In Living Color: The Path to a Rewarding Life - Part 1
Hi friends, this is part one of a self-examination practice with ways that you can begin to maximize your growth as a human – including a life-ratio check in, like a path-tuning/awareness-inspiring blog. Because I think a lot of us are spending a lot of our lives not fully aware that our range is narrow and predictable. We are automating a lot of life and simply following a popular routine. It’s in part because of all the modern luxuries and social media stimuli that we find ourselves attached to – and how this removes us from a lot of our less desirable emotional experiences. I will talk about culture and how it acts as an organism, and I want you to reflect on your own habits as you read– whether or not you feel inside this organism, on the border, or outside of it. Just take mental notes – and see how it sits with you. It’s not wrong or right, so don’t judge where you fit in these as too much or too little. It’s more about making sure you are choosing according to what you want for your life and its sum– from a conscious and aware place. As usual, there are three parts – the what, why and how: the tools! If you prefer to listen, here’s the podcast version of this post on iTunes and Soundcloud:
This one’s dedicated to Rich and Aldana, and Rich - thank you for your donation.
Part 1: The What
Being partly somewhere else, all the time – as opposed to just sitting with yourself as you are, with the boredom, the anxiety, the vulnerability. By that I mean using a phone or clicking instead of interacting – anything that removes you from the place your physical body currently sits and removes you from a fully immersive in-person experience of your life. Avoiding discomfort is what drives most everything we do, in that most of the modern amenities of culture are designed to support us tuning out and soothing. If you think about it – plugging in is really just a way to not be alone with ourselves. Not to be bored, or worse – not to be tortured by thoughts of our own life and whether or not it measures up.
And because we don’t like discomfort, collectively our pastimes take over for the common moments we would have previously suffered: when we’re alone, we can be entertained. When we’re lonely, we can get a confidence boost. When we’re unoccupied in the elevator, we can read about the many important events in our important friend’s lives. Convenience is really just another word for enabling – we grow addicted to the input because it helps us avoid feeling vulnerable or tired or not important – think about online shopping, online tabloids, texting, twitter, Facebook, Tinder. All of this stimuli is a way to be something other than just where you are – it’s like ego food in that it engages the thinking brain – when it should be quiet, now it is still solving and quantifying. Which is part of the reason it makes us less happy, in the long term.
The soothing habit is an unconscious one – it’s like a knee-jerk reaction to a lull in distraction, because to be always connected to something means you’re not alone, you’re not one place – and therefore you’re not vulnerable to all those present in your thinking body with silence kind of thoughts.
I want you to take a brief sec and just mentally go there now. Imagine yourself without a phone. Just you sitting on a bench on a street full of people walking by, and you don’t have any props. Not even a book. What does that feel like? Pretty uncomfortable right? In my mind I start to play with a button or examine my nails. Anything at all to show I’m not all here – I’m somewhere else. All the engaging with another virtual space is like putting on a shell complete with a pacifier. It’s a soothing mechanism that keeps us protected from the full gravity of our full present experience – because, well just like your bench told you: the present experience can make you feel unsure. It can feel like not enough. It can make you feel the impact of everything around you. In short, it requires you participate in ways that make you feel less protected and less numb to the outside world.
All the modern accoutrements designed by present day culture remove our connection to pain and keep us more stuck in thoughts. Machine-mode apps give endless streams of stimuli, similar to slot machines that dole out ego-boosts. Pings report news about celebs, friends, and likes to our posts – more ego-boosts. Chat apps put your solar system into your brain at all times. You can read every book twice as fast, or access limitless podcast content at all times, even while you watch something else. Platforms like Netflix give you every show and film so you can watch anything and any show, all the way through. Amazon lets you shop for anything with one click, without a second thought or an interaction with a human. Meds like Adderall and Xanax allow you to keep working and stop worrying. By using these amazing innovations, we avoid having patience, fatigue, anxiety, mental slowness, loneliness, boredom, insecurity, silence, emotional vulnerability, and appearance of weakness. All of this sounds like it’s a good thing – and in the moment, it likely feels like a good thing. Like an ice pack on a burn. It doesn’t make that discomfort go away, but it gives us something to do in the face of it. It’s a cultural move! We are all doing it. BUT HERE’S THE CATCH. 99% of us are doing it out of habit and without understanding how it’s distorting us. It’s a choice that’s unconscious, made out of convenience - and eventually simple routine. And why not, right? It’s fun to watch the same shows everyone else is watching and talk about them with everyone you meet at a party. There’s no apparent reason to stop.
I am not suggesting these are bad things that should not exist. Technology that connects us to others and convenience enhancing services are great things, and they all serve their purpose. What I invite you to examine is the trade off you are getting in your own life and whether or not it’s aligned with your true goals. Most don’t think of their social media use as a soothing mechanism: it’s just part of life the way everyone lives it. To stop participating seems antisocial, like you’re going to fall out of favor with society. Because to stop checking in and replying right away is somehow like unplugging from the world, right? My argument is no, it’s not – and in reality, very little changes when you create boundaries around technology. Even though it feels like you’re more connected, you’re less connected to your own experience of life.
Living via technology is like a projection of life – like watching a movie of dolphins instead of swimming with them. And here’s why that’s important: the depth of your engagement is vastly different when you are physically somewhere and when you are not. The sensory input that comes from sound, smell, and physical touch is a deeper and more powerful interaction. Imagine right now – someone you really like standing right in front of you. Now imagine that same person, but via FaceTime. These are two very disparate experiences. So when it comes to the superficial experiences becoming a majority of your time spent in a day, the difference comes down to your range of felt emotions. The depth of your experiences narrows, and with that – your life’s depth. At the end of this life, you are but a ratio. You can translate your day today – where you spend it, how deep you go with it, into an overall ratio at the end of your lifetime. I want you to think about that right now: if not today, then yesterday. How does this ratio sit with you? Are you really getting to the meaty parts of yourself, as a human? Do you want to expand that range? Ask yourself, how much of my life did I choose to live and how much did I spend plugged into something else?
Part 2 will be posted next! xo