Truly Inhabiting Time

screen addiction, phone addiction, mindfulness,

CC by 2.0 MK Feeney’s flickr photostream

Last night I sat in a dark theater next to the man I love watching The Imitation Game. It was a compelling story, brilliantly acted. Yet several times during the movie I was tempted to take out my phone. I wanted to verify the story* and find out more about its subject, Alan Turing. I’m not rude enough to actually check my phone during the movie, instead I sat there castigating myself for having the urge in the first place.

Although I write a lot about living in the moment and cultivating awe, I’m apparently on my way to becoming a phone junkie.

We tune out from ourselves because the options are so enticing. There’s an endless wealth of information and entertainment for us to discover. A walk with earbuds, sure. A phone to check while we’re waiting in line, entirely handy. Social media to indulge in, masterful performances to watch, obscure online articles to read.. (Guilty throat-clearing noise from me.)

What we forget is that each repeated choice we make teaches our brains to prefer that choice. It’s the neurological equivalent of driving along the exact same tracks in a dirt road, making ruts deeper and deeper until it’s nearly impossible to steer away. It’s easy to create these mental ruts thanks to dopamine, our brain’s feel-good chemical. We’re wired to get a rush of dopamine from all sorts of everyday delights. A problem solved, a friend’s smile across the room, kiss, a hug—ding goes a dopamine reward.  That’s also true of an answered tweet—ding. A text—ding. Ding ding ding from Instagram, channel flipping, and Candy Crush Saga.

A study found that people who were asked to forgo media contact for 24 hours (no texting,email, Facebook, TV, or cell phone use) actually suffered withdrawal symptoms. They experienced anxiety, cravings, and preoccupations so overwhelming that their ability to function was impaired. College students now say they spend 8 to 10 hours a day on their phones, 60 percent admit they’re addicted.

We’re actually rewiring the way we live minute-to-minute. We’ve tuned ourselves to need distraction. Side effect? This makes us less comfortable with distraction’s opposite—-the powerfully real time spent in contemplation, daydreams, and face-to-face conversation.

I don’t want to be trapped in the cage of my skull. I want to live fully in body and spirit as well as mind, to truly inhabit the mortal time given to me.

So I’ll be watching more closely where I direct my attention, hopefully rewiring the way I engage with the world around me. Next time I want to be in the theater next to my husband entirely drawn into the movie. When I walk out of the theater I want to look up and enjoy the stars. Then I want to drive to the home we’ve made together, staying right there in the moments unique to our lives. That’s it. That’s enough.

I wish that life should not be cheap, but sacred.  I wish the days to be as centuries, loaded, fragrant.   ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

distraction, living fully, mindfulness, screen addiction,

CC by 2.0 epSos .de’s flickr photostream

*Yes, I checked later. The movie took plenty of liberties with the real story.
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9 thoughts on “Truly Inhabiting Time

  1. This is beautifully written, Laura. For me, leaving the world of social media was a lot like quitting smoking. It was difficult at first to break the patterns that led me outside of myself and my particular world, but the longer I stayed at it the better I felt. Now, I feel as if my brain is clearer, like the lungs of a nonsmoker, and my senses are sharper. I wish you many, many “in the moments” ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I struggle with trying to find that right balance too. I tell myself that I’m not as bad as others (judging them) and that makes me feel better for a moment (thank you brother dopamine). But then something in my pocket goes “ding” and I immediately reach for it.

    I think of these wise words from Wendell Berry’s “How to Be a Poet”

    Breathe with unconditional breath
    the unconditioned air.
    Shun electric wire.
    Communicate slowly. Live
    a three-dimensioned life;
    stay away from screens.
    Stay away from anything
    that obscures the place it is in.
    There are no unsacred places;
    there are only sacred places
    and desecrated places.

    Easier said than done, of course, but worthy goals.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d been saving this to read at a quiet moment and today was the perfect timing for it. I strive to keep my social media use in check, and this week has been particularly bad for my self-control. I notice when I pay attention to my phone more than other things, the whole family misbehaves, including myself. Thank you for a beautiful reminder to be in the moment, not on FB.

    Like

  4. I’m fairly new to your blogs, Laura, a longtime first grade teacher….I have the most concern for our youngest: little experience with reflection, but an instant reflex to seek an immediate electronic response to every question.

    Like

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