The weather has gotten nicer lately and since the time change, it stays lighter later. I’m not much one for exercise, so planning for that is pretty much a pipe dream. But I know that Samuel, my therapy dog, and I need to spend more time outdoors. Americans generally spend too much time indoors, so I have learned.
My Version of the Outdoors
I did what I haven’t done since September. I got a washcloth and slowly tore down months of dirty dust off of my teak wooden lounge chair on my patio. It took all of five minutes. Bring out the cushions, a beverage, a writing pad, and a pen, and voilà! There you have it: my version of the great outdoors.
Samuel took all of the room up in my lap and before I decided to use him as a table for my writing pad, I just sat there. I looked at the branches of the pine trees swaying delicately in the breeze. I observed silhouettes of bodies moving about in their living areas across the way. These neighbours didn’t have their blinds closed. I entertained myself by watching Samuel just be. Five minutes passed; I looked at my analogue watch. Ten minutes passed; I looked at it again. All the while I was getting used to the practice of being with myself. In this technology-laden culture, being unplugged is a novelty.
Then I looked at my watch and only three minutes had passed. I had two minutes left to go. I wouldn’t say that this deliberate practice of a form of mindfulness was easy. The temptation to get up, grab my phone, and check it, was there. But it became easier as time went on.
Here’s the thing with mindfulness: there is no prescribed way to do it. Some people picture a yogi with crossed legs on the side of a desolate mountain with her eyes closed. But mindfulness can also be the deliberate paying attention to whatever you are doing, preferably not having to do anything with technology. Mindfulness can be whatever you want it to be.
Being Plugged into Technology
All day I am plugged in. I have my computer screen in front of me, the business phone to my side, and my personal mobile phone within arm’s reach. I have that phone on vibrate, but the screen lights up when there is any activity. I’m apt to be checking it soon thereafter. My coworkers know that if they need to get a hold of me immediately, they can text instead of emailing me at my work email, the latter of which doesn’t come to my phone. Luckily this sort of texting doesn’t happen often.
I try to block out time during the day to focus on a set of certain tasks, such as making my outbound calls on the new leads which are constantly coming in. Only, when an email arrives at my computer’s Outlook, there is a small, faint “ping” of a noise. I should probably turn the sound off, but I feel that it helps to keep me alert and it gives me the ability to respond to emails in a very timely manner. Who is setting up the expectations for communication here?
The Novelty of Being Unplugged
When you are unplugged, a whole world can open up. This newfound silence can be anxiety-provoking at first. Your time doesn’t even have to be spent in silence! You can be engaged in conversation. The point is, you are not looking at a phone or any other kind of screen, including a television. You don’t have to do this for long periods of time. Heck, you don’t have to even do it at all! But if you make the choice to do this, try it for five minutes on the first day. Then on the second day, try it for ten minutes, and so on. Only do what you are comfortable with. You can even change your mind in the middle of those five minutes and give yourself permission to say, “I don’t want to be doing this right now.”
The Youngest of Minds
I have heard stories of friends whose toddlers throw a fit if their tablet is taken away from them. I don’t think that we should be letting the youngest minds of our generation attach themselves to any sort of technology. It takes a lot of effort to grow a young mind and there is a reason for that. The mind is still being formed and neural networks are being developed. Young minds learn by observing other humans and by doing things physically themselves, not by looking at a screen and tapping on a few buttons.
This is What it Has Come To
Once, when I was in the seating area of an airport waiting for a plane, I noticed a young mother with her baby. I always notice when there are babies around because I absolutely love them. The baby was in a cloth carrier facing her mother. I mean, the baby’s face was right there! Still, the mother did not engage with her child. She shoved a cell phone in front of the baby’s face, projecting some kind of kid’s entertainment in the form of a video. When the baby tried to look away, she was obviously bored, the mother would adjust the position of the cell phone to be in front of the baby’s face again. Is this how we are raising our children these days? Please tell me it’s not true. I do not know if this was an anomaly or standard fare.
I do not own a television. I haven’t had one for over five years. And I am doing fine, just fine! Once every few months I get a hankering to watch a movie, and so I pull my external speakers from out of the closet and plug them into my computer. YouTube has plenty of videos available for rent via a Google account. It works out great.
My Wishes for the Future
My hope is that my own future children will not have too much of an introduction to technology for the first few years of their lives. “Too much” is relative and technology is all around us, all of the time. But if a child can turn a banana into a truck with the power of their imagination, imagine the lengths that our adult minds could strive towards if that were to be what we wanted? Hence, the virtue of writing, and writing by hand. The possibilities of where I can go with a pen in my hand are endless. I intend to never stop that creative production of the countless ways in which I can put English words together.