People often comment during my workshops about the increasing pressure to keep up with the amount of information coming into their lives and the pressure of an “always on” existence. For all the usefulness of our mobile devices they do expose us to constant interruptions from the outside world. Whether emails from our boss, updates from our favourite celebrity, or text messages from our family, there is a constant tug to look at those small screens we carry with us wherever we go.
We need to learn to defend ourselves. We need to exercise control and impose limits. Whether this is turning off all but the most important alarms, switching off all visual alerts, or even (horror or horrors) not carrying the phone with us at all times, we need to do something. Having the self awareness and self control to do any of the above are good skills to develop.
There is an increased interest in mindfulness and meditation amongst geeks these days as a group of people who have hit these problems harder and earlier than most. For some of us this isn’t a new problem. I have tried to meditate every day and exercise mindfulness since first reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books more than twenty years ago when facing a particularly challenging time at work. To say that my success at applying his ideas is patchy is an understatement!
Finding the time and space to meditate, and trying to exercise mindfulness, are both a constant challenge and not getting any easier for any of us. The phones are a symptom as much of a cause and we need to protect ourselves from the various forms of overload to which the modern world subjects us.
Beating ourselves up for not managing to exercise control over our out of control minds just makes the problem worse. Catching ourselves failing and using that as a trigger to return to the moment is part of the game that Pema Chödrön is really good at explaining.
If you are interested I can thoroughly recommend Full Catastrophe Living by John Kabat-Zinn and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. Both are excellent at relating Buddhist philosophy and practice to our modern lives in practical and helpful ways.