It occurred to me this week that there are very few times in our daily lives now where we have someone else's full attention. It's the most powerful gift we can give another person. People are often distracted with their phones, or multi-tasking. Partial or split attention is just not as meaningful or satisfying emotionally. Listening with our heart and full attention in trying to understand another person feels wonderful. It tells the other person that they are valued and important.
When we walk into a store or a restaurant and no one acknowledges us or greets us, or the staff seems busy or hassled, we feel disgruntled and unimportant. We don't feel as good about our experience with the business. In our personal relationships, when we don't welcome our spouse home or make time to consciously connect with our children, or be available for a close friend, they also feel less connected and less important to us.
The epidemic and compulsive attention to our cell phones is changing the quality of our relationships. When you are out at a restaurant next time, look around and observe how many couples or families are each on their own devices, completely ignoring each other. The need to not miss out on what might be happening somewhere else is overpowering our need to be present for ourselves in our own lives and for those who matter most to us.
How can we stop this cultural shift towards disconnection? Rebel. Be weird, and not like everybody else. Do things differently. For example, set times when technology is completely off---like mealtimes, after 5 at night, or weekends. Take time waster apps off your cell phone. Don't check email nights or weekends. It's not enough to put a cell phone aside nearby or on silent. Our most important relationships can tell if we are peeking to check it or have it completely out of reach with our complete presence, inviting them to connect. It's really a meditative discipline to practice being FULLY available and opening our heart, listening for understanding.
In her simple but helpful book, Consciously Connecting: A Simple Process to Reconnect in a Disconnected World (Balboa Press, 2014), writer Holland Haiis gives small ideas that can get you started on creating healthier patterns that are framed around the months of the year. These include creating patterns for quiet, for gratitude, for simple joys, for play, for less stuff and for exploring who you really are and what really makes you happy.
When I was a child, I remember spending the day with a family friend who suggested she and I spend the whole day getting lost taking a drive and finding our way back home. It was a wonderful adventure I never forgot. Perhaps being fully available is the one priceless thing we can share that means more than anything we could purchase. Shared time, spent consciously making ourselves fully available to another person creates the possibility and context for the magic of connection. These are the moments that bond us to each other, that we savor and cherish. Time spent connecting to our true nature, by being in solitude and allowing time for reflection and creativity is essential.
As Haiis explains in her book, "An inordinate amount of time is spent looking for approval from the outside world desperate for the great internal sources of so-called validation. In the midst of that disconnection you have forgotten to look within; you have forgotten to trust yourself. This work is about engaging your focus back onto you--- not on the ego, as there is plenty of that, but the deeper connection," to ourselves and each other.
Reject disconnection from yourself and from the people you most care about. Be a rebel for conscious connection with what matters most. You are the architect of your life, and don't let any cell phone or penchant to multi-task take away your power to create the life you find most fulfilling.