When tools enslave

I’m not a luddite; I love technology and information-era tools. But I can’t help feeling that most people with smartphones are more addicted to their devices than they realize or care to admit….  And that’s kind of scary.

Having access to instant communication, real-time information exchange, entertainment and financial transaction services make online life super-convenient. But considering that these devices didn’t exist ten years ago, it’s startling to know that most people would have a panic-attack if they had to go a day without their phone. Being ‘always connected’ has tethered us to pocket-sized screens and endless hours of taps and swipes.

People’s brains now crave — just like any addiction — the ‘dings’ and feedback of social media, and it’s been proven that younger generations, in their compulsive posting of selfies and checking for updates, have a real “fear of missing out” (FOMO).

This article on smartphone addiction is great — it’s lengthy, but it’s a worthwhile reminder that while technology can be amazing, we’re currently heading down a path where mobile devices are significantly affecting human relationships and our experience of life. And mostly, our tech-addiction isn’t helping — it’s hurting us.

Posted in Awareness, Declutter, Detachment, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Peace, Simplify | Leave a comment

Knowing that we can’t know

Like Homer, we’re all limited in our capacities. D’oh!

From ancient Egyptians to classical Greeks, the maxim “know thyself” has been a long-revered approach to self-inquiry and understanding.

But what if “know thyself” means knowing you can’t actually know yourself?

Although we’re self-reflective beings, we’re never able to cross the boundaries of comprehension. The human mind, limited by its own capacities of understanding, cannot “know” anything beyond its limitations.

Consciousness seeking to understand itself is like judging a standard using that same standard as the basis for judgment. Or like defining a word by using the word as its own definition — this results in an explanation that’s circular and reflexive, and which doesn’t provide substantive, meaningful insight.

(Confused?!?! That’s OK… we all are!  😉 )

The point is, for all the time and energy we devote to psychology and metaphysics, we really don’t know the root causes of our being; we don’t — and can’t — know what underlies our perception and cognition. We must, as philosopher Alan Watts puts it, “become vividly aware of the real impossibility of self-knowledge.”

In an age where information and knowledge are primary currencies of human interaction, and where science and technology continually steer us toward logic and rationality (influences that increasingly affect our lives)… can we learn to be comfortable with the fact that, in the end, we’ll never really know ourselves?

Posted in Awareness, Detachment, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Peace, Simplify | Leave a comment

Making the connection

It’s all about relationships.

"You jump, I jump!"... Making connections with others is a fundamental human need.

“You jump, I jump!”… Making connections with others is a fundamental human need.

This has been a longstanding core belief to me — the idea that everything is interconnected and that life is largely about discovering and improving the many relationships we have.

Relationships are at the heart of the two most basic motivators of human behavior: fear and love. Let’s look at fear first….

Fear generally stems from the idea of “missing out” or being excluded. Our greatest fears (including death itself) often center on our not being around or being left alone — in being “disconnected” from life. So we fear exclusion and isolation, and we crave inclusion and belonging.

This desire to be included is hardwired as a survival instinct in our DNA. No animal wants to be separated (or shunned) from the relative safety of the tribe. To survive and thrive, we seek belonging and acceptance. We are social creatures that physically and emotionally depend on each other. And so our need for connection and relationship with others has an evolutionary function: truly “no man is an island” — we’re all linked together to achieve our common goal of survival.

Our relationships drive our behavior; being accepted and having fulfilling relationships are primary motivators that lead to happiness. But not just any connection will do; we often seek relationships that might be described as “deep” or “meaningful,” and which are characterized more by their quality than quantity.

Friendships provide the greatest source of support and encouragement, along with the impetus to grow. In friendships, we experience (and offer) understanding, acceptance and inclusion in an intimately personal and direct way… and this, of course, is the experience of love.

So love is expressed in inclusion and belonging; love is acceptance and a lack of rejection. Love is the antithesis of fear; love dissolves barriers and apprehension. In our lifelong task of developing relationships, being motivated by love is a much better way to extend the quality and depth of our connections with others.

It’s all about relationships because relationships connect us, and these connections unify us and ultimately make us happy. And what’s the best way to form meaningful connections with others? To live a life of love, which erases lines of division and allows us to experience oneness.

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Oneness, Peace | Leave a comment

Happiness is…

happiness-in-simple-things

Happiness is found in simple things — a refreshing glass of water,
a friendly smile… or the fortunate state of being aware of these things.

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Humor, Peace, Simplify, Thankfulness | Leave a comment

To live

time-choice

“To live means to experience — through doing, feeling, thinking. Experience takes place in time, so time is the ultimate scarce resource we have. Over the years, the content of experience will determine the quality of life. Therefore one of the most essential decisions any of us can make is about how one’s time is allocated or invested.”

from Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Compassion, Declutter, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Peace, Simplify | Leave a comment

Make that change

Life's purpose (simplified)

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Compassion, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Oneness, Peace, Simplify | Leave a comment

Simplicity isn’t simple

Simplicity often embodies complexity.

simplicity-sophisticationBeing simple ain’t easy. Simplicity involves hard work — making deliberate, specific choices — to reduce things to their most essential elements. True simplicity isn’t merely a façade of plainness; rather, it reflects a well-integrated and purposeful design that advances only what’s indispensable.

Apple and Google products are often praised for their simplicity in form and function. But behind the minimalist looks, myriad decisions regarding inclusion and exclusion have been made to make these products functional and aesthetically beautiful. Complexity underlies the simplicity, and what’s NOT included in the design is as important as what is. Non-essential elements that detract from the core purpose are eliminated so that a focused, unified experience results.

Aesthetic beauty, the hallmark of simplicity, is the elegant orchestration of necessary elements and the omission of anything distracting or superfluous. So paradoxically, simplicity isn’t as simple as it looks. Purity of form reflects purposeful purging of excess.

So why strive for simplicity if it’s not that simple? Because the end product is worth it, and the process of simplifying brings focus and clarity. Whittling away clutter and striving to optimize the essential are key to good design… and this ‘focus on being focused’ is also a great approach to life.

Posted in Awareness, Declutter, Focus, Oneness, Simplify | Leave a comment

The reality of interbeing

Thich-Nhat-Hanh-interbeing

“To be is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone.
You have to inter-be with every other thing.
This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk

Posted in Awareness, Earth Appreciation, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Oneness, Peace, Thankfulness | Leave a comment

Freedom

freedom

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Declutter, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Peace, Simplify, Thankfulness | Leave a comment

Thinking about thinking

thinking-about-thinkingHappiness involves a kind of “meta-awareness” — a consciousness of consciousness. That is, being aware of what we’re thinking enables us to let go of negative thoughts that produce feelings of unhappiness within us. Through awareness of our thoughts, we can choose not to be governed by negative thinking.

By bringing our awareness back to the present moment, we don’t waste energies focusing on the unchangeable past or indeterminate future. Instead, we’re intimately connected to what’s happening right here, right now — the only place and time we actually have to think, feel and take action. The present moment is where we have the freedom to choose; it’s where we can experience peace and contentment.

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” heightens our awareness of the present moment and all the opportunity it contains. When we’re aware of the possibilities that exist in the now, we can make choices that move us in a positive direction. Awareness of these opportunities (and our ability to act on them in this moment) leads to happiness.

So the next time you’re unhappy, simply bring your mind back to the present moment, where the gift of opportunity always presents itself, and where gratitude — the catalyst of happiness — fills your heart.

————————-

You Can Feel Good Again is one of the most perspective-changing books I’ve ever read about the relationship between our thinking and our experience of happiness. It’s an insightful and profoundly helpful read, and I hope you can benefit from its wisdom, too.

Posted in Awareness, Belief, Declutter, Detachment, Focus, Freedom, Happiness & Joy, Oneness, Peace, Thankfulness | 2 Comments