Posts Tagged ‘meditators’

The Fertile Ground of Idle Time

November 10, 2019

This is the ninth post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The author writes, “Idling actually has immense potential to command our attention. When we are in constant intellectual, emotional, or physical motion, we lack the spaciousness needed to come to understand and make sense of the full richness of our humanity. We are all familiar with the experience of feeling hungry or tired and not paying attention. Our stomachs growl or we yawn, yet we mindlessly push forward. We might drink coffee or eat something out of the vending machine, whatever is needed to keep moving through our very full day instead of taking the hunger pains or feelings of fatigue under real and rationed consideration. Our cultural norms reinforce this compensatory pattern by rewarding constant productivity, action, and advancement. As such, we are most commonly validated for having our attention focused outside ourself. Not only are we rewarded for being available to our employers, educators, and social connections twenty-four hours a day, but we are also privy to a never-ending stream of entertainment, education, and information that feels as though it builds, soothes, or stimulates us. Little reason (let alone demand) exists anymore for using our idle time to turn our attention inward.

The intolerance of stillness results in a deficit of self-soothing abilities. We cannot be still because we can’t soothe ourselves, quiet our thoughts, or regulate our emotions. Rather we stimulate ourselves, distracting ourselves or denying our need for comfort. Self-soothing skills, emotional regulation, critical-thinking capabilities, boredom tolerance, and creativity might all be enhanced by putting ourselves in the uncomfortable new space of stillness.

The author suggests that there is merit in learning to be calmly and fully present in any given moment. Experienced meditators tell us that this type of stillness comes only with great practice, and that a lack of practice leads to feelings of anxiety and agitation when distractions are unavailable. The author writes, “Self-soothing skills, emotional regulation, and critical thinking capabilities might all be enhanced by simply putting ourselves in the uncomfortable new space of stillness. Without doing the intentional work of saving some of our idle time to develop such skills, the opportunities for practice elude us and the malicious cycle of stimulation-distraction-information sets in. Not only does this rob of us our ability to practice tolerating stillness, it also keeps us valuing being informed over learning to be.

Boredom tolerance correlates positively with measures of creativity and experiencing intentional boredom paves the way for learning to function in “being” states as opposed to “doing” states. When we are bored, we find out how to stimulate or soothe ourselves. We learn to determine and meet our needs from this place. If we just meet boredom with an impulsive action to distract or engage the self in pursuits outside the self, we will never be fully capable functioning from a space of purely being who we are. Boredom tolerance and anxiety tolerance are twin requirements for learning to tolerate stillness. To be our healthiest and sturdiest selves requires an ability to be with ourselves in all our states of being; this enables the cultivation of imagination, engagement with complexities of thought, and a familiarity with our feelings. Often this externally looks like standing still and might look or feel like laziness, it is in reality much more of an idling where much internal activity is going on, even if the body is still.

There is a distinction between having time versus making it. Stop using the phrase “I don’t have time to…” and replace it with “I choose not to make time for…”