This post was inspired by a conversation with my wife. We were discussing a presentation she had recently attended and how so many people who paid to be there spent much of their time focused on cell phones or tablets and not on the presenter. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been just as guilty as anyone when it comes to digi-distraction. Most notably when I’m sitting in a meeting and the topic isn’t one that requires my attention. I pop my phone out, check email, text, play a game. Periodically I check back in on the conversation to make sure I haven’t missed anything too important and the meeting eventually ends. I hope someone was taking notes….
I started thinking about the differences in quality of connection; when I’m digi-distracted, and when I’m fully conscious and present. It struck me at just how out of step this was for me in my life. When I am with my family and when I’m teaching, I make it a point to be completely present with and for them. It allows me to tune into the students better, challenge and support them as they need. From a student’s perspective, when I have a teacher that is fully present, I have felt the entire class is all about and for, just me.
We have rules in our home around disconnecting from the television, tablets, computers, phones, etc. During meal time (with an occasional exception for movie Friday), the television is either off or on a music channel (and not visible from the table anyway). All other electronics are in another room entirely. We use the meal time moratorium to talk about our day, the good, the bad, the whatever. Sometimes it’s a silent staring contest (breakfast as we aren’t really morning people). No matter how it turns out, we give each other undivided attention for that meal.
When teaching Tae Kwon Do, it’s easier because wearing a phone or carrying some other device and looking at it while sparring is just asking to get kicked. In yoga, texting while doing a handstand offers more challenge than most students want to tackle. Outside of class I’m intrigued to see how quickly the phone/tablet pulls people back into distraction. Families who take class together and work as a team, step off the mats and snap back into their own distracted, disengaged worlds.
This may sound like nothing, but think about the last time you actually stopped everything so you could pay attention to someone. And think back to the last time someone focused all of their attention on you and the impact that left. In our totally connected world where access, communication and distraction are a tap or buzz away, conscious communication isn’t so easy to find, and I think we suffer for it.
One way to do this with friends is during a meal, take the cell phones and place them face down on the table off to one side. For those who like a little competition, you can even institute rules around it. First one to reach for their phone, pays for everyone’s meal, or at least the drinks. Whether you put the punitive measures around it or not, be ready to bask in the focused, quality attention that is suddenly available between friends and family.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to choose a time where your family or your friends disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with each other; no digi-distractions.