Have you noticed throughout your day when you feel stressed? Do you notice times when you feel more relaxed and calm? What are you doing during these different times? Lately, I have noticed a sharp contrast in my state of happiness between times when I am showered with information and when I unplug everything and simply experience the moment. The disparity has been so pronounced that I thought I would write about it in this week’s blog.
In today’s world we are constantly bombarded with information and there is a social/cultural expectation we will keep ourselves current. Email in the work environment has become the communications media of choice. We are assaulted with numerous, if not hundreds, of emails on a daily basis and the sender’s expectations are that we will respond instantly. The cell phones that we love so much and can’t live without are vibrating and ringing with text messages and alerts. Ironically, cell phones are minimally used for actually placing a phone call. Our phones even have apps and games to fill every moment with something to do. Even the news is 24/7 these days. How many 24 hour news channels are running negative stories, few headlines are of positive events. How much of your day is spent on responding to emails, texts, playing electronic games or watching TV? There is great reluctance to unplug our devises and simply be present with ourselves in the moment.
We typically spend our day multitasking, either on the phone, texting or sending an email while trying to complete some task. It is rare in this day and age to be solely focused upon one activity at a time. Our focus is not necessarily upon completing a task but rather managing several responsibilities simultaneously. This occurs in our workplaces, family lives and relationships. The level of stress and mental illness, in particular depression and anxiety, have increased substantially at the same time as demands to “do more with less” have become prevalent in our lives. I recently attended a mental health seminar offered in my workplace in which the presenter, a mental health professional, pointed to research indicating that 47% or employees 35 or older are dealing with mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety). Almost half of all employees over 35 are having difficulty coping with the challenges of life. Our ability to cope with today’s information and technology demands has exceeded our human capacity. We are social creatures not computers capable of endless computations and calculations.
Even in our personal lives, many of us have lost our ability to separate work, home and pleasure. We carry our work cell phones everywhere, including taking bathroom breaks, because we simply cannot unplug. Families have their children in many extra-curriculum activities. Our children’s lives are filled with daily electronic entertainment provided by streams of children’s television programming, computer games, Xbox and Wii games. Our vehicles have DVD players in them to entertain the kids while driving. We seldom send our children outside to play with other children. When they aren’t watching TV or playing games, we rush them to sports teams, dance classes or music lessons. How often do we provide quiet time to simply be in the moment or be in the source field of Mother Nature? Even as adults, we rarely take the time to enjoy being alive in the moment, spend time in nature or watch the sun rise.
In sharp contrast, taking the time to unplug from the barrage of stimulation can be a blissful experience. There have been moments of late when I simply force myself to turn off all electronic devises and be in the awareness of the moment. I hear the bird’s chirping. I notice the trees swaying in the breeze. I can smell nature’s fragrances in the air. I feel myself being present in my body. The inhalation of breath and the slow expansion of my lungs. The exhalation and the contraction of my lungs. The stillness within my body is joyous. In these moments, I feel less stress and tension within myself physically and mentally. I actually feel more in balance with the flow of life, my life. Time is not passing me by and I am present to witness the moment. To experience greater happiness though I have to make a conscious decision to unplug. Maybe you are different but I have to consciously and deliberately make the choice to turn-off the external stimulation. I have become so conditioned in life to being constantly distracted, which in turn increases my experience of stress and fatigue.
As with everything, we are constantly at choice. We are at choice as to the level of stimulation that we let into our lives. We are choice when we unplug ourselves from the constant flow of information to be present in the here and now. Each moment is filled with great happiness and bliss but only when we slow down to notice. There is greater joy experienced in the watchful awareness of being fully present here and now than in any other experience. When we are able to let go of living in the future or the past and be in the present, we find our cups full and our spirits content. The bliss of being fully present cannot be experienced in the material world nor in our thoughts. Being fully present is the experience of love rising within oneself. Our awareness slows and yet we feel expanded at the same time. This is the meditator’s experience. Deceleration of thought, increased awareness of self and expanded presence. The experience is a euphoria superior to any physically stimulated pleasure provided by such things as chocolate, wine or drug. It has no negative side-effect and only enriches. It is neither bold nor timid, arrogant nor humble, visible nor subtle. The few words that I can use to express the experience, and yet cannot express its profundity, are IT IS and I AM.
I challenge you to unplug yourself from the busyness of the world and your mind. Take a few moments each day to just be present with yourself. Be aware of your breathing, the slow inhalation and exhalation. If you can stay with your breath, even just for three slow inhalations and exhalations, you will begin to experience the profound experience that I am unable to adequately articulate. In doing so you will begin to experience the divine being that you are.