Like a lot of people today, you often probably feel anxious, nervous, scattered, overtired, manic, and stressed—
—And those are the good days.
Sure, there are moments when you may pause for a half-second with your vendi-trendy coffee and notice a bird in flight or the color of the sky, but most of us are too worried about “wasting time” to pay attention, as if rushing through life might bring more happiness.
This adrenaline that never seems to leave our veins is pumped with the unfiltered drip of the “hurrying up and wait” serum, without even knowing what we are waiting for, or where our awaited destiny even is.
This addictive rush to hyperlink to everything in record time has become the cause of much depression, disease, illness and even death, according to endless research and data I won’t take your precious time and bore you with.
Studies show that this “manic-driven” state of modern life is not much more productive than a rat wired up on hallucinogens scurrying in a never-ending maze with no goal in sight.
But life doesn’t have to be that way.
Feeling continually crazy about getting to the future faster because something better, larger or more important might be there can suck the virtual life and happiness out of you like a bipolar vampire on a meth binge.
So what can we do?
Well, for one, we must learn to stop multi-tasking, or what I call “multi-lacking”, and stop right now, with 10 steps towards sanity to follow shortly.
First, turn off the television, your Crackberry, iPhone and computer and notice if your legs are nervously bouncing or if your pulse is quaking while you read this.
Listening to music is okay, but only without ads. Talk radio is out of the question with anonymous voices spewing vitriol about hateful propaganda interrupted by ads for Viagra, McDonalds or Antidepressants.
Now notice something, but only if you are able to sit still and use one of the most genius of technologies ever known to man and woman called the ear, and just listen.
Without talking political heads rambling at you from the nightly cable news, the beeping of text messages and Facebook interruptions about the status of “friends” you’re likely never to even meet…
…What do you hear?
Do you hear the sound of your own breathing perhaps?
Or maybe you hear a car passing by, leaves rustling, a dog barking or the laugh of a child?
If you do, you’re probably amazed by the unusual feeling of calm or the feeling of being in the present, a present we seldom allow ourselves today.
This feeling is one many of us today usually only experience during REM sleep.
You may feel quite uncomfortable with this “strange and peaceful feeling” and begin jonesing for that familiar adrenaline fix. We have sadly become a nation of frenzied robots who have morphed into the images of advertisements thrown up in our face.
We have even developed ways to show our love to each other without effort or mess, such as cocktails posted in emails, with some of us not being kissed anywhere but in cyberspace for years.
Depressed? Frustrated? Mad? Good, because often these are the greatest motivators towards real change.
Here are 10 things you can start today to move from insanity and towards sanity:
1. Wake up a half hour earlier.
Just drink your coffee, tea or nothing at all in total silence. Don’t turn on the computer, check your phone or any sort of media device. Just sit, close your eyes and take breaths in between sipping—for a whole 30 minutes.
2. Move slowly when you first wake up.
Whether it’s walking to the shower or wherever you think you “need” to be, move slow. Notice how the floor feels beneath your feet. Listen to the creaks in the floor, the soft carpet, and how good it feels to move slowly and quietly.
3. Remember and visualize that you are an extremely capable person.
Even if you are not hooked up to anything or anyone.
4. Take at least 15 minutes a day to do absolutely nothing.
This means no phone calls, texts or surfing the news blogs. Just do nothing. Your energy afterwards will amaze you.
5. Learn to say “No” immediately.
Just say “No” if you don’t want to do something and spend more of your time practicing nothing at all instead.
6. Drink water.
When your phone rings, an email pops up or a Facebook notice appears that someone likes something inane that you posted, drink 3 sips of water and wait 5 minutes before feeding the habit. Nothing terrible will happen if you don’t respond immediately, and your response may actually be worth the read, if you choose to respond at all.
7. Take the time to look people in the eye.
Say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and ask “How are you?” Listen to their answer and ask a question. In other words, remember how to communicate with people again on a human face-to-face and non-technological basis.
8. Once a month, do “simplicity” for a whole day.
On a non-work day, take a day where you fast from everything electronic that you “think” you can’t live without. Try out a new recipe, write a hand-written letter in cursive to an old friend or to yourself, read a book outside or wander your own neighborhood on foot.
9. Pay attention to small inventions we take for granted.
For example, last week I wrote down the tools I used that day when fixing up my house: scissors to mend curtains, a Phillips screwdriver to secure a hook, glue to repair a chair, tape to prepare for painting and a staple gun to fix a picture frame.
10. Remember that no one will die if you “slow down.”
If anything, you’re more likely to die if you speed while you drive and cut people off, inhale fast food while watching angry pundits on TV, dope yourself on booze and pills just to slow you down at night while not taking the time to notice that your kids are a foot taller since the last time you took a walk together without telling them to “Hurry up” as well.
Here’s a quick anecdote that made me realize the frenetic pace of not being present and literally living outside of myself:
My little girl came to me after I had been on the computer for what probably seemed to her like a month and exclaimed,
“Mommy, I never want to grow up.”
I asked why and she answered in a slowed whisper with her eyes not blinking a whit,
“Because when you grow up, absolutely nothing is fun because grownups never want to play, and when they do, it’s just with things, not people.”
Out of the mouths of babes, I thought.
I asked her what she thought I should do for fun, because this child of mine is obviously wiser than I am.
She reminded me of how much I love to sing and dance, and before I knew it I was rocking out to “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones and teaching her some of my old dance moves.
After that, we sat down on the floor and played my favorite childhood game of “Candyland.”
I didn’t win but I didn’t care.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman