Habits

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It’s been a week since I put myself on restriction. I found myself scrolling endlessly through Facebook liking and reposting copious videos of adorable animals doing silly things and inspiring folks talking about consciousness.

It wasn’t the worst way to spend my time, but it felt like I was cheating myself somehow.

In just one week a lot of my tendencies and beliefs have been revealed to me. I notice when I want to check out. It’s often when I am thinking creatively, problem solving. I’ll reach for a distraction, my phone, a piece of chocolate, something to break up the knot of thought I can’t seem to get past.

I’ve also noticed my propensity toward multi-tasking. Women, I believe, are genetically predisposed to a certain level of activity with divided attention. What with the baby producing, cooking, cleaning and working and all.

Still, this isn’t permission to go overboard.

I cannot seem to just watch TV. (I realize this isn’t a “real” problem, but it has shone a light on an annoying habit.) If the TV is on I am inclined to do some sort of activity in tandem. Eating, ironing clothes, scrolling. It has to be mindless, which means it’s probably not necessary. It’s very Pavlovian. I do not have this tendency while engaged in conversation or reading. TV on, do something additional.

This bit about the TV had me wondering too, about how much I really like the shows I record. Or did we just see one once and think it looked pretty good so habit has us watch the rest? This will become apparent soon enough.

I made a few decisions based on the insight provided by engaging in social media less. And I have laid the ground rules that I hope will continue after the month-long diet.

Here’s the short list:

  • I have removed notifications from my phone for FB, Instagram and several other apps. No more seductive red circles.
  • I no longer scroll on FB. (I do have to go on periodically for specific groups and business.)
  • I respond only to direct messaging or queries in the groups I host or business related pages. Again, on Facebook.
  • I post only through WordPress and Instagram – usually one blog and one or two photos a day.
  • I am ditching cable completely. I have ordered an antennae and will be making that swtich this month.
  • I have been writing every day.
  • I am spending more time outside. (Unitl it’s a thousand degrees – coming soon.)
  • I no longer start sentences, “Did you see that article/video/post on Facebook…?”

Most notably I feel a lot less urgency. Sometimes this feels good, sometimes I wonder what I should be doing with myself. I always find something. I have time to read the books on the teetering stacks surround me. I am sorting through old family photos – tons of them – to create books and remember stories. The house is clean.

So far there is no downside to less phone. But then it’s only been a week.

 

Urgency Reset

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Been thinking a lot about urgency lately.

Particularly how social media creates a sense of urgency without really doing anything. Almost all social media channels use their users to create it for them.

Think about it: Aside from the algorithm-driven passive sales on Facebook, we’re reacting to the posts of those we know.

We are compelled to up our game, drop out, do more, do less, get the app, sign the petition, boycott him, support the other guy, all because someone we know, or someone who knows someone we know, is somehow suggesting it. Just by sharing their own opinion. No matter how uninformed.

It’s genius, really. Somehow.

We need to do more. We need to go out more. We need to post food pics and selfies in front of quirky places. We need to practice our inversions so when we’re in Germany we can pop up into one in front of where the wall used to be. We need to post the best version of ourselves we want others to see. We need to prove we’re unique. Just like everybody else.

It’s a mad scientists social experiment. It has to be.

I’m only halfway through day five, but I see this just through my tendencies to reach for my phone when I want to escape a conversation, or I’m bored, or I have a few minutes. I’m filling space and avoiding being present with nothing. Photos and posts of things I normally wouldn’t choose to read. Probably.

And as I scroll my mind is making calculations and decisions, seemingly without my permission or input,  about what I should post next or what glib response I can throw down on a friends photo.

But what if we picked the people or pages we wanted to visit rather than minlessly scrolling? Showed some restraint, some control. What if we chose how to use social media rather than being pulled along by the suggestions of a computer program? Is that even possible?

I get the irony here. I am suggesting you reframe how you use the very media on which you are likely viewing this. I’m just another voice asking you to do something, creating urgency.

I don’t know the answer. There’s a happy medium in there, or out there, somewhere. A place where information and mindfulness meet. I haven’t found it yet, although I am kind of partial to blogs. 😉

It all just makes me very tired.

So, today I spent some time in nature. And some time reading. An actual book with pages that I turned with my hand instead of tapping the right side of a screen. My whole house was open, the wind blowing the curtains on the back patio, breezes running from the front to the back. I caught the light outside and thought more than once about capturing it in my phone. But my phone was in another room and did not go get it. At least twice.

Then finally when it was time to start dinner I retrieved my phone to check for messages – just one, and finally took that photo.

This afternoon, just a few hours of cleaning my house, watching birds and butterflies and shamelessly reading seemed to reset something. No telling if it will last, but for now I would much rather sit on my back porch with a glass of wine and that book.

And no phone.

 

Island of Excellence

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I have been successful at creating and sustaining two morning habits (if you don’t count coffee). Journaling and reading.

The reading is non-fiction, usually something about writing, or the yoga philosophy. This morning it was both. And this time the messages were the same. That is to say my interpretation of them, while interrupted by a weather delay, was the same.

First, from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg:

“Rather than following rules, have a friendliness toward existence… If you are kind you will naturally be doing the right thing… Don’t be a goody-two-shoes, just to be a goody-two-shoes, it’s not based on any reality.”

Permission.

As I was carefully inserting my Ganesh postcard from India between chapters, then placing the book on the short stack on the end table with the big wooden Buddha beside my sofa, to pick up the other book, I noticed a strange quality to the light outside. Yesterday the sky had announced itself by turning pink; this morning it seemed to be shyly hiding behind dusty glass.

Fog! I love fog!

Abandoning the second book for now, I grabbed my beloved iPhone – vowing as I made my way to the front door NOT to react to the red circles on the upper right hand corners of all my social media icons – and went in search of fog. It was so thick I could feel it on the surface of my eyeballs, like that first look underwater in a lake.

I looked down the street in one direction for a mystical shot – too many parked cars – then the other. Out to the main road I headed. I stood in my two sizes too big man’s t-shirt and baggy shorts with my hair in a scrunchy from the 90s, sans make-up or pride and pointed my phone down the curving main boulevard lined with oak trees heavy with moisture and black iron unlit street lamps.

After about 27 shots of basically the same thing I was approached by a man walking purposefully across his side yard directly at me. When I noticed him I turned in his direction. “You taking pictures of the house?” he demanded. “No, the fog,” I managed with a smile and a finger pointing down the street, as if the fog was hovering only there. Muttering as he turned to go back into his house, “Ok, cause I was gonna say.” What? You were gonna say what? Don’t?

I stood in place and lifted my phone with much less enthusiasm, to demonstrate that it was not pointed toward his home but indeed where that fog was living, just in case he went back to the same window through which he spied my suspicious activity in the first place.

It rattled me a little. I do not cope well with being accused of wrong doing. I am a rule follower. I want to be a rebel and in some respects I suppose my behavior and beliefs could be considered outsider, but mostly I’m a law-abiding good girl.

Perhaps this fear of misbehavior was a seed planted as a teenager.

While working at a clothing store in the mall I was accused of stealing clothes. I was shaken. I would never. I had made the mistake of placing my own clothes in a bag from the store and attempting to leave. I explained that my boyfriend was picking me up to go out and I had brought a change of clothes from home. They were from the Spiegel Catalog, I said with great pride. She said okay, but she never really believed me. Never apologized. And that left a mark on my goody-two-shoes permanent record.

I want to make sure all these mistrusting people know I’m telling the truth. But of course I cannot control what anyone thinks of me and in fact their thoughts and opinions of me are really none of my business, but rather a reflection of who they are.

Letting it go – the photo thing – I returned to my perch on the corner of my sofa, next to the big wooden Buddha and opened the Yoga Sutra book I have been studying. And found this:

From The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: Samadhi Pada by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD

“To be born as a human is the greatest achievement, and to die without knowing the essence of life is the greatest loss. The immense wisdom and power buried in our body and mind is clear evidence that nothing is beyond our reach… Our boundless intelligence and power of discernment give us access to the infinitely vast universe inside us and outside us. Nothing is impossible for us. We are extraordinary beings – individual islands of excellence.”

An individual island of excellence would probably not be so concerned with the fear and anxiety of others projected onto them. Compassionate, yes.

An individual island of excellence would move on, break a few rules, write the story that no one wants told, eat left-over cheesecake for breakfast. Ok, that last one maybe not really excellent.

It’s about breaking the rules for good, not for the sake of being contrary. So many of us follow rules that don’t even really exist. We do something because someone once told us to or told us never to and it stuck. They aren’t laws or even policies. It’s a very weak box constructed of shoulds and shouldn’ts that provides the illusion of safety and conformity.

Einstein’s greatest contribution to me personally was his edict to: “Question everything.”

Good advice. One question could collapse that whole silly box. Without walls it’s much easier to be an island of excellence.