August 17, 2017
Mental Health and the Artistic Process
I’ll admit it, I’m no better at avoiding distractions than the next gal. My various cell phone apps call to me, even with the notifications turned off. I want to feel connected to people and popular! I want to have “things going on.” I work on my computer while intermittently checking my phone. I check my phone while watching TV or a movie. I walk down the street checking my phone at times. Not surprisingly, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. I’m definitely into it, but seriously question (and doubt) if it’s enhancing the quality of my life in any way.
Sometimes I’m on my phone because I feel so busy and want to maximize my time efficiency and other times it’s because I’m actively or unconsciously looking for a distraction. Maybe I don’t want to be working or I’m putting off my workout. Maybe I don’t really want to interact with anyone in that moment or I’m feeling vulnerable being alone and want to look like I’m doing something.
In case you haven’t guessed at this point, I’m no guru! I haven’t gotten this cell phone distraction thing licked. I’m not technologically enlightened, so sadly I cannot shed my cell phone wisdom on you–sorry! All I can do is notice my own patterns–to bring awareness to them. To ask in the moment if it’s working for me or not.
Those moments when I notice and check in with myself are quite lovely, actually. I had one last night—ironically right before a majorly distracted moment! I left the house here in Rio at twilight to go on a run. I ran a half hour along the beach in one direction and then turned around and strolled home, just to relax and have some “me” time. I noticed I didn’t want to be listening to my music, so I took my headphones off and took in my surroundings. It was nice to just connect and be present to what was around me. Then . . . I took out my cell phone and started texting my Dad. I was feeling a bit melancholy and just missing the comforts of familiar places and faces. Before I knew it, someone rode by me on the sidewalk on a bike and tried to snatch the phone right out of my hand! As much as I dislike the robbery here and having to feel like I’m on the defensive, I had to look at my own behavior too. I was walking around distracted. I felt I couldn’t be present to my feelings and wait until I got home (5 minutes) to text. And it alarms me that I’m not alone in this. Walking down the street on your phone is not common here in Rio (probably because of the aforementioned thieves!), but it definitely is in Chicago and many other places in the US. We’ve all got headphones in or are texting. And I’m not saying that’s a BAD thing. I’m just saying it IS.
So, I wonder . . . what can I do to change this? I’ve already turned off all my notifications–and that does help. It would really be like crack if I didn’t! But when I think about my day, about what I want to be present to . . . I want more nature. I want a slower pace. I want to connect with people. I want quiet time with myself and for my spiritual practices, like meditation. None of that involves my cell phone. Yet it’s become so convenient! I want my music while I run, so I bring my phone. I want to listen to podcasts or audiobooks while I walk to work, so I have my phone for that. I sometimes need to be available by email or text for work-related items, so I keep my phone on me during work hours. I use my phone as an alarm, so I keep it by my bed. And once it’s there . . . then I can get distracted by all the bells and whistles that come with my phone and it’s plentiful apps.
I think about going against the grain and going back to an old school phone . . . or leaving my phone at the office and only using it during certain hours. But “OH, THE FOMO!” What if my friends text me to make plans? What if I miss out on a great chat with my family? What if that cutie from Tinder messages me and I don’t get to meet up with him? I’ll have to get a separate alarm clock, another way to listen to music while working out . . . I don’t know . . . but I’m starting to seriously question what’s worth it. I’ve become clear that I enjoy a slower pace of life and the sense that I DO have time. I’m sick of telling myself I don’t have time to fit it all in–it’s a harmful message. The cell phone seems like part of this equation to me–maybe a big part. I’d love to hear other people’s experiences and evolutions with their cell phone–what have you tried and how’s it working? What’s your relationship like with your smartphone?
While I haven’t kicked distraction to the curb, I have learned how to recognize it when it’s happening, not beat myself up for it (too much) and make a conscious choice to address it, or not. Over the years, I’ve learned to make friends with distraction as it arises in my meditations, which in turn helps me to notice my experience with distraction in the rest of my life. I’m now able to look at it much more neutrally, let myself be where I’m at in the change process and to observe what feels like the right path forward for me. If you’ve been feeling distracted lately or struggling to meditate because of so many distractions, I invite you to join me for a free webinar on Thursday, March 10, 2016 at 1pm EST, 10am PST. Decide to be present with me for this hour and register now!