Minutes after the 6 a.m. alarm sounds, I stumble to the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot. Next stop: charging station, where I hastily pick up my cell phone and start scanning emails. Immediately, my mind jumps to a laundry list of today’s tasks. A sense of urgency takes over my entire being. While it seems as if the workday has already begun, it hasn’t. In fact, I’m still at home with my family.
Welcome to my morning routine before I discovered mindfulness. What’s changed, you might wonder? Well, a lot. And it’s not that life is suddenly perfect, but in fairness, mindfulness has empowered me with a tremendous capacity to turn off autopilot, so I can engage with life more intentionally and authentically.
Now, I start my morning with a little meditation. Do I think about my phone and computer? You bet. In fact, sometimes they’re the unintended, hot topics of my meditation session. Key, however, is that I rarely act on thoughts, or impulses, to feverishly check email first thing in the morning. Instead, I stay true to my intention to connect with myself first. It may sound selfish, but I haven’t found a better way to offer my full presence to others without this foundation.
Mindfulness & Technology
Let’s talk for a few moments about technology. On the one hand, it’s made life a heck of a lot easier and more enjoyable. Think of a soldier in the middle of an Afghanistan desert who’s able to see his children’s beaming smiles on video chat. All it takes is a couple clicks and we can send a comforting text message to a loved one or pay an electric bill at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, the temping nature of technology makes it hard to engage with life as it is right now. We can become seduced by our virtual world and unintentionally lose touch with ourselves—and each other.
Sherry Turkle, a professor and clinical psychologist at MIT, has researched the impact of technology on relationships, especially in children. In her aptly titled book, “Alone Together,” she discusses how technology causes children to connect on a superficial level. The cost, she reports, is that those over-connected to all things digital end up feeling more isolated, lonely and overwhelmed.
It would be easy to blame technology for such problems, but thankfully we have much more personal control over the matter. Instead, we can learn to be in wise relationship to technology, leveraging its many benefits without letting it overtake our lives. If it sounds like hard work, you’re (unfortunately) right. The amount of external distractions competing for our attention will likely not change, so it’s up to us to decide how best to manage them. Some things you may want to consider:
- Designate times of the day or days of the week when everyone in the family unplugs. It doesn’t have to be for an extended period of time to reap the benefits of really being together.
- Pay careful attention to the impact technology has on you. Does the ping of a text message or email cause you to stop everything you’re doing? Notice if you feel a sense of urgency to read and respond. Put on your detective hat to discover your automatic tendencies around technology. Just have fun with it and don’t take it personal! Insight into your habits is key to making more intentional choices next time.
- Take a deep breath before answering your phone or reading a text message.
- Set realistic boundaries for yourself. You might not read email after 8 pm or until you’ve been awake in the morning for at least an hour.
Many of my clients admit they are downright exhausted from being plugged in all the time. I can relate. Even when I was on “break” back in the day, my mind never took a break. Instead, it was consumed with emails, texts and tweets I needed to attend to upon returning. The nice thing about using technology mindfully is that it can help us stay grounded and calm by counteracting the effects of 24/7 connectivity and information overload. It can also help us engage in a deeper, more authentic way with our virtual world and present reality.
Curious to learn more? Check out some of our upcoming mindfulness classes.