Unhooking From Distraction: A Quick-start Guide To Mindfulness

I’ve spent years hooked up to computers, smart-phones, and media. I know as well as you they’re unavoidable. But what’s the cost? Do you feel a subtle pull towards cranking out your phone and scrolling? I could easily spend a few hours a day idly browsing the internet doing ‘research’. In essence, I’ve been wired to act on my automatic impulses, constantly seeking distraction and habitually giving away my time. Sound familiar?
 
The more I look, the more I realize that my life is a never ending torrent of distractions. From the obvious to the extremely subtle. I feel an invisible force subtly pulling me away from the very things that make life worth living. This is the ‘normal’ way to live. What are we sacrificing by living this way?
 
Living a life free of distraction and impulse is a path to freeing yourself from your habitual, reptilian brain to a deeply rich experience. The trickyness of the situation is that we are like fish in water, unable to see what we’re surrounded by. So it takes a bit of courage to step outside the fishbowl. Not only courage but determination to look, to see where we’re giving ourselves away. What I can tell you though is after just a few months of practice, the results are overwhelmingly powerful. The more you can let go of the unimportant noise, the more space you give for the meaningful to bubble up into your awareness.
 
If you spend time practicing this looking and feeling, you’ll become increasingly more in-touch with what it truly means to be you. This is a practice that starts to unravel the mystery of your inner self. This is mindfulness.
 
 

You’re asleep…Yes. You.

How much of your day is used on activities with little meaning to you, and where you’re half asleep? Whether impulsively picking up your phone, to binge watching tv and making yourself “busy”. Let’s be honest, we all do this. We’re conditioned to by our environment.
 
In fact mindfulness is becoming rarer by the day, and I’ll be the first to admit the wonders and potential of technology. It’s truly incredible. However, we can’t ignore the effects its having on us. Each generation is indoctrinated at an increasingly younger age into the cyber-world, and If you look at the trajectory of V.R, and other tech, then imagine what the children of 1000 years will be born into. A world run by speedy dopamine hits and short attention spans.
 
What are the costs? The costs are your dreams, your happiness and your fulfillment and your life. Pretty costly right…I know this sound extreme, but really think about it. If you add up every 20 minutes or more you give up your free time to pointless activities, then imagine what that equals over a lifespan. Imagine what treasures of the world and mind you are missing!
 
Here is some simple maths: Lets say an average life is 80 years. If you only watch 30 minutes of tv a day from the age of 20 to 80, you’ve spent 10,950 hours which is enough time to walk the circumference of the Earth, twice over.
 
Every time you automatically reach for your phone, open your computer, or stick on some t.v you’re basically saying “Take my time, I don’t know what to do”. If we can refrain from this impulse and just sit and wait, let the mind become still until you hear that quiet and often neglected voice. The one that suggests a walk in nature or to read that book that’s been on your shelf for the last year, or maybe to create something of beauty. This is where the real magic lies and where we can start to unravel the greater mysteries of life.
 
[bctt tweet=”“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  – Vicktor E Frankl” username=”@thewayofasher”]
 
 

How to start today

By systematically removing every distraction, bit of time-wasting and unfocused attention from our lives we can start to unleash the potential we hold inside of us. We can rewire our brains to tap into our unlimited potential.
 
This isn’t a quick or easy process. In fact you’ll have to fight boredom, doubt, your monkey mind, negative self talk, other people’s opinions, and obviously distractions themselves. It will also expose your addictive nature, impulsive behaviors and your constant time-wasting.  Just remember that this is a process, not an instant fix.
 
The hard days are where the lessons lie. However, as you practice it will get easier and you’ll start to feel pulled towards doing things that fulfill you. These may be things you did as a kid, old hobbies, new projects, or anything that interests you. The point is that as you start removing the pointless noise around your life, your deeper more intuitive self can be heard. Maybe for the first time.
 
This is about getting to the root of who you are, your purpose and what life means to you. What is truly important for you? If it’s eating pizza and watching movies that’s fine, as long as your being honest with yourself.
 
Another easy trap to fall into is filling your day with things that on the surface seem significant, but when you really look at them, they fall apart. For example reading ‘informational’ articles with no clear intent or purpose, gossip or idle chit chat, over-thinking about the past/future, messaging, Youtube videos/podcasts.
 
Let me be clear, none of these things are bad, and in small doses are fine. You just need to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Does it make me better in any way? Am I doing it because I don’t know what else to do?
 
In the end it comes down to this. When you’re on your death bed looking back, do you want to see a life where you broke free of the easy path, the one paved with pretty lights and cupcakes. Or do you want to have taken the wild forest, where you had to hack through the dense undergrowth and push through uncertainty, towards an authentic life full of meaning. It takes real courage to look at yourself and your life honestly and to truly live.
 
 

Quick-start guide

  • Write down a list of everywhere you could be distracting yourself and/or time wasting
  •  commit to detoxing for 10 days.
  • Journal the process. Notice any differences in how you felt before and after
  • Just sit, resist the urge to do anything. Watch your mind. What compels you?
  • Consciously acknowledge what you’re doing in the moment  e.g. I’m about to go on facebook. Don’t judge yourself, just become aware of exactly how it makes you feel.
  • De-clutter your environment. Sell a bag of stuff you haven’t used in a few months. You probably don’t need it.

You’re going to find that you may get stuck. Your mind is conditioned to ask “whats next”. Let this feeling wash over you. Do not jump at the first thing your mind gives you but wait. Eventually you’ll feel a slightly different pull towards something..this is a good sign, and over time you’ll learn how to differentiate between impulse and intuition.
 
 

Arguments against mindfulness

“I work hard, I like to relax by watching some tv”
 
Again, nothing wrong with relaxing or watching tv (I love a good movie). But is what you’re doing truly what you want to do? Could that time be better spent connecting with a loved one, reading a book, meditating or learning a new skill? If you look and decide it is what you want to do, that’s great! Be aware though, it’s easy to deceive yourself here.
 
“There are many successful and amazing people who don’t care about living with mindfulness”
 
True. This isn’t about anybody else though, it’s about you. Look at the last few years of your life, imagine if you’d taken 30 minutes out of each day to connect with what you truly want. Imagine what could happen if you spent the next 5 years doing only things that made you feel amazing.
 
 

FINAL WRAP UP

This is just an introduction to a very deep and ancient practice. One that I’ve only taken baby steps in. Even though I’ve been practicing only a few months from the time of this publication, I’ve already learnt a lot. The goal isn’t to be a zen master, but to become slightly more aware of where your attention is going. Even a 1% increase in awareness will have a massive influence on your life!

 

 

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