The Spaciousness of Being Disconnected

In part 3 of this God-Knows-What that I am chronicling, I wanted to briefly introduce the notion of ‘spaciousness’ that comes from the quieting of the mind that came with the meditation I began a few weeks ago, as well as the media diet that I’ve been on for a few weeks. I think it had a lot to do with some of the revelations I came to.

For someone with an iPhone like me, I don’t have to be disconnected for a single second. The thing is in my pocket most of the day, and nearly every moment of downtime can be efficient: what’s the temp to cook duck breast? Ask Google right in the grocery store. That waterproof iPhone case I’m looking at – is $30 a good price? Scan the bar code with Red Laser in the store and it tells me I can get it without sales tax and free shipping for $24. Just bored while waiting for my family to finish shopping? Play a game of Doodle Jump, or go to Digg and see what interesting articles I might find.

The iPhone is nothing short of miraculous – but is the filling of every possible moment a good miracle?

Never accuse me of an original thought. Here’s an article from the Harvard Business Review about a fellow who returned his iPad because it was too good.

Here’s a somewhat extended and slightly redacted excerpt:

It didn’t take long for me to encounter the dark side of this revolutionary device: it’s too good.

It’s too easy. Too accessible. Both too fast and too long-lasting. Certainly there are some kinks, but nothing monumental. For the most part, it does everything I could want. Which, as it turns out, is a problem.

Sure I might want to watch an episode of Weeds before going to sleep. But should I? It really is hard to stop after just one episode. And two hours later, I’m entertained and tired, but am I really better off? Or would it have been better to get seven hours of sleep instead of five?

The brilliance of the iPad is that it’s the anytime-anywhere computer. On the subway. In the hall waiting for the elevator. In a car on the way to the airport. Any free moment becomes a potential iPad moment.

So why is this a problem? It sounds like I was super-productive. Every extra minute, I was either producing or consuming.

But something — more than just sleep, though that’s critical too — is lost in the busyness. Something too valuable to lose.

Boredom.

Being bored is a precious thing, a state of mind we should pursue. Once boredom sets in, our minds begin to wander, looking for something exciting, something interesting to land on. And that’s where creativity arises.

My best ideas come to me when I am unproductive. When I am running but not listening to my iPod. When I am sitting, doing nothing, waiting for someone. When I am lying in bed as my mind wanders before falling to sleep. These “wasted” moments, moments not filled with anything in particular, are vital.

They are the moments in which we, often unconsciously, organize our minds, make sense of our lives, and connect the dots. They’re the moments in which we talk to ourselves. And listen.

To lose those moments, to replace them with tasks and efficiency, is a mistake. What’s worse is that we don’t just lose them. We actively throw them away.

Our tools change who we are, for better and for worse. They can enhance some aspects of our nature while allowing others to go fallow.

These other aspects of our nature might be full of quiet wisdom that can’t be heard above the din.

I quieted my mind a bit and gave the quiet thoughts a chance to be heard, and it added a depth to this diet mind game that I had previously ignored.

I’m sure I lost a lot of you on this one…sorry.

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3 thoughts on “The Spaciousness of Being Disconnected

  1. You didn’t lose me; in fact you came across loud and clear. I’ve really enjoyed this train of thought and it’s given me a much needed perspective. I hope you’ll keep sharing this process, it’s been very beneficial to me.

  2. You didn’t lose me either. This is my first post but I enjoy your blog very much because it is so thought provoking. I come away wanting more. I just finished reading “Good Calories, Bad Calories” because of a post you recently wrote. Please keep sharing your journey with us.

  3. I am definitely struggling with the iPad and the computer. My husband was given an iPad as part of his work and yet I’ve been using it way more than he has. I suddenly just *have* to send this email, or look that up, or read one more blog post! I used to keep all electronics off on Sundays, but I find that I’m flipping on the iPad for just five minutes here, ten minutes there, an hour here. Sigh…

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