Simple acts for mindful living

The longer we live this way, the more I realize how strange we are. I can safely say almost every other person we know lives a good portion of their days on social media, and their free time is often dominated by those interactions. I don’t say that as some jab at our friends or family. We each get to decide how we will spend our time. It’s one of the few things we control in this life. But sometimes I forget how much time and intention we got back the day we quit social media. It takes time to follow a feed, time to keep up an account .. or two or four.. Looking back I realize we were trying to make intentional choices to live fuller lives before we quit, and quitting didn’t fix it all.. we continue to find new ways to reclaim our time.

Do I miss social media sometimes? Yep. Do I miss the hundreds of dopamine hits in an hour from posting something and being reminded that I’m liked, noticed, not forgotten, and maybe a tad worshipped? Of course I do. But I look at the rhythms of our days, the purposeful activity and the continuing struggles and chaos, and I think to myself, “how did I ever find the time for something that demanded and wasted so much of it?”

 

In that spirit, I share with you some simple acts that fill our days and weeks to help us live more mindfully. I paired them with some little (majorly amateur) sketches.. something I never tried before I quit social media because, well, who has the time to waste it on crappy little sketches?   don’t worry. I’m not quitting my day job…  ox

 

Wake up to the sun, coffee, and prayers / meditations, whatever.. just not your phone.

We set the tone for what matters most with what we choose to put first. If your phone is your alarm clock, spend a few bucks on amazon and order an alarm clock. You will reclaim the start of your days instead of your technology claiming you.

 

Listen to podcasts – or better yet, make one. Take an improv class, get your hands dirty and plant a small garden, paint or watercolor, write messy poems, draw childish drawings, cook from scratch, blog, mall walk, learn about wellness and health, use essential oils, start a business or a shop. just move and breathe and make something of your time that only a human could make.

 

Hand-write letters to the people you are thinking of. It can be one sentence or a hundred, both are valued equally in this fraught and fast-paced culture of tech. There is nothing like receiving a stamped, scribbled, paper something in the mail to remind you of your person-hood, your connection to the tangible.

 

Five years ago we were self-employed creatives, had two creative little boys, and yet most of our free time was spent indoors sitting in front of the television. One afternoon, we had reached a breaking point with their energy levels and we went to a local hiking park with a big lake. Jeremy and I walked hand in hand, the brothers threw in rocks and made big splashes. They were.. free. At the end of that day, I wrote Jeremy a note that said, “what if we killed our TV?” He said “let’s do it!” and within a week, we were living a richer, freer, and more active life together as a family.

It’s big, ugly, and the only piece of furniture in your house that demands you pay attention to it at all the wrong times. “But I want to decorate my living room around the ugliest piece of furniture I own!” signed, no one ever. Most of what you watch on your TV can be viewed on your computer. But, unlike the fugly rectangle, you get to decide when to get that out and when to put it away. It’s been over five years since we had a television and I could write a book on the ways our lives have changed since we got rid of that ball and chain.

 

We have a trip to the library every two weeks. Each trip I make sure to check out at least one book, sometimes more. My goal is that at least one book will be read in that time frame and for our kids to do the same. It saves money, since it keeps me from purchasing countless books on amazon, and it ensures that I / we continue to cultivate our minds with new information. { If I really want a book to be a permanent fixture in my life, I can purchase it from amazon after reading it the first time. }

 

I heard somewhere it takes twenty minutes to regain the concentration you had when interrupted. I also know what it feels like to be at coffee or lunch with someone and see their eyes glancing down at their phone each time a new notification pops up that someone on Instagram commented on their photo. Life already has enough interruptions, and none of us wants to be remembered for “she just lived a really disjointed, distracted life…” Notifications are nothing but distractions and, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, dear ones.

 

If you bristle to the idea of turning notifications off, maybe ask yourself why. No amount of notifications are urgent enough to substitute a calm and clear mind, a focused sense of self, or a meaningful human connection in the present given moment.

 

If you carry your phone in your back pocket when you are out running errands, don’t stay in “errand” mode once you are home. If your phone isn’t in use, it should not be touching you. Your four walls are your sanctuary, where you get to decide what touches you and what doesn’t. Put the phone in the technology basket. This will help you resist the temptation to fondle it like a third tit, just because its there.

Which also means .. have a technology basket!

I already mentioned it in this darling little post a little while ago, but the technology basket has been a small tangible thing that’s allowed us to reclaim big intangible virtues. We will never live without one again… unless we become amish and just get rid of technology all together..

 

Take time to follow the advice of the monk Brother David Steindl-Rast and make sure there are rhythms built into your life where you stop, look, go. I also like to think of it as stop. look / listen. go. It’s only through listening to the voice of the God who calls me beloved that I can see clearly or act in any way apart from self-absorption or self-doubt.

 

I invite you to ask yourself, “when am I building time into my days, weeks, months, and years to stop. look / listen. go?”

Whether that means taking the plunge and taking ten days off in a guided, meditative creative challenge (click here to find out about reset, the creative detox course I wrote) or just deciding that Sundays will be a “phone sabbath,” I hope you are encouraged to build patterns into your life to make sure there are times when you are stopping the normal chaotic flow and slowing down long enough to be present and grow.

 

with care,

ash

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lottie I read this when you first posted it and saved it to write a comment on later. Which I’m doing now after a bit on consideration…

When my mom moved away to college (in 1988) she left behind the tv, and decided to never get another one. She married my dad a week after graduating and never looked back. I turned sixteen in December and have grown up without a tv. Even watching movies was a huge deal (and I’ve probably seen under 150.)

In 2012 my parents bought their first phone (after putting it off and putting it off.) after living four years in the silicon valley (my dad’s a software engineer.)

To say the least, I’ve grown up with very little technology. I remember always feeling totally like a strange kid, but it only bothered me for a year or two (when every kid goes through that stage) and I had my siblings to play with so it was no big.

Now looking at some of the wrecks my friends have gotten themselves into because they don’t know how to be productive, creative, interested, thoughtful, etc. I’m so thankful my mom said No to TV!

It’s amazing the difference it makes in people. The inability to do something for yourself. To think for yourself. Or introduce yourself to someone, to learn about something new. To be interested in the world around you.

You loose all of that a little bit at a time when you let your mind be spoon fed by the TV.

You brought out some great points! I’m off to go read Alas Babylon to finish up the school year. ;D

lottieMay 21, 2016 – 1:06 pm

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