Addiction to Distraction

Photo by Yoshi Sodeoka

Click on the title above for this interesting article, written by Tony Schwartz, a writer for the NY Times.  It's about one of my favorite topics, our society's "addiction to busy".  Schwartz writes about his own struggles with getting distracted and losing time online.  In this busy world, it's important to be mindful of how much time we spend online.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying our online time; the problem begins when it distracts us from doing the things we love most.


Dan Harris on Meditation at Wisdom 2.0

I am a big fan of the Wisdom 2.0 conference; the conference explores the ways we can mindfully stay connected through technology in ways which benefit others.  The most recent conference was held in San Francisco in February, 2015.  This video of Dan Harris is from the 2014 conference in which he discusses the benefits of meditation.  I like the video because Harris uses simple terms to describe his practice. 



Christine Carter is a sociologist and happiness researcher who recently spoke at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.   The topic of her talk was "Full Plate, Empty Life: How To Achieve More By Doing Less".  Her talk explores the benefits of "single-tasking" in our fast paced multi-tasking society.  As I grow older, time has become more precious to me.  I'm interested in having a more grounded, satisfying life.  I hope this talk inspires you to consider slowing down and savoring the task at hand. 


Mindful Driving

I have always loved cars, I enjoy car design, speed and safety.  In the early 80s, I honed my driving skills in Manhattan among the cabbies, delivering manuscripts for my mother.  Several years ago my brother gave me a birthday gift of a day at the track with a professional race car driver; I was in heaven as my little car flew around the turns at high speeds.  This was a safe place to enjoy my need for speed!  As I have gotten older, I have become more safety conscious (and I want to maintain my clean driving record).  One of my pet peeves is when I see people driving and texting. I notice drivers on their cell phones weaving in and out of lanes on the freeway at night when I am returning from work.

A few weeks ago my friend Cindy mentioned a piece she heard on NPR.  The author, Matt Richtel, wrote a book entitled, “A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention”, about a young man named Reggie Shaw who hit and killed two people in 2006 while texting and driving.  Shaw’s case was one of the first to address the dangers of distracted driving. Richtel explains the way technology can put “pressure” on the brain to respond.  He compares the ringtones of our cell phones with being tapped on the shoulder while you are driving.  It is nearly impossible for us to ignore being tapped on the shoulder and keep our attention focused on what is in front of us.  The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain responsible for emotions, processing complex thoughts and emotions. When our phone alerts us to a text or call the prefrontal cortex hijacks (taps) the part of the brain that is focused on driving.

Shortly after listening to Richtel’s piece; a colleague of mine shared that she does not use her cell phone in the car.  Just to be clear, she does not talk on her cell phone (or text) while driving.  I told her how busy I was and that I usually return calls on my way to work (using my headset) and on my way home. My colleague asked me if I would be able to live with myself if I injured someone as a result of distracted driving; she said she pulls over if she needs to make a call.  When the universe provides me with more than one hint I try to pay attention.

Listening to Richtel’s piece on NPR helped me get honest about my own concerns about driving while talking on a cell phone, even while using ear buds.  I have never sent a text while driving as I can barely see the phone.  However, I have had several near misses when talking on the phone (hands free).  As someone who encourages my clients to practice mindfulness, can I really defend the practice of driving while my mind is elsewhere?  Am I really paying attention to the conversation as I dart in and out of traffic trying to make my way to the office?  Would I be able to drive defensively if another driver was not paying attention?

I decided to try an experiment.  I shut my phone off before getting in the car and leave it off until I arrive at my destination.  The experiment has lasted a few months now and I am enjoying the mindful ride.  After a few months, I purchased a new car with the latest handsfree/bluetooth technology.  I must admit that I have been answering the phone from time to time.  However, I have significantly cut down on the number of calls I make from the car.  To learn more about distracted driving, check out the link to the Diane Rehm show on NPR below.  I wish you a safe and mindful ride.  

Tara Brach- The trance of addictive doing

In this video Tara Brach (psychotherapist and meditation teacher) shares about our society’s preoccupation with doing as opposed to being. I often write about our “addiction to busy”.  Tara Brach calls it the “trance of addictive doing”.  When I was part of the corporate world, I over-used technology and “overall business”.  My life is very different today.  Each week I set aside at least one day to pause and rest.  I do not work or make a bunch of plans for the day, I let it unfold. My daily meditation practice helps me slow down and enjoy each moment; I am committed to living my life more fully each day.

Bringing Awareness to Doing (08/20/2014) - One of the core domains of egoic trance is addictive doing - chronic activity driven by fear and wanting that keeps us from realizing a wholeness of Being. This talk looks at how addictive doing keeps us in the map of time, identified as a separate self, always on our way somewhere else.