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?