Instead, I lost an important connection—the connection with the world around me. I’ve been spinning in my brain, my poor old, tired, techno-challenged brain, until I’m sure smoke has come out of my ears. All because I’m a perfectionist, because I had a goal that I was unwilling to let go of. Because—damn it—if my 12-year-old step-daughter can create an amazing video on her phone from an iMovie template, then surely I could figure out how to create a professional presence online using Yahoo, Weebly and Facebook. I had something to prove.
So now that I’m emerging from that electromagnetic storm in my head, I can notice what happened and reflect on it with curiosity and compassion. Instead of wallowing in self-criticism about the hours lost in forgetting, I can relish the delicious moment of remembering. The moment when I looked up from the computer screen and saw the evening light dancing on the fresh, new maple leaves. This moment.
Here are some juicy excerpts:
…And that makes sense in terms of evolution and our ancestral environment. Our brains would have been more than adequate to handle the few exciting things that came up, and been perfectly content to sort of idle along the rest of the time. That idle mode feels really, really good, because it is probably the natural waking rest mode of the brain. Not caught in a seeking feedback loop. No stress, no anxiety or cortisol, and no overload of problems problems problems that our information overlords shovel into the gaping maw of our need for novelty. It’s like feeding Cap’n Crunch to kids: they can’t stop eating it, even though it’s not doing them any good.
…Our brains have an insatiable urge for seeking new things, but now we have a limitless source of novelty. We are stuffed beyond the limit with unprocessed, undigested, and unhelpful experiences that we cannot convert to energizing, useful, practical knowledge. We can’t stop pressing the seek button, looking for another little hit of dopamine. We are information junkies, and our brains are full. Like rats in a lab, we could just keep hitting the seek button until we collapse.
…What I am suggesting is that our brains require some real down time… Down time means deeply quiet, really simple, totally open time in which you are not working, accomplishing anything, or taking in new information. Down time means staring at trees, or strolling aimlessly in a forest. Hanging out at the beach, or sitting on a mountainside. Even in the city, it’s not that hard to just kick back and watch the sky or relax at home. Let yourself get really bored.
So, shut off your computer, put down your phone and give your brain a rest. Go outside or to a window and stare at a cloud. Or close your eyes and feel the breeze on your cheek, or smell the newly mown grass. Sure, thoughts will continue to come up—let ‘em. Like leaves dropped onto a flowing stream, let them continue on their way. You don’t have to follow them.
And breathe. Breathe in for a count of three, and out for a count of six. Do this for three cycles and then just forget about it. Your body knows how to breathe once you relax—let it.
Enjoy this time for as long as you can.
I hope you can give this a try. Leave a comment to share your experience.