busy signals

i just ate lunch. that’s all. ate lunch.
i didn’t check the latest headlines. i didn’t pay bills. i didn’t check facebook. i turned off my phone. i sat down. i ate.
when i update the statistics and research to prepare for my talks on how technology is shaping us neurologically, relationally, and personally, it is common for me to become disillusioned and sad. we are increasingly, it seems, a people unable to be at rest. with computers (called phones) in our pockets we are connected to the world at all times and are rarely single-minded. we consider multi-tasking a prized ability and accomplish more in a day than previous generations did in a week. we carry on many conversations at once (facebook messaging while texting while chatting with our kids) and have access to news and entertainment 24 hours a day. we even multi-entertain, playing video games on our laptops while we watch the new season of television shows.
here are a few things i miss:
fuzzy television screens between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when all the major networks (and that’s all there were) were off air.
flights during which i didn’t have an option get online or make a phone call.
busy signals.
do you remember those? the “buzz - buzz - buzz” that told you that the person you were calling was on the phone already. 
i miss these things because they forced me to learn patience. they didn’t let me get away with not being able to be bored or to delay gratification. they also, somehow, helped me manage my expectations, as well as the expectations of others, about what i could realistically accomplish in a day.
i have recently begun facilitating a series of workshops on mindfulness. in a recent session at a high tech company, participants spoke of attending meetings held on their own campus’ via conference call instead of walking to the meeting room, of being in on such conference calls while responding to texts from their partners and reading work emails, and, mostly, of being constantly bombarded with information, messages, and needs.
when we had busy signals not only did we have to practice persistence and patience in trying again but the person we were calling did not have to collect new tasks while completing the one at hand. when offices were closed between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. employees really had time off. when screens did not offer access to round the clock news, movies, and television, we were forced to either be bored, become creative with entertaining ourselves, or, actually sleep. 
mindfulness provides just one alternative to the multi-tasking way that most of us thrive on. living mindfully requires us to be present in the moment. it forces us to attend to that which is NOW, observing the thoughts about the past and future without locking on to them. we simply let such thoughts pass by while we attend, fully and actively, to that which is right this minute. mindful living requires that we find busy signals to help ourselves and those in our lives understand that, while access to us may be infinitely available, we ourselves are finite beings. we are only capable of so much. truly.
so, how might you create some busy signals in your life? make some time where you attend, fully, to one thing at a time? might your voice mail say, “i’m taking a day phone free. if this is really important, leave a message and i’ll return it tomorrow. if not, please don’t leave a message and call me in a few days instead.” could you set an instant email response that says, “i’m trying an experiment and will respond to emails only between 2 and 4. i’ll not be checking or responding at other times. thanks for understanding.” might you force yourself to close your eyes during a conference call, turn off your phone when you’re at your daughter’s game or son’s recital, or go for a walk without your earbuds in. 
doing one thing at a time may never win you a trophy. it might not even change your life. trying it, however, here and there as a balance restorer to the hyper drive that is life in 2011 may just teach you something. like how to eat your lunch and really taste it.

1 comment:

  1. I miss conversations in which i KNEW the person was only talking to me
    I miss hand-written letters
    I miss dial-up internet
    I miss the sound of a car running without any music.