Mobile phone use is increasing 1000% year on year. We're positively addicted. The call of Instagram and Facebook are so strong, it's hard to access our Inner Net (as opposed to the Internet) when there's just so much stuff available to watch and read. So what can we do to help us connect with our inner world, even if meditating isn't our thing? In my opinion, the answer is right in front of us.
And yet to find, let alone touch, our own soft centre can be the most elusive thing in the world. Every day we find ourselves stressed out, eating meals when we're distracted – by the TV or a family concern, or business worries. As technology takes over our lives, we're finding it increasingly difficult to focus. Current studies will neither full confirm nor completely refute what we already know: that we're addicted to our phones.
But there is an easy way to reduce your device use and increase your ability to awareness and it's this: next time you fid yourself scrolling, swiping or double-tapping ask yourself, Am I being mind-ful or mind-less?
Still not sure? The answer isn't necessarily in what you're looking at – watching The Handmaid's Tale, checking out cat videos or scouting for your next Airbnb. No, the answer lies in why and how you've come to be staring at that tiny screen.
There's nothing wrong with zoning out after a long day and connecting with your friends on Facebook. Where it becomes a problem is when that behaviour is more automatic (like, what's the first thing you do when you wake up? Look at your phone? Hmm…).
I regularly find myself picking up my phone just to fill a gap. I've got a 20 minute train ride – let's see what's happening on Instagram. Waiting for the bus. Same. Cooking dinner – ooh, Mary from school's daughter just passed her driving test.
Connecting is great and social media enables us to do it in ways we've never done before but checking our phones has become such a habit. I sometimes feel like a lab rat the way I go back and back and back for just one more quick hit of blue light before bed. I mean, what happened to being bored?
Jerry Seinfeld's latest doco showcases how as kids we used to get so bored (usually in the wallpaper shop) that we wouldn't be able to hold our own bodyweight and therefore stand any more. We'd end up lying in the store bemoaning our fate while Mum or Dad flicked through pages of elaborate wall decor.
What we called boredom as a child is actually an access point to mindfulness as an adult. Boredom can be our friend, but we have to give it a chance.
Boredom and mindfulness are platforms for creativity. They're where some of our best ideas can come from. But today we see boredom as a place that's screaming to be filled – with our phones. What happened to being able to just rest.
Resting is a thing of the past. If we let it. And mindlessly filling our brains with endless streams of junk will never provide the fertile ground for meditation. Like the athlete, the meditator must practice. It's even called a practice. We say we don't have time, but meditation can be done on the go, just like checking your screen. In fact, any time you find yourself picking up your cell, take a minute to turn inwards. What are you feeling right now? What has caused you to want to fill the space? Are you really that busy or important?
Our mental health is important. Connecting with each other is important. And giving ourselves time to rest and relax – and do nothing – is important. That's when our cells get a chance to heal and repair, it's when our creative brain comes alive, and it's when we can digest our food and listen – to our families, our friends, our colleagues. When we constantly fill the space with a digital fix we're tuned out.
And that's not the sort of connection we crave.
So I say bring back boredom. Bring back the ability to have nothing to do and for that to be OK. Boring, but socially acceptable. Because if we keep turning to our devices for comfort, we'll find being mindful less and less attainable, while the need (and deep longing) for it will increase.