I was sitting in the doctor’s office yesterday, scrolling through an app on my iPhone, when a television commercial caught my eye.
“Is that lady orange?” I asked the woman sitting next to me.
Her eyes moved from the mounted television to my face. “Oh,” she said, as though I’d woken her from a dream, “I wasn’t paying any attention.”
It occurred to me then that mindfulness in this age of media saturation is truly a challenge. On one hand, in order to experience some semblance of internal peace, you need to be able to ignore the constant barrage of “Pay attention to me!” screaming from a wide range of electronic devices. Even pumping your gas or grabbing a burger, there’s a constant stream of “news” blaring from nearby screens, demanding your attention.
On the other hand, mindfulness requires that we sit in the present moment and experience what is going on around us. It’s the main reason that I write haiku poetry – it forces me to stop and pay attention to my surroundings. What do I see when I look at this acorn? How does the air smell right before a thunderstorm? How does this chili taste?
I don’t have any answers for maintaining a balance between tuning out what I am starting to think of as the rage machine of today’s media, and focusing on what truly matters to us. I suspect that the answers lie with folks who have grown up in the digital age – people who don’t remember four TV stations (CBS, NBC, ABC, and a pixelated version of PBS) or the excitement of playing that new game, Pong. I need to ask my kids for advice.
How do you retain your mindfulness in the digital age without getting overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments.
My cousin took this great picture of me last summer at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I was so intent on taking a picture of the dragonflies circling the lily pads that I almost missed the one on my phone!