A great many of us dream of becoming more present. We want to achieve a Zen-like state and savour every moment, instead of rushing through them. We know it’s important to slow down, take a breath, relax, meditate and become one with life so we may enjoy our experiences. How many of us actually do this? How many of us would be prepared to switch off our phones, ignore email and sit still for just one day?
For those who have tried it, myself included, it can be a little confronting and uncomfortable. It has become something of a second nature to check for messages and emails. Initially, it feels as if you’ve fallen out of the loop. It made me think about the way we communicate. It’s hard to believe there was a time when the only way to get in touch with someone was by calling their home or by written correspondence sent by traditional post. People don’t really write letters any more, which is a shame. Before the advent of electronic mail, things still got done. Maybe a little slower than now, but nonetheless, goals were still reached.
Throwing off the shackles of modern life, even for just one day, although strangely unfamiliar at first, can be liberating and infuse a sense of presence into everything you do. Time takes on a strange dream-like quality; it moves forward yet you are more aware of it than before. Simple tasks like sweeping up the leaves in the backyard may take twenty minutes, but when reflecting back on it at the end of the day, it feels as if you did it months ago. It highlights the transience of life; things come, their importance inflated in our minds, than eventually they go, and leave us thinking it was all a dream.
All of a sudden, tuning out becomes a way to tune in to life. When you don’t have the ability or responsibility to check mail or messages, when you don’t have T.V, or any other type of mod-con, you start to pay more attention to what you are doing. Enjoying a cup of tea for instance becomes a meditative act. You can actually sit and enjoy it without your mind racing ahead of itself. You bring a sense of presence to the act; you hear the cars in the distance, the birds in the trees and the wind against the window, all fading into silence. You heard before, but now you listen.
The irony is technology has made our lives so much easier. As any writer knows, the internet is a marvellous tool for getting published and increasing readership. Email is instant and easy to use. Being able to contact someone at any time, at any place, is practical for emergencies. Most of us have a bittersweet relationship with the mod-cons that make our lives easier. A day spent without them can help us appreciate what they bring to our lives, while on the other hand, expose the hidden joys we forget to notice when our attentions are elsewhere.
It’s a great exercise to see if you can live one day without some form of technology. At first it appears impossible, yet becomes easier the longer you go without. The respect and reverence life deserves is lost when we forget to bring presence to all we do. Simple tasks take on deeper meaning when we are in tune with what we are doing. If we don’t take time to tune out and recharge occasionally, we miss out on the joy of the little moments. It’s these little moments, stitched together, that become the very fabric of our lives.