My new and improved mindful life

While hiking in the middle of the woods, I said to my husband, “I think I’m going to go back to a talk-and-text phone. The smart phone is adding a level of distraction in my life that I need to remove in order to simplify and be more mindful.”

Not 24 hours later, he stepped on my phone. On accident. I think.

True story

As I checked my email on this phone — I put it in a ziplock baggie to prevent glass cuts — I realized that I NEEDED to unplug. I’m now the owner of one of the only 3 talk-and-text phones that my carrier had available in the store. And, according to the lovely person helping me, I am the only person she has ever had downgrade rather than upgrade.

I think our societal pendulum has swung so far to the get-out-and-do-stuff side of things that it’s starting to swing back and a simpler lifestyle is making more and more sense to a lot of people. Just not people who shop at the same cell phone store I shop at.

Oh, I’ve simplified. I’ve gotten rid of excess stuff. I’ve cut way back on our activities. I’ve started a daily rhythm to keep our days running smoothly. I’ve made lists. Simplifying is something I’ve done. What I haven’t done, however, is become mindful.

Does it get any simpler?

Mindfulness is about being present in the present and choosing your words and actions after taking time to think them through. There is also some big picture stuff like being mindful as consumers, producers, and citizens. I’m actually so much better at the big picture stuff than I am simply within the 4 walls of my house. I recommend perusing Kellie’s posts at Mindful Life blog for more inspiration and ideas.

There are some obstacles to being mindful. Some people will fall into the “overthinking” category. They will be so mindful that they are stymied by indecision or take so long to respond that the rest of the world has moved on while they were thinking. I assure you that I will never fall into the trap of overthinking or of indecision. My two obstacles are on the other side of the spectrum and are best described in DSM IV under “ADHD” — Distractability and Impulsivity. One of those might even be a real word.

Making up words is the prerogative of imaginationary people and blowhards in management. You can decide which I am.

I always look at my faults as positives. It helps for a healthy self image. Yes, I’m easily distracted. But that also means that when you come over, I will drop whatever I’m doing to have a conversation with you. Yes, my house is falling apart around me but what was that you said about a sale at Hobby Lobby? Yes, I’m impulsive. Oh, your plans fell through at the last minute? Come over and help me paint the bathroom that I decided to paint a second before you called. We’ll just use whatever leftover paint I have in the garage.

I painted this wall with a second of forethought. And in that second, I forgot I wanted to paint it blue. Still haven’t finished the second coat… 2 months later.

These things aren’t all bad. But they are kind of bad.

Step one in being mindful is often to simplify. Figuring I’ve done that, I need to eliminate distractions next. My top distraction is, far and away, media. In fact, while setting up my new and less distracting phone, two of my kids began to argue. One of them (Eli) was getting angry so I stepped in to see if I could help calm things down. It worked so I went back to setting up my phone. I mean, I really needed my Play That Funky Music ringtone installed right then. Tempers flared again so I put the phone down and went and sat in the room. I didn’t say anything. I just sat there. Things calmed down again and another child asked about my phone. I said, “I’m not done setting it up because Eli needs me here and he’s important to me.” Eli, who was still a bit angry at the time, leaned over and hugged me.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who needs me to be present and mindful.

So, here it goes. The computer? Upstairs and a pain to get to so I can’t pop on for “a minute” to see what’s going on. Phone? Can call and text only. Online forums/social media? Deleted log in information so I can’t mindlessly log in. I have to make the actual choice to sit down and log on. TV? No channels so I have to, again, decide to watch something specific because turning it on and flipping through the channels doesn’t work.

Distraction elimination is only just beginning. I’ll have to report back on how it works. The impulsive side? I think that’s just going to be a matter of giving myself a minimum deadline before I can act. I cannot paint the bathroom magenta until Friday. If I still want to do it then, I will do it. It’ll take practice, but I promise I’ll use one of my blog days to update in a month or so.

Any tips or warm fuzzies about mindful living to get me through the media detox? Reminders that taking a day before responding to an email or a phone call won’t cause the world to pass me by? Leave it all in the comments. I will read them all… when I have a chance to come upstairs and sit at the computer because my new phone? There is no WordPress app.

Here we go.


13 thoughts on “My new and improved mindful life

  1. Good luck with your journey, Charlie! Intention is what you are aiming for, and you have the intention of being more mindful. I’d say that is a huge step in the right direction. And I love the idea of putting a time limit on your impulsiveness.

    And, I’m mindful with a smart phone. 😉 It is all in how you use it!

    • Yes, exactly. Even reading can get in the way of mindfulness if it’s used as an escape from the present.

  2. Go Charlie! I’ve never had a smart phone and I have no plans to upgrade to one. Scott downgraded from an iPhone to a talk and text phone when we moved, and it was hard for him in some aspects, but overall he has loved not being so connected anymore. I don’t have any other tips–but I love your idea of moving the computer to a part of the house that you are not in as much. I am terrible about sitting down at the computer multiple times a day to “check in” and then find myself still sitting an hour later doing nothing. It is a horrible time suck.

    • Lars just got an iPhone. So, I guess if I ever super needed the power of Siri, I could use it. But so far, so good.

  3. I feel like a hypocrite reading and agreeing with this while being unable to tear myself away from the computer! But I’ll also admit I’m nowhere near the point that you are, too. I got up while reading this, got the baby, changed her diaper and came back instead of going and making breakfast. *sigh* I wish being present didn’t make me so BORED and resentful.

    • Ah, I see the value of boredom. And it’s not so much that I don’t do anything except exist, but that I do things that allow me to stay connected to everyone and everything else. When I’m on the computer or see that I have an email on my phone, I disconnect from everything else.

      I hope to keep my disconnections to a minimum during the hours the kids are up and needing me. The internet, the good book, and the movie will be there after bedtime or before they get up.

  4. I love this idea. I do like my smart phone because of the navigation and being able to find anything out when I need to. Not sure if I could give it away completely, but maybe a good start would be to delete my email app and also Facebook. It’s worth a shot at least.

    • There are a few things that gave me cold feet over getting rid of the smart phone. Navigation was probably #1 but my talk and text phone actually has it. It’s not as easy to use as with the android though. And #2 was probably my IMDB app. I’m not kidding. I get an actor or movie in my head and I until I place it.

  5. Three cheers for Charlie! It’s hard, finding that balance, but I do really think it can be done. Let us know how when you get there, ok? 😀 I don’t have a smart phone, and I won’t get one, because I spend way to much time on the computer anyway, and I think it’d be terrifying spending more. My biggest thing is when I have ‘right, comp OFF days’.. I get SO much more done, and the kids are happier. However, with Heather there.. I also get so bored… because so much of what needs to be done, needs to be done again and again and agaaaiinn. I’m planning on making time slots for fun stuff .. music, and painting etc, not just housework. Hopefully that’ll help the comp/off stuff, and role model being a person, not just a Stepford wife, to my kids. Good luck!

    • I think the big thing with the android phone was that it could be used virtually anywhere. At least with the computer, I have to be home or where there is an internet connection. When I’m out in the world, I need to be out in the world and present. So moving the computer out of reach and getting rid of the phone has cut down on my internet time.

      Unfortunately, I still need to do some work on my perspective. When I do get online, instead of it being a “oh, let’s see what’s happening,” I feel like it’s a rush to get things done. Update blog. Respond to comments. Check Facebook. Answer messages. Check email. Respond to email. Pay bills. Update iPhoto. Etc.

      I am still getting wrapped up in my productivity, as Lara said, only less often.

      Baby steps.

  6. Great post. I have yet to upgrade to a Smart Phone. I never will. My fiancee has one and I do like the convenience of it, but it also takes away from the adventure in life. Getting lost can sometimes be fun; but with the Iphone it’s a pain in the rear because “the machine screwed us over and now we’ll be 20 minutes late…” That’s probably the biggest issue for me with Iphones, actually–that they are a scapegoat and yet a godsend. Where has personal responsibility and empowerment gone? We are smart, adaptive creatures. Our minds have great potential, unless we let our smart phones continue to make us obsolete even to ourselves.

    You’re absolutely right. There is a time and a place, just like anything else. Being mindful of where and when to do anything is key. Awareness of the world leads to understanding of it.

    • I’ve had the same experience myself. I was nearly late to my brother’s wedding (2 of my kids were IN the wedding) because we relied on a GPS that didn’t have accurate data on the area.

      My personal problem with the phone was that I would pull it out standing in line, at long stoplights, during the kids’ piano lessons simply to occupy my mind. I think my mind needs to relearn how to occupy itself.

  7. Sounds like an exciting journey. On becoming minimalist, this quote was posted today
    “Your first step in the right direction doesn’t have to be a big one.” – Source

    I love that you’ll stop everything to visit with an unexpected guest. And I love that you can have partially painted walls while you visit with the guest and be fine with that.

    We recently stopped by my parents house and they were busy, but interrupted their activities for our short visit. My mom commented we could visit them anytime and they’d be delighted to have us. If we want to come see the house in perfect order, we can call ahead and make an appointment. Just depends on what’s most important to you.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how this goes for you. I read today, the author posted

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