Eularee Smith
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Monday
Aug082016

Mindfulness. Is There an App for That?

This week I read another story about twins who were left in a car and died. Without pointing fingers, I must admit this tragedy is beyond my comprehension. Yet, more often than we care to admit, forgetfulness ends in a tragic circumstance that seems incredibly avoidable. Why?

It seems we are so caught up in the rush of life, that we crush ourselves with 7 minute workouts, 10,000 steps, or 10 minute meals. As childen, we were given a list of daily chores, that were somehow designed to teach us discipline and more importantly, a work ethic. If your bed was made and your room was tidy, you were on the road to having a successful day. Tricks, I suppose, to keep children from being lazy sots. An idle mind is the devil's workshop, sort of philosophy. Technology had all the promise and none of the follow through to make our lives easier and more productive. More productive has lead to an impossible demand on our time, and unfortunately our sanity.

We are more forgetful as a whole, than ever before. We used to blame it on age, but I no longer buy that theory, despite the rise in dementia and Alzheimers. These are diseases that plague the mind, but are not the type of forgetfulness that has become epidemic at earlier and earlier ages. This is not the forgetfulness that sends you back to your child's school in a panic, because they forgot their homework, or rushing to get them the lunch they left on the kitchen counter. This is adults with multiple schedules, appointments, meetings, reports and to do lists that have literally created a cascade effect in our brains erupting into momentary black outs.

It can be as simple as, did I turn the water off or the iron, or the stove. Where is my phone, my purse, or my keys? We simply don't remember the last thing we did, or wore, or said, because so much has happened in between and so much more is left to be done. We depend on our phones to remember for us with calendars, notes, contacts, in essence our life on device. The loss of that device would be a tragic circumstance that quite possibly we can not recover. Did you know that the majority of phone loss is in the toilet? Why are we taking our phones into the bathroom? Is there no place that is truly device free? Has technology so handcuffed us that even reaching for toilet paper can upset our world entirely?

Despite our best efforts to be more connected to the world, we have at the same time disconnected ourselves from the things that matter the most to us. I watch people going out for dinner or in the movies, at the ball game, and there is a phone in their hand. I am not immune, nor do I preach because I have the answer. But one thought does come to mind. Being mindful. If only for a minute a day, perhaps watching what we do, instead of watching for the next thing to do, we could nourish our minds with restful thinking. I will put my keys on the counter and my purse on the chair. I will watch my children play, rather than watch them through my phone and post to Facebook. I will commit to memory the phone number of my friend so I can call them just to say hello, how have you been. I will strap my children into the car seat knowing it is just a trip to the market, or the post office, and I will be taking them out of the seat shortly, rather than running in because I only have 15 minutes between errands. 

Instead of looking ahead, of letting our lives be scheduled so tight we don't have time to think, maybe we should put an alert in our device that says stop and smell a rose. Perhaps we need an app that goes off every few hours that reminds us to breathe, to smile, to call our mother or a friend just to say hello. Maybe it could alert us to be mindful once a day, like a Fit Bit for the brain. It's a thought and as technology progresses even faster, most likely a fleeting one.

What if just today, you were mindful? Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachussets Medical Center has demonstrated that practicing mindfulness brings improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms and creates positive changes in health attitudes and our behavior. So many practices include a meditative process or have some religious focus, but that isn't necessary to achieve results. For me, my garden is my fortress of solitude. Taking a moment to see there are flowers budding, tiny cucumbers emerging or the tangle of weeds demanding my immediate attention, is a mind and body building workout without the weekend warrior results the next day.

We choose to text and drive, rather than be aware of the car changing lanes in front of us. We check our messages, rather than talk to the person across the table from us. We plug in to tune out. Just for giggles, let's try to unplug to tune in. Like any lifestyle change, it takes time. But isn't that what technology is supposed to do? To free up our time to be, well, more mindful? Now that's how technology should work.

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