“distracted from distraction by distraction.” - T.S. Eliot
In a world full of distractions, it’s a wonder that we get anything done! One of the biggest distractions out there is that little marvel of a phone we always keep close at hand. This piece of mobile technology goes wherever we go. In fact, most people can hardly set it down for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s shocking how much time this habit of obsessively checking social media, email and text messages can eat up in the course of a day. We’re hardly aware that we’re doing it. More importantly, why are we doing it?
A few months ago while feeling directionless, I did a little research and discovered a cache of articles on the concept of mindfulness. What grabbed my attention right away was an indisputable link between my lack of productivity and the fact that I was a slave to my emotions. Let me lay it out for you. We feel stuck yet unaware as to why this feeling leads to taking no action at all. Choosing distraction over action occurs without much resistance because we are blind to the process and wrongly believe that we don’t have much of a choice.
Why then are we choosing distraction over what we could be doing; even if it is a small action in the direction of our dream?
We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come true, there’s quite a bit of foot work involved. We need to make things happen in the hours we’re not at work or taking care of household duties. All too often, we stare at the ‘to do’ list, feel overwhelmed and decide to see what’s on TV; instead of taking on one of the tasks.
What happened between making the list and getting it done? Well, we give in to the fear and anxiety caused by our procrastination and since that’s a bit painful, we distract ourselves from that whole mess by picking up our mobile phone and checking our twitter timeline, again.
People distract themselves from their debt by shopping or from the weight they need to lose by eating or from the gym they just joined by playing video games.
Folks, this has got to stop.
Seeking to distract ourselves away from what we should be doing leads to chronic procrastination, feeling stuck or being unable to break a bad habit. If you’re looking to avoid something be it a feeling, a circumstance or some facet of your reality, distraction traps are just comfortable behavior patterns waiting to ensnare you.
Increase your awareness by starting to tune into your feelings. Begin asking yourself questions. How do you handle anxiety? Are you the observer of this feeling or are you the feeling itself? If you consider yourself to be the observer of anxiety, then you are in a position of control over your life and can choose action over distraction. It may not eliminate your discomfort, but you’re aware of that and it’s OK.
This, my friends, is empowerment.
We can be aware of our emotions, but not be enslaved by them. Yes, I may feel anxious and that’s OK, I’m human I have feelings, but I intend to knock off some of these tasks on my list. Despite my anxiety, I will resist the temptation to distract myself because I have that choice. This is not positive thinking, this is conscious effort.
To incorporate mindfulness into our lives, we can begin to practice it throughout the day. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, but just keep at it. Observe your thoughts and feelings and move forward despite your mood. As recommended in the book ‘Why You’re Stuck: Your Guide To Finding Freedom From Any Of Life’s Problems’ by Derek Doepker, don’t wait to do something until you feel like it, do whatever needs to done until you feel like it. Choose action over distraction.
Hiking or going for a walk, is a terrific way to begin practicing mindfulness with intention.
Hiking in the winter is a completely different sensory experience. Gone are the lush swatches of green foliage and the vast array of mountain wild flowers and butterflies. Absent as well, are the warming rays of sunshine and the sweetness of birdsong. The mountain always has a quietness about it yet, it seems all the more shrouded during the winter months.
I found myself on a winter hike soon after I began practicing the conscious effort of being mindful of my thoughts and feelings. I try to observe them without judgement and let them go. As I worked my way uphill I focused on my breathing and coached myself to rise to demands of the climb. I also thoroughly enjoyed the breaks offered by level plateaus. Instead of allowing my thoughts to tumble over each other, I withdrew from that noise and focused on the landscape and all that fell into my view. I saw things I had never noticed before; notably the ruins of old cabins and the beauty of a single pine cone clinging to a branch.
If a thought appeared in my mind about the pile of laundry or the emails from work, I would take notice and then release it. I chose to focus my attention instead on the sound of water as it trickled softly over smooth stones or the roar of the waterfall further up the trail. I chose to be present in the moment, not the past or the future or the imagined future, but the here and now.
Mindfulness is freedom from being stuck. It empowers you to take action because you are finally aware of what’s holding you back. Mindfulness lifts the veil and restores your vision. Encourage yourself to face what scares you and despite the temporary unease, go about your business and get things done. In time and with practice, Mindfulness will become second nature.
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