Mind full or Mindful?
On Mondays I attend my favorite yoga class. Every week, as class disperses and the yogis and yoginis depart, most of them head straight to their phone to see what they’ve missed. The hour they spend unifying their breath and body, finding peace, and practicing mindfulness, is shattered almost immediately after they leave the studio. Why is it so hard to practice mindfulness in our modern society? Here is my take on why practicing mindfulness every day is so hard.
In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, portable devices that go everywhere with us, and social media – my apology to the medium that is feeding my creative outlet – we have created a situation where we cannot be alone with our thoughts. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, even Next Door, all technological wonders designed to bring us together, have isolated us socially to an extreme. We have to tweet our every move, find out what everyone else is doing, and generally entertain ourselves at all times. This creates a situation similar to addiction where we are more and more dependent on our sources of entertainment, and, in fact, our devices themselves. The dependency creates a situation where we feel alone and uncomfortable with our own company. Have you ever seen a couple at dinner, both looking at their devices rather than enjoying one another’s company? I find it sad that we are building a relationship with the least relatable thing in our world, technology. Think about these behaviors that may impact your quality of life:
- Talking on the phone while grocery shopping.
- Looking at our devices instead of engaging with others in a social situation.
- Texting instead of talking on the phone.
- Taking pictures and video of events in our lives instead of living them in real time.
Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman makes the case that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. He believes that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. Lieberman’s article in Scientific American, “Why We Are Wired to Connect”, talks about the implications of social connections in our lives. Our social bonds are being threatened by the very methods we choose to maintain those bonds.
If we spend more time connecting with people in real time, we might feel more connected to others, enjoy our life a little bit more, and be happier. I agree that it is a matter of basic need to connect with others, an important facet of good health. Being mindful would also bring a little more civility and thoughtfulness to our world. Think about what you are doing rather than trying to multi-task makes it much more likely that you won’t be rude or inconsiderate of others, because you won’t be distracted.
Why does all this matter? Because in the grand scheme of things, everything we do as individuals affects our collective quality of life. It takes a village to create a happy culture, not just to raise a child. In addition, part of mindfulness is being non-judgmental. If we as a society were a bit less judgmental, there would be far less bullying and shaming in the world. Eckhart Tolle summed it up in this quote: “In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just being.”
My advice? Think less, seek less, want less and just be. And remember, wherever you go, there you are.