We live in a world of ghosts. We are all half present for most of our day. I constantly catch myself walking while looking at an iPhone. When I drive to work in the morning, I find myself lost in thought or needing the noise of the radio or an audiobook. We sit in a room of people that we love, while we all live in a half-present, hypnotized state of social media consciousness.
There’s an old saying that if you do two things at once, you do neither. I think of this a lot while I am walking because I rarely just walk, fully aware of my surroundings. We need distraction. There is something in us that thinks that walking isn’t enough. One of the consequences of not paying attention, is that we non-verbally tell those around us, usually our spouse and kids, that they aren’t interesting enough.
Recently we watched a show on HBO called Love Life. Each episode was a step in Darby Carter’s (played by Anna Kendrick) path through dating life until she finds “the one.” Throughout the show, you are shown how she meets each person and how each relationship ultimately fizzles out. We were near the end, and I realized a commonality in them all.
The constant complaint about each relationship was that they were both always on their phone. The cycle perpetuates as the relationship fizzled, and they found the next person on the same phone. It struck me that not being present in the first place was a huge part of what moved each of them through the dating life. They were always in search of something better.
It seems that we are distracted because we are always in search of something better. We always want to see a different place or a different person’s life, as ours passes us by. We don’t pay attention to our own lives, therefore we want someone else’s. In a way, this is the definition of our social media feed. I want your life; please ‘like’ mine and tell me that it’s good enough. The thing is, most of us live the life that we are searching for. We just aren’t aware enough to see it. We are half present, therefore half appreciative, and our relationships suffer because of it.
A man once asked a monk this question, “How should I live?”. The monk replied, “When you eat, eat. When you walk, walk. When you sleep, sleep.”
When you do something, be there for it. Pay attention that you are doing it. When you walk, know that you are walking. Look at people around you. When you talk to a person, listen to the words they are saying while you are looking at them. When you eat, taste the food. If you pay attention, you will enjoy your life more.
Once you become aware of what’s going on in your thoughts, body, and surroundings, you can find interest in anything. Breathing becomes something that you can sit and pay attention to. You can be equally content sitting by yourself or with others. Practice doing one thing at a time with your full attention. You only get this one life — don’t half live it.