Yesterday I stumbled on a podcast called Note to Self. The episode was an interview with Cal Newport, who is apparently well known as a computer scientist who espouses the wisdom of disconnecting from social media.
It’s not a new idea. It’s an old idea, made new by our current culture of all the things, all the time.
Minimalism of any kind works on the desire to cut the fat and find the core of who you are, what’s important to you, and how you want to be in the world when you’re making choices rather than acting on habit or reflex. When you’re living a minimalist lifestyle, you’ve stripped away anything that doesn’t serve you. The clothing that no longer works, the old romance novels that are just taking up space, the people who drain you more than invigorate you. It requires you to be in the moment, to understand what you’re thinking and feeling, and to honor whatever that is. Most important, it asks you to be open to feelings that you (gasp!) might not like. Anger and shame, anyone?
Personally, I hate feelings like that. I want to escape them all the time, and spent years mindlessly doing so. I have an addictive personality and I’m very quick to escape the moment and turn to the warm embrace of a juicy Twitter feed or a pile of cookies.
But, I also hate the deep, nagging sense that I’m missing the important stuff when I make my great escapes. Not to mention the real life consequences of cookie piles.
An example: I’m in a waiting room at the doctor’s. It’s been a few minutes, and I’m getting bored. Boredom! Oh god, not boredom. Boredom, such a dreadful feeling. It almost always leads to thinking, which is almost always a dark road. Clearly I need an escape. Before I know it, without even thinking about it, my hand is reaching for my phone and I’m reading the latest on my favorite soap opera, American politics. What’s replaced boredom? Disgust. A certain kind of restlessness that my phone produces. And actually, the boredom is still there.
What’s my another option? Sit there and feel bored. Dive in to the depths of what boredom feels like. Explore it like a curious scientist who has never before encountered boredom. What’s it doing to my physical body? What’s my mind doing while this feeling wraps itself through me? Maybe it’s not even so bad, maybe it’s not something I need to run from all the time.
**Let’s be real** this mindful descent into the depths of an unpleasant emotion is not easy to sustain for more than…oh…30 seconds? So what then? Well, stay with it while it stops being easy, for one thing. That might buy me another 30 seconds or so. And then? Make a choice. Decide what I’m going to do. Give myself 10 seconds to breathe, to consider the consequences of escaping into my phone, perhaps come up with other ways to entertain my bored brain.
In the interview I linked to above, they make the point that not knowing what to do is exactly the reason to ditch the phone. Give yourself some space to find out what you might like to do instead of reflexively reaching for the phone. What would you do if you acted intentionally? And allow for the fact that you may not know immediately. We are pulling away a crutch and asking you to find a new way to stand. It may not be a graceful transition.
Big secret? This blog post would not have been written had I not gotten the reminder about the power of minimalism. I’ve put my phone away and thought for a minute about the things I would like to do more of. Writing comes to mind, so here I am.
Do you know what you would like to do with more time in your day? Is minimalism of any kind a part of your life?