Being present

  • There are infinite distractions swirling around in our daily lives. The biggest challenge every day for me is to be present and give all my effort to the task at hand. I recently upgraded from my trusty flip phone to a shiny new smartphone. I was assured by the handsome and knowledgeable salesman that the capability of my new device would “allow me to accomplish more while on the go.” At first, this seemed like a real benefit. No longer would I miss substitute teaching opportunites at the yoga studio because I didn’t get the email. My time sitting on the bus or waiting for doctor’s appointments could now effectively be used to update my calendar and do online banking. My smartphone would even be able to show me maps and give me directions. For example, finding a yoga studio while travelling to my cousin’s wedding would not require prior research. I would be able to look them up on my phone!

Now, I know that none of these applications of a smartphone are news. Every day, I see people looking at their screens, productively scrolling through documents and presumably accomplishing more while on the go. After two weeks with my smartphone, however, I noticed a disturbing trend in my daily affairs. I was forgetting important things! Appointments, plans with friends, even entire converstations were slipping my mind. It occured to me that all of so-called remote productivity was distracting me from the present moment. Suddenly I was emailing while having lunch with a friend, and not doing a particularly good job of either. The conversation with my friend was lacklustre and the email to my boss was overrun with grammatical errors. I wasn’t concentrating on either and as a result, I forgot important details of both.

 

The sixth limb of ashtanga yoga is dharana, or the ability to concentrate and be present. Generally, I am available to cultivate concentration while I’m teaching or practicing yoga. Now I want that skill to translate to my every day life.

For me, being present for every task and activity is a challenge in the best of times. Thelast thing I need is a portable device that distracts me all day. The two week relationship with my smartphone ended abruptly when I accidently dropped the phone in the toilet. I chose to view this unfortunate event as good omen, and reactivated my flip phone that evening. Since then, I have made a conscious effort to really listen when my friends are talking to me and to sit down at a computer to proof read my emails before sending them off. I am confident that being present in each activity that I do is a far better tool for productivity than having a portable distractor in my hand at all times.

Dharana.

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