When I’m feeling most cluttered and distracted, there are two places I know I can count on to clear my head: the summit of a high mountain, or a long stretch of empty beach.
And yet how much time do I actually spend in such places? I have lived most of my life in very different environments: cities or towns, shopping centers, cars, planes, airports…and of course, in the crowded precincts of the World Wide Web.
As I advance further into the Age of the Smart Phone, I notice that it gets harder and harder for me unplug, clear my mind and find clarity. Even on the mountaintop or the beach, you may find me with my head down, looking at my screen. Perish the thought! And yet it’s true, and I know I’m not alone.
In our accelerated, crowded, hyper-distracted times, how do we slow down and make time to seek and come to clarity on what matters to us? On what our goals are, for example, and on what our priorities should be to move us towards those goals.
Meditation, yoga, and other forms of exercise can help quiet our minds. But purposeful memoir can do more: through the process of self-reflection, we will gain a clearer understanding of what makes us feel crowded and confused, versus spacious and clear. Once we understand these contrasts, we can work to build more clarity into our lives going forward.
In my case, a very small tweak of my habits made a big difference. One day I decided not to bring my phone to bed with me anymore. First I had to go out and buy a reliable alarm clock without LED lights, since those disturb my sleep. The first night, when I left my phone charging in the kitchen and went upstairs to bed without it, I felt decidedly uncomfortable. My inner addict wailed, “But what if someone texts me during the night? I have to respond!” But the change in my sleep, even on the first night, was significant.
Within the first week, I noticed that I was able to get to sleep more quickly, dozing off after reading a book—an actual printed, paperback book!—for a half hour or so. I woke up more slowly, allowing myself to simply lie in bed and do nothing for a few minutes after waking, thinking about my dreams, and what lay ahead of me that day. The upshot was that I felt much better rested, more relaxed, and more clear-headed in the morning. A minor change resulted in a major advance of clarity in my life.
This month, I invite you to think about the ratio of distraction and clutter to serenity and clarity in your life. How has your clarity (about life choices, for example) changed over time, from childhood into the present? To clear your mind, where do you go, what do you do? How do you feel when you are able to gain clarity, and how does this impact your life?