Saturday, July 23, 2011

I want a Monk's mind - the benefit of being offline and my ongoing search for focus

Olly & I #2

I really benefited from my holiday to Jesolo. I benefited from the sun... the rest... the different perspective... the food... and the ability to (re)connect with my wife and we’ans. Part of this benefit can be ascribed to the fact I was offline for 11 out of the 12 days I was in Italy.

Prior to going I thought digital fasts were the latest ’hip’ thing... a fad that people liked to throw into conversation as the latest ’something worth doing’. It seemed more hype than anything else... people online talking online about how they needed a break from being online.

That said... I was anxious about being disconnected. I’m not sure why. I guess I was fearful that I would miss out on the latest ’something’ or that I would be forgotten and lose any influence my ego thinks I might have.

But my frugality overcame this anxiety. I wasn’t prepared to spend £2 per day for 25mb of roaming data... and I couldn’t get text-to-twitter to work (and wasn’t prepared to pay for loads of text messages anyway).

In essence, the potential to know the latest ’thing’ or to have influence came at a price I wasn't willing to pay... and I am glad for that.

Instead of surfing or blogging or tweeting or ’catching up’, I read books... listened to music... and spent meaningful time with my family.

The Kindle is an awesome device and I finished three books on it and got 50% through a fourth. I also read and finished a physical copy of ’an idiot abroad’ - a book I had bought for Olly’s birthday (it's very funny btw and well recommended).

At home this would have been unheard of. Four and a half books in two weeks. I still can’t believe it.

I also listened to music for the sheer pleasure of listening to music. Not just the bleeding edge stuff I get early notice of... but the albums I consider ’classics’ that I may not always get the chance to really listen to. I could really focus on them and soak them up because my only distraction was my daughter in the pool or the need to top-up my wife’s suntan lotion.

I look back with envy at this time because those days were so uncomplicated... in comparison with how I have made my life today. I guess that's the value of a holiday... it is about escape and disconnection.

My mission now is bring regular periods of ’offline’ into my life... and, in doing so, bring my focus back.

I don’t see being ’offline’ as the cure for all my ills but I do see it as an enabler... it will give me the space to read more and spend quality time with my family.

I already need to practice being ’in the moment’ more and it will help with that... but it is more... it’s about quality rather than quantity... it's about rest making us stronger... it's about being a broader and more rounded person (and not because I will eat more).

It's about being a better me... and a better me is better for everyone. Quantity doesn't always lead to better... nor does freedom. This is about quality and discipline... about focus and intent... about being a good steward of all my resources... especially time.

I want a monk’s mind. This is my end goal. I want to be able to switch off the distractions of ’my world’ and concentrate. This is what alludes me. I am too distracted and far too easily distractible. I need to develop routines and habits that help to shape a better me.

It’s a journey... and I am just starting.

Initial ideas include an offline ’sabbath’ once a week, using my first generation iPhone as a ’dumb phone’ (ie no data = offline) for the periods I need to be offline, drinking more water, and listening to mixes whilst working (I find the silences between tracks distracting).

I also need to internalise the sentiment expressed here by Seth Godin ::
"The value of breaking news (news = whatever is new to you) is dramatically overrated, and the cost of keeping up with what someone else thinks is urgent is just too high.

If it’s important today, it will be important tomorrow. Far more productive to do the work instead of monitoring what’s next."
I'll keep you posted.


1 comment:

Angus Mathie said...

Good thoughts again and the real benefit will be in putting your initial conclusions into practice. The Lord often resorted to deserted places and encouraged His disciples (then and now) to do the same. On holiday you were able to use your time in invaluable ways. Experiencing your family, your reading, your thoughts, etc., "in the moment" is an essential component for yourself and others. It is a constant re-charging that produces so much in the long run. If the Lord needed much time with His Father, how much more do we. Our lives slip by so easily and children become teenagers, 30s become 40s and we look back on our "busyness" rather than depth of experience.
Well thought out again and best wishes in your continuing journey!


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