The need to be constantly connected to technology may be rotting our lives from the inside out. Michael Russer shares 10 action items to help you reclaim your life.
Whenever I have dinner in a restaurant, I see couples who are there, ostensibly, to enjoy each other’s intimate company…but who spend a substantial portion of their meal buried in their smartphones.
This might seem like the status quo these days – the “new normal” that we should all just accept. In my work helping restore intimacy to couples who’ve forgotten how to just be present for each other, I’ve found that nothing suffocates intimacy more insidiously than this kind of distraction.
Distraction: 21st Century Soma
In Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World, which was published in 1932, all citizens took a drug called soma. Soma pacified the populace, giving them a pleasurable feeling that also made them numb to the government’s increasingly tight control. Distraction is our 21st century soma. It is found everywhere, in the form of entertainment, news, work, magazines, disconnected sex, food (especially sugar), alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, and the most prevalent of all, digital distraction.
Whatever the source, distraction is about avoiding the present moment, the here and now. It is a way of avoiding having to feel the discomfort that is sometimes part of any present moment. It is a way our minds take over our lives at the expense of our hearts. But true intimacy requires real connection with other human beings, and real connection can only come from our hearts, not our heads. Those couples distracting themselves with their smartphones are also blockading themselves against the very intimacy they are likely to be longing for.
Constant Distraction Makes Us Feel Dead Inside
This “drug” of distraction has some nasty side effects, including feelings of disconnect and depression, broken relationships, loss of passion and purpose, and an overall sense of being dead inside. And just like soma, distraction placates and numbs us, turning us into “sheeple” willing to accept just about anything anyone in a position of authority dishes out…as long as we are allowed to continue with our life of heart-numbing distraction.
The most hopeful aspect of this addiction to distraction is that each of us knows, deep down inside, that something huge is missing. Most all of us long for true connection at some level. This longing is a lifeline that can connect us back to deep intimacy with one another. It can guide us back to true aliveness, which is just not possible as long as we bury ourselves in distraction after distraction, starting with the smartphone check first thing in the morning and ending with Facebook late at night.
Being truly alive means being willing to feel everything: the full spectrum of emotions, wonderful or otherwise. It means listening to and trusting your own heart and being open and vulnerable to the hearts of others. It means embracing the unknown, feeling any fear that comes up fully, and even charging forward in the face of it. It means waking up to the possibility that there is infinitely more to life than what goes on in our heads. Turning away from distractions and toward each other means risking love with every fiber of your being.
There is some safety in knowing that the heart cannot be hurt or broken–only our egos are that fragile. Not coincidentally, the ego is also the part of us that wants to stay in the dream-like state that distraction so powerfully keeps us in. It’s trying to protect itself, but protecting the ego can throw a veil over the heart, and with that we lose our ability to be totally present in our lives and with the people we love.
Weaning Yourself Off of Distraction
To break free from this drug’s powerful hold:
- Turn Off Your Digital Devices When With Others – that’s what the off switch is for. Use it.
- Stop Following the News – there is nothing useful for you here, and it’s 99% negative.
- Stop Watching TV – and find out what it’s like to no longer live vicariously through the lives of others.
- Spend Time in Nature – exercise, fresh air and Nature’s ability to help you reconnect are all powerful antidotes to distraction addiction.
- Eat Mindfully – ask yourself why you are eating what you are about to put into your mouth. If it’s just to feel good, chances are, it’s just another distraction, and probably not particularly good for you.
- Practice Gratitude – when you focus on being grateful for everything, even life’s challenges, you enter into the present moment with joy.
- Embrace Uncertainty – this is your gateway to possibilities in the present moment. With the ability to sit with uncertainty, you gain discovery.
- Race Towards Fear – uncertainty and risk can be scary or uncomfortable, and distraction is most often used to avoid this discomfort. But fears addressed head-on are far less potent than those we try to avoid.
- Trust Your Heart – allow your heart (inner wisdom, intuition) to be the captain of your fate; let your head (thoughts, stories, distractions) operate as its faithful servant.
- Practice Being Fully Present – practice being the Observer through which your life unfolds rather than being caught up in the story of your life.
In a culture that bombards us with distractions, true intimacy and presence requires fierce determination to stay present, stay in the moment and live life fully. As you create and uphold a commitment to kick the soma of distraction and connect with your life and the people you love, notice the rewards.
Will you falter and backslide at times? We all do, but you have the choice to catch yourself and then to continue on your path to living heart-open and fully present. The payoff: you will be living life fully, immediately, and open to extraordinary levels of intimacy and connection with your significant other and those around you.
As long as we have minds that create egos, we will struggle with being present. We will always be susceptible to falling back into the clutches of heart-numbing distraction. The good news is that we always have a choice to stay there or strive to break free. This choice will ultimately determine how fully you experience the gift of your life.