We’ve been talking a lot about mindfulness in Grade 6 these days. A wise and lovely friend came to visit my students and helped us find ways to live fully in the present moment. My students were engaged, but I think I was the one who really needed the lesson most.
Sometimes my mind is in a million different places and nowhere at the same time. It is very rare for me to engage in just… one… thing. How can I do just… one… thing when there are seven left on the list? At this present and very average moment, I am typing, eating a sandwich, drinking coffee, water, texting and listening to music. I rarely operate in silence, especially not when I’m driving. Music is a must. I’m a toilet texter (come on, I’m not alone… am I?). There are 19 tabs open in my Chrome window, four different teaching-related projects open, an inprogress iMovie and photos ready to organize in Picasa. My desktop is like my brain. I had a memory last night of days gone by. I used to post practical, encouraging chapters from the Bible on the wall in my bathroom. I would spend my time memorizing the verses, hopeful that the words would spiral from my mind to heart to hands. Now I schedule football games on my phone and text with friends. I’m guessing my poverty of inattention isn’t unique. Perhaps you can attest to the splintered-mind symptoms of multi-tasking.
My wise and lovely friend challenged us with homework. She said we should try brushing our teeth using all five senses. I was amazed at how I actually struggled to singularly brush my teeth. Once I started enjoying the process (it was harder than I wish to admit) and engaged in the moment with each of my senses, I laughed at how my shoulders relaxed. Why was this so difficult? Why don’t I practice this more often?
While I’m not blaming my bent towards multi-tasking solely on my devices, I do recognize how my smartphone draws me towards a divided mind. We have instant access to all kinds of connections, learning, scheduling, creating, all kinds of doing. There is so much possibility- all the time! Sometimes I find it hard to practice living in the present moment. It’s not that count my interactions or activities online as any less real or authentic, as well-argued by Jurgenson, it’s simply that they are many. Too many. Sherry Turkle says that “devices change not just what we do, but who we are”, and I think it’s true.
What’s the answer for a person who loves being a digital resident but seeks an undivided mind? Every once in awhile I fast from social media for a period of time because it teaches me about my habits and my heart. This isn’t practical or desired in the long term because I really enjoy being a digital resident. I enjoy online communities, both the giving and the receiving. I mute my phone daily for a period of time so that I can practice being present with God and be prayerful, but this always feels harder than I wish that it did. Similar to most things in life, I’m guessing the answer likely hangs “in the balance”. Likely self-awareness of our habits and (addictions?) is also really important if we want to be engaged in positive, connected, life-giving ways online, but also live in a way that is fully present.
This week I’m starting small. I’m (just) brushing my teeth, and remembering the words of one of my favorite authors, Barbara Brown Taylor. She reminds me to simply “consent to be where I am”.
Do you think devices make the practice of mindfulness more and more relevant today? How can you see the reality of smart devices impacting students’ ability to live in the present moment? What helps you find a healthy balance?