My kids aren't old enough to own cell phones (YET) so the power of this for me isn't about parenting, it's about my own practice of living. The nerve it struck resides close to that deep dark "forever empty" place inside me.
I've long struggled with using my phone in moderation around other people, and have drawn lines about when and how I use it in front of my children and with my husband and friends. But after watching this video, I was struck with sickening regret by how, when any quiet, private moment appears, I instinctively reach for my phone. Did anyone text, are there any new emails, what's going on on Twitter, who's updated Facebook, and on and on until it's been half an hour and this happens multiple times a day. So on Friday I thought, okay, anytime I sit down and have a moment to myself I'll leave my phone in my pocket and just sit there and feel it. Whatever "it" is at that moment.
Exhaustion, frustration, resignation, boredom are all fine, manageable. Forever emptiness, less so.
And you know what? Forever emptiness feels like CRAP.
I don't want to feel the forever emptiness because it sometimes feels like it's more powerful than me, like it might swallow me whole. Honestly, I let it take over too often; it's a fun bonus feature of my porous, depressive personality. So perhaps I am hard wired to look for distractions, like reading novels, like fiddling with my phone, to fill quiet moments with something, ANYTHING.
When does something stop being a balm and start being a crutch?
On Sunday, I went to my groovy little church. The sermon centered on Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness teachings, on finding the calm center within us, not only in quiet peaceful moments but in the dark treacherous ones as well.
Of his many meditation practices, the minister highlighted this one:
Breathe in, present moment.
Breathe out, wonderful moment.
As tears rolled down my face, I knew I had something to focus my still moments. I have a well of strength inside of me to combat the forever empty. I can feel the sadness, but I can also press past it with the strength of my own positive intention.
Perhaps the quiet moments don't have to be filled with a phone, but they also don't have to be given over to sorrow.
I can't find my phone at the moment. It's somewhere in the house, I'm sure. Maybe in the laundry pile or wedged in the couch cushions or tucked in a sweatshirt pocket. It feels odd not to have it beside me. I rarely lose it these days because I am rarely far from it.
But I'm not rushing around trying to find my phone right now. It's okay. It'll turn up.
I relish the connection to friends and family and the thrumming pulse of the internet my phone gives me. I embrace the easy distraction, which at times can be a gift and a balm and, okay fine, sometimes a crutch.
A crutch can help us lurch through our days when we need it. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all. Keep moving forward, even if it's lurching, even if it's leaning on a crutch a little too heavily some days.
Moderation in anything isn't easy. But I don't think we need to throw away our smart phones any more than we need to stay glued to them at every possible moment. Nurturing our connection to the world is wonderful. Nurturing our connection to the strong peaceful part inside of us is also wonderful.
Present moment, wonderful moment.