The anti-smartphone campaign is in full effect.
There's this recent photo project capturing moments of smartphone distraction, there's the "phone stack" dinner game where the first person to look at their phone has to pay the bill, families are instituting bedroom bans, buying cell phone lockers, and even throwing dinner parties where guests are asked to put their phones in a box at the door.
All this is pointed at one noble idea: reducing distraction, aka the nemesis of mindfulness.
Distraction means you're in a million other places but here. In the digital age, where everything you could ever need is a finger tap away, it's way too easy to get distracted.
But I'm going to tell you something that you may not want to hear: IT'S NOT YOUR SMARTPHONE'S FAULT.
Your phone is just a tool. It can connect you to people near and far. It allows you to share a piece of your life with your friends no matter where you are. It's a newspaper, a scrapbook, a journal, a map, a camcorder, a dictionary, a translator, a market, a travel agent, a TV, a stereo, and yes sometimes it's even a phone. It has a lot of power.
With great power comes great responsibility. But that responsibility is yours and yours alone.
You can use your smartphone as a distraction, taking you out of your conversation, away your dinner with friends, an escape from real life, an abrupt end to your mindfulness.
Or you can use your smartphone to connect on a deeper level. It can be a phone call, a video chat, or sharing a moment with your friends. You can use it to set up a dinner with friends or to map out your after-dinner destination. Your phone is there to look up a yoga schedule to find your zen or even to read this blog so you practice your mindfulness.
Both possibilities and both uses of smartphones exist. It all depends on how you use this amazing tool. It all depends on YOU.
There's all this power sitting there in your pocket. As you go through your day today, will you choose to use that power for good or for evil?
Life is one big personal renovation. Even in that rare moment when I think I've got it all figured out, there's always some part of me that could be fixed up. In my renovation, being mindful about what I can and cannot control is a long-term project.
It's like this...
It's easy to get dissapointed when people don't react the way we want them to. We let the particulars of our world--where we're coming from--dominate our ability to understand the particulars of someone else's world--where they're coming from.
I get frustrated sometimes too, but I keep trying and I keep learning. Starting small always works best.
I stuck a post-it note in my car that says *CHILL*. It reminds me that I can't control the bad drivers out there, I can only control my reaction to them. The high blood pressure isn't worth it, just *CHILL*. And that small seed of mindfulness begins to grow like a flowering vine, blooming and creeping to overtake my reaction to everything from work, to exercise, to Facebook, my health, my friendships, even how I react when my dog won't stop barking. The anger, the doubt, the anxiety, none of that is worth it, just *CHILL*.
Everybody on this planet is different. The more we learn to be mindful of our reaction to those differences--to be a little more *CHILL*--the more happiness we create, for ourselves and for the world around us.
For the first time tonight I saw something else - I saw it all differently.
I realized, the ocean isn't zen because it's piece of nature or because its sound is calming. The ocean is zen because it's a metaphor for life.
I sit here watching the waves glimmer in the moonlight. Each one crashes in like a fleeting thought. Each demands all of our attention with its bluster, impossible to ignore. For that moment there is no other wave, no other thought.
The white foam of the wave lingers and pulls in deeper. It spreads out on the beach of our mind and envelops the entire surface. A moment of calm, a meditation. That moment is the present, the only thing that matters.
But then, just as quickly as it arrived, it fades away back into the sea, back to gray.
Life goes on, the future awaits.
Sometimes a wave crashes in that makes us forget any other wave ever existed. But even those most momentous of waves will disappear just like the rest. New waves, new thoughts, new moments, crash in to become our new present, the new only thing that matters.
We can't hold on to an old wave we wish would linger a little longer and it's useless to worry about what type of wave may come in the future, all we can do is accept the wave that exists right now - let it wash over us, learn from it, feel the calm that comes from accepting it as it is.
Then wait for it all to change again, for life to change again, as the next wave crashes in.
I believe in balance.
There's a yin and yang to life. Sometimes you're happy, sometimes sad. The summer is hot, the winter is cold. One year it floods, the other brings a drought. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I know this might seem clichéd and basic, but typically... most of the time... if you're patient... things even out.
That balance is as much a part of the natural order of things as it is a part of your mindset. In the middle of the yin of a depressing time it's hard to imagine that the yang of happiness exists, but if you can take one moment to realize that this too will pass, that's the one moment of hope that will set you on the path towards joy again.
Expecting balance is one thing you can do to stay present. Pursuing balance directly is another way to help get you there.
You get to determine the path you will take every day. You get to choose whether or not your life has balance.
There are three paths... you could give into all of your desires and eat fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and poutine every day. You could also torture yourself eating only quinoa, kale, and tofu. OR you could strike a balance, learning to enjoy fresh vegetables for all their benefits while also allowing yourself to enjoy life and indulge in a gravy soaked french fry once in a while.
Three paths... you could spend all day updating, commenting, liking, favoriting, and reading articles on Facebook and Twitter. You could also cut yourself off from the world, ignoring messages from friends and the day's news. OR you could strike a balance, using social media to connect and engage but then turning it off when it becomes a distraction and it's time to get work done.
Yin and yang. Life in balance. Everything in moderation.
When you decide to strike a balance, when you make a conscious effort to enjoy both sides of life without overdoing either, that balance slowly becomes the norm. The extremes of your life that caused guilt and anxiety are washed away by your new, even, easygoing, balanced mindset.
We have a tendency these days to overemphasize stress.
When life gets overwhelming--the to-do list is long, 20 tabs open, traffic is taking forever, inbox is overflowing, notifications keep pinging--we chalk it all up to stress. And then we stress about the stress, making life feel that much more stressful.
Our definition of "stress" is largely a modern concoction. Google "define stress" and you'll notice its use over time has increased dramatically in just the last few decades. We only recently learned to blame the normal busyness and anxiety of life on stress.
By giving it a name we made it a target, one we can now obsess over until we create a whole new layer of anxiety that didn't exist before.
It's time to stop the stress cycle.
Look at what's worrying you--the to do list, the notifications, the emails--look 'em square in the eye. Don't get angry at them or frustrated with them. Just acknowledge them. Say, "wassup?"
Then... carry on.
You don't cure stress by stressing about it. Dwelling on it is a waste of time and only makes it worse. You cure stress by mindfully, calmly, happily, continually, deliberately, moving forward.
This is mindfulness. Observing all the personal, professional, local, and global items on your ongoing to-do list, and instead of "stressing" about those items, just do them.
Stress is a part of life, but life is only stressful if you let it.