When we are kept waiting, we typically grab our phone to “fill in the time”. We might check emails or social media or the latest news; our default is our phone, not taking the opportunity to develop awareness. One of Diana Winston’s students told her that when he was waiting or had time on his hands, he no longer defaulted to his phone, but “defaulted to awareness”. Diana Winston addresses this process in her book, The Little Book of Being (p.184).
Default to awareness
When we are kept waiting for a bus to arrive or to see the doctor/dentist, or are stalled in traffic, we feel bored or ill at ease. We can become agitated, annoyed or even angry – all of which can negatively impact our subsequent interactions with others. To alleviate this discomfort, we often resort to the phone as our default response. However, the “waiting time” provides the perfect opportunity to further develop awareness. The opportunities for this positive response are seemingly endless. During the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Program that I attended in Sydney, one of the participants reported that they practised mindful awareness whenever they waited for the jug to boil when making a cup of tea or coffee. The participant reported that by building this habit into something he does on a regular basis, he was able to develop awareness as a part of his everyday activities.
Diana suggests that the way to drop into awareness instead of reaching for your phone is to begin by focusing on your feet. You can feel the pressure of your feet on the floor or the ground and be conscious of this “grounding”. You can then progress to getting in touch with your breathing and rest in the space between breaths. This can be followed by a brief or elongated body scan (the duration of the scan depending on how long you have to wait). You can then explore points of tension in your body and release the tension or soften the muscles involved. If you are experiencing negative thoughts and/or feelings, you will inevitably feel tense in some part of your body – noticing and releasing tension develops your awareness. If you begin to adopt these mindfulness practices on different occasions when you are waiting, you will find that you will “default to awareness” naturally – your phone will not be your “first port of call”.
If we use our waiting time as a conscious effort to grow in mindfulness, we can develop the habit of dropping into awareness, instead of reaching for our phone. We can explore either inner or outer awareness and develop our capacity for self-regulation and gratitude, as well as build calmness and equanimity in our lives. Defaulting to our phone, on the other hand, increases the pace of our life and can intensify our agitation.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)
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