recently stopped keeping my phone by my bed, which was great except for the whole alarm-clock part. I moved it back, but I think I need a better remedy. I hate that my phone is sometimes the last thing I think about at night and the first thing in the morning.

    I’m really inspired to read the positive effects you’ve had so far! :)

    • Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone in the iPhone’s at dinner thing at all! We’re trying to cut back on it- especially in public too ;)

  22. I love the idea of stepping back and paying more attention to what’s happening in the moment. This is very good insight. It’s difficult for me to pay more attention to what’s going on now rather than what’s going on in the future, but it’s definitely a good thing to do.

  23. I totally appreciated this post Kyla. I recently stumbled upon a new blog and in exploring through the archives came across a simple concept: the morning journal. To wake up, and write. I’ve been doing it for almost a week now. Its hard though, cuz my first instinct is to turn off my phone alarm and check twitter or facebook. But I’ve been consciously putting the phone down and picking up my journal. Its led to lots of big revelations this week. I used to consider myself a writer, but I’ve gotten away from it in this world of 140 characters. Getting it back has helped me to put my feelings into words and give them a voice. And that in turn lead to such much needed and therapeutic conversations about said feelings with my husband. This being in the moment each morning has been huge, even just this week. Great post and great words my friend!! :D

  24. LOVE this outlook. It’s something I try and balance out everyday as well.

  25. This was much needed for me to read. I am a fellow rampant and ferocious day-dreamer, and so much of this clicked.

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