It seems to me that 21st century living can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on what we choose. Communication knows no limits in this era. My concern is that it is making us an impatient people, unable to deal with waiting: we are a generation of instant gratification. We can buy something on Amazon Prime that will arrive in less than 24 hours with any luck; we’re frustrated when it doesn’t arrive. So many of us are pressured by the expectation of a near-immediate response to all the messages we are yet to reply to. The increasing necessity for headspace in this crowded world is proof of the effects our 21st century lifestyle is having on us. The headspace we used to have is squeezed out daily by our phones – they are mobile: they move with us, demanding all our time of us. Look around you: how many people are just sitting and doing nothing?
One of the many many things I took from the book The 5am Club was the principle that our most creative ideas come to us when we allow our imaginations to wander, when we don’t redirect our minds to our devices in our moments of quiet. How many great new inventions are not being imagined because of our inability to just sit with our thoughts and allow ideas to come to us? The next Thomas Edison stolen from us because he doesn’t allow himself his lightbulb moment. How many of us have sat next to “The One” but didn’t know because we didn’t lift our eyes or use our voices to talk to strangers? It’s just a thought. The symptoms of this are stress and anxiety, it seems. How much “free time” do we have, even when we think we’re on holiday? We may be on annual leave but our brains are still in work, tied to responsibility and external stimuli. I believe that often we scroll through Instagram because we feel uncomfortable in our own presence and silence. Next time you find yourself scrolling through the Facebook newsfeed, ask yourself this: What are you trying to distract yourself from? What has made you so uncomfortable that you aren’t able to sit with just your thoughts? Learning to be comfortable with our own thoughts, allowing our conscious minds to acknowledge the emotions we are experiencing is a way we process them and allow personal growth.
It occurred to me, then, that perhaps this is why we cannot stand traffic jams. We are forced to sit and wait and this makes us uncomfortable. I understand we all have somewhere to go, we have commitments to people and places and plans. But isn’t it a gift to be granted a moment to yourself? How rare! This is a situation beyond your control; you are- in this traffic jam- completely free of all commitments. Take a moment to be grateful for this chance to be with your thoughts. Be mindful: What can you hear? What can you see? How do you feel? Are there any areas of tension in your face, your body? Breathe deeply and savour this moment of stillness. Do you feel uncomfortable? How liberating to know that it’s your choice whether or not to let this situation anger you, or whether in fact to embrace it as an opportunity for mindfulness? You have been given a rare moment of stillness. Sit with the discomfort and let your thoughts find their way, allowing your mind a chance to clear. And when the light turns to green, you can go forward with a new sense of clarity and inner calm.