I mentioned to my friend the other day that the always-available nature of the internet was overwhelming me. “I’ve felt very on-demand lately,” I told him.
It hit me — three days later, while walking the dog — that that was my choice.
Mindfulness is one of those buzz words that falls into a bad category — concepts that have become so diluted by pop culture and fads that it is sorely overlooked by people who desperately need it and who could easily implement it. I felt this way about it, once, but after nine months in the same place, I’ve learned firsthand how mindfulness is one of the things tethering me to sanity.
I’ve never walked with headphones, really. There were some 4 AM mornings on the way to Starbucks, but… those were ghostly and lonely roads, and I needed company to keep from jumping at every shadow. But even though taking Gizmo on walks results in large chunks of time wherein I could consume audiobooks or podcasts (or I could play my emails, wink wink), aside from occasionally listening to an episode of Mental Health Remix for a third of the walk, I’ve refrained from shutting my ears off to the world.
I try to take in the earthy smells on the wind and the scent of food cooking as I pass homes; I try to appreciate the little flashes of life and the palettes of bright and dull forest colors. I try to pay attention to where my feet are going, largely because I’m clumsy, but also because I’m curious to see how the land changes incrementally over time.
When I don’t check my phone for most or all of the walk, it does so much more for me (even when Gizmo is being awful to walk with).
The same is true of my enjoyment of stories, whether books, movies, shows, or games. If I’m talking to people throughout my solo activity, I don’t really feel connected or like I had my (much-necessary) alone time. The worst of both worlds is splitting my attention.
(Do I still think I can and should bounce around between projects? Yes, if only because forcing myself to work through blocks isn’t always productive or a better use of time than putting it, in smaller doses, where I’m actually enjoying myself in that moment.)
Mindfulness isn’t some wine-sipping book club buzzword practice, nor is it an unattainable state of being only found by those devoting their entire lives to the spiritual. It’s something I can, and should, do more of, as often as I can remember.
Someone asked me recently, what’s the point of life? I didn’t have a very good answer then, but I have one now: it’s to enjoy the process. It’s to appreciate being a prey creature in an era where we can act as well-fed predators; it’s to appreciate that instead of pouring our precious daily energy into how to survive, we can pour it into how to help others thrive in a future we can, with our strange brains, actually imagine.
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