Digital addiction

What if the internet doesn't have all the answersDigital addiction is sweeping our towns and communities destroying families. It might start innocently with putting concerning symptoms into google or checking Wikipedia to understand your boss’s impenetrable jargon. Next thing you know you’re on Facebook* and you’re considering a bigger data package because, seriously, who watches free-to-air tv anymore?!  But these gateway apps lead your into the labyrinth and next thing you’re sucking down giant cans of ‘energy drink’ during Candy Crush all nighters and you’re binging on multiple games in scrabble rip-offs. It isn’t just the time you’ve lost, or the hunch in your shoulders and the sludge in your bowel. Real money is slurping into the funnel of in-app purchases out of your pocket and the mouths of your hungry children. That’s not even counting your gadget and access.

Are you at risk? Feeling morally superior right now? Do our quiz. Simply answer yes or no to these simple questions and then tally your score for the rating below.

Do you have a Digital addiction? quiz

  1. Do you feel at all uncomfortable if you leave your phone at home when you go out?
  2. If the power goes out do you still reach for the TV remote?
  3. When you take a photo do you automatically think of the tags or captions for your sharing platform?
  4. Do you depend on your phone for all contact details and or appointments?
  5. Of your last five social engagements were three or more organised via social media?

Your Digital addiction rating

Zero ‘yes’ responses: Congratulations!

People might tell you that you’re ‘hard to reach’ but when you do get together, there’s interesting stuff to share and you still have an attention span and the skills to hold a conversation.

Between 1 and 5 ‘yes’ responses:

Oops, your gateway activities have you on the slippery slope to digital addiction! You’re soon going to need another external hard drive for your brain unless you take action!

Defeating your digital addiction

It is possible to turn the tides and regain your brain. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. You could burn your smartphone, that’s cool. Actually that’s a great start, but a lot of people moan “I could *never* act so clearly in my own best interest!”**  You could distract yourself by travelling somewhere (even slightly) off-grid and realising that there’s a lot of world out there that you haven’t seen yet. You do some of the old pre-internet ways you used to enjoy to be happier. You could have a bath, take it easy,  relight your candle or simply rest in the bliss of being. Still not confident?

You have other digits!

OK, here’s the no effort, basic level, simple starter for your digital addiction – your hands. Yes, those other digits that you have right there (FREE) on the ends of your phone stumps. Use them to make something. That’s right, make something. I dare you. Feel the amazing power of creation flow through you and out into the world. This is the secret to your new freedom! Let your analogue digits be your newest love. Let them be guided by your heart as you reclaim your time, cash and joy.

Welcome back <3.

*COPYRIGHT TO THE MEGACORP

**Obviously I’m paraphrasing there.

Heal the fear

healLast week we talked about fear a little, about how it might be possible to make friends with it. The reason we took that path is because another odd thing about the way fear works in us is that we hold onto the habits of being fearful and that habit can be just as destructive as the initial state of fear was. What if we could heal the hurt our fear left behind? Is that possible? I believe it is.

Fear scars our memory

Mostly we fear things that we believe are uncomfortable or painful. Public speaking, visiting the dentist, cleaning the pool filter. And so we put off doing them ever, ever again. fear can attach itself to so many things, and to little things (and that’s a trick too – you don’t want to own up to being afraid of something) it is easy to say instead “I’m too busy”, “too tired”, “Not right now” and we rush on, pushing our way through all the other things there are to do.  That’s why making friends is a good first step, but it isn’t the only step. You also need to be gentle with yourself for a while. We try and rush healing in our culture. It doesn’t work. We don’t work that way. Then you’re ready to work some magic and make something new in the place the fear used to be. Unless we transform the experience, we re-live it. Even if we’re never in the same situation again, we carry it around and act as though it is real and that is not freedom. That is being frozen by fear.

Transform your state of fear

Taking action, being courageous, facing up to the things you’re frightened of, these thing have value, but be clear that you haven’t transformed your fear. The habit of it, the scar from it will still be there, the pattern may repeat. We want to shift from a state of fear, into a state of peace, or safety or trust. From these states we can heal. From these states we have a chance to remake our patterns. There is a way out and you can do it. You can heal the fear that restricts you, that follows you around like a cloud.

This is your personal adventure. You are the magician with the power to shift your state, ask yourself what you need to make this happen, ask for help from the universe or people you know to bring what you need together, give yourself time to brew the right potion. Mindfulness about your intent and your existing habits is useful. Accept the help that will come. Accept the uncertainty of change. These vital steps put you onto the cusp of transformation. Your heart aches for comfort, but the mind creates the labyrinths.

The mind is where the magic happens, there in the cauldron of your skull.

Rinse and repeat

Healing is not a one-off thing. Habits form over time, and they take time to dismantle. This is not a ‘tick and flick’ exercise, you’ll be spiraling through these experiences. One thing leads to another, one memory raises three more. Humans are complex and we like to layer things. So go easy, pace yourself. You can heal, but you’ll need to give yourself time.

The payoff

Ironically, by the time you’re ready to cash-in the benefits of all this self-healing, you may have forgotten there even was a final stage! There is – all that energy that went into fear and worry is available for something else – something new. You might be so relieved to be basically fear and worry free that it feels like enough. Well and good, rest there for a while, when you’re ready the world will be waiting for you.

Frozen in fear

Rabbit medicine image by Angela C WernekeHave you ever done something so weird and against your own self-interests that your best friend says to you “That was self-sabotage.” And you can’t help but miserably nod your head and mumble “I don’t know what came over me.” It was fear that came over you.

Fear that was stealthy, sneaky, predatory. Fear knows how to trick you and catch you and then let you be the agent of your own downfall. If you’ve felt self-sabotage, it is a particularly horrible feeling. Sometimes, despite our rational intentions, we act like the natural prey of the thing we’re most afraid of – a rabbit covering under the screamingly fast approach of the eagle’s outstretched shadow. In that cramped crouch we are calling ruin upon us.

Snuggle down little bunnies and breathe deeply here in the safety of our burrow, we will learn a different relationship to fear. We currently have a curse on us, we turned away from something big one day and when we glanced back we’d lost sight of that strength and sense of personal power that gives us confidence in normal living.  Perhaps you didn’t know how to stand up to a verbal bully, or you took a fall of some kind, it doesn’t matter you got left behind in something important. Fear has found your signal now and you’re the hunted.

The fear and danger of beginning

One of the richest hunting grounds for fear is in beginnings. Rabbits make a great symbol for beginnings – so fertile, so closely associated with spring. They’re good eating too and mostly without weapons or armour. So when we begin something new, there’s a tendency to dwell on all the ways we’re vulnerable and at risk. How do you approach being at risk? Lots of times it makes sense to do research on the risks and plan how to avoid or respond to them doesn’t it? A lot of times, too, our friends or mentors suggest that we “face fears head on!” Ah. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Sounds brave and tough and more likely to be successful than cowering. Well maybe that works for some people but if this doesn’t work for you here’s something else to try.

Not everything needs a fight with fear

Most of learning something new, or making a new beginning isn’t about fighting, it’s about accepting. A beginning means something is going to be different and any fear that shows up at that time is a great invitation to expand. If you’re busy fighting it, it can use the distraction to send a flanking movement around to sneak up on you, all that energy you’re putting out is going in the wrong direction. Perhaps instead you could invite it over for tea and cake and once it has settled in, let it tell you what’s going on for it. Your fear is, after all, the shadow of your dreams. Let fear join your team, let it have a place at the table to discuss strategies and ideas it has seen further than you have right now down the path you desire and if you’re not fighting you have a chance of growing together and becoming more than the sum of your parts.

Fear might be uncomfortable to have around regularly, but much better there in your lounge room where you can get hot under the collar together and work things through than behind you with a knife in your frozen back.

Image credit: “Rabbit medicine” by Angela C Werneke in ‘Medicine Cards’ by Sams and Carson (1988).

Travel resets the wonder button

Republic square PARISThe recent hiatus and travel provided some time to experience the broader world and consider the themes of happiness, belonging, compassion and so on from a perspective outside of my normal (narrow?) day to day. Being exposed to centuries of foreign culture for weeks at a time was thrilling and at the same time the flood of details was enormously overwhelming in person. That’s what’s nice about armchair travelling or documentaries – the focus is supplied, the details are managed, the experience is curated for you by the book editor or narrator. In person, the reality is that you’re in queues, desperate to find a loo (or to find the right change to use the loo), hungry, and/or transfixed by the fact that each street has different ornate light posts (or some other mindboggling thing that everyone else is able to walk past but you want to scream to the world “LOOK AT THIS!”).

It is of course an evolutionary survival mechanism that all animals have developed a way of filtering information to only that which is most likely of value to them. Humans have loads of biologically initiated filters. For example, we are good at depth perception and spotting movement (as for a long time we were a prey species) once we got the hang of tools we’ve worked to our strengths ever since. We create more tools that work mostly by combining our sight with our hands (every thought about the inputs and outputs of a computer?) rather than, say, through sound and other frequencies of vibration. Because we build all the things we use, we tend to reinforce our own preferences and strengths, we also send ourselves the message that we’re increasingly successful by this filtering. So to travel to somewhere completely different, where comparatively few things were familiar, was to bypass the existing filters and be opened up all over again to confusion, curiosity and wonder.

Wonder is exhausting.

Great, but exhausting. Confusing too, and when you come home you go through it all over again with things that you used to comfortable with and now you’re not that sure about. That’s also amazing (and exhausting). Before you know it the day-to-day of going to work intrudes and you find yourself back in the harness of being a wage slave, but this is the gift of travel. It is possible (necessary) to remember that we have a choice about the way we see and experience the world. It is not just fun to go somewhere else, it helps train our brain in remember that our filters aren’t truths. For us to find ways to solve the problems we’ve created in our worlds, the most useful thing to do is to think differently about it.

You would probably like to punch the next person who suggests to you that you “think outside of the box” about something causing trouble. I know I’d love to. It is useless. If we could, we would! So instead let’s share ways of learning to shift our perspective, and one of the critical steps to that is to realise what things actions or ‘realities’ we’re taking for granted, what we’re valuing and filtering for, then we can put those assumptions aside and invite in some wonder. A recent article talked about how cities, by their man-mad nature, reinforce some of our mental models and that this creates a (another) blind spot in how we face challenges. Especially ecological challenges.

The difference between watching a documentary about a city and being lost in the metro there is an experience of being ‘reset’, of being a beginner, a foreigner. How valuable it can be to know that you know nothing. We can be the best kind of stranger to ourselves and to others by sharing perspectives and becoming more than the sum of our filters. Let’s get wonder-ful together.

Itchy feet

travellingThere’s a meme going around along the lines of “imagine living a life you don’t need a holiday from”. That’s an idea with a lot going for it and ties into our themes here of happiness, gratitude, self-knowledge and meaningful living. And yet … I get itchy feet … I get curious about the world beyond my commute and I wonder what it is like to stand in a different ocean. I want to go somewhere … else.

I’m not sure then how to understand this urge. It builds, and over time it becomes discontent if I don’t acknowledge it. So much as our focus here is on seeking connection with happiness and using self-knowledge and connection with each other to establish ourselves, sometimes we must grow too, through the unknown, through the mysterious urges of seeking and exploring people, things, ideas and places that are, to us, ‘other’.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Walt Whitman

Then we come home and we integrate, we mull things over, we massage our sore and painful feet. It is not ‘better’ one way or the other, to travel or tour-ist, or to wander half-lost and half-found. It just is and for each of us our own journey is inspired by itches of all kinds. Some we decide to scratch and some we leave as a unanswered want for now, for other reasons, for duty or obligation. We imagine and we cajole ourselves and none of us have a map. We are all looking or a horizon to trust in.

Winter solstice – waiting on a sign

waiting-for-a-signHave you been waiting for a sign about what is coming next? The solstice is around the corner and it is a great reminder that what you’re asking for is being answered. The earth has turned in a circle of the year and we spiral through the rhythms of our lives. Here in the south the sun is about to be reborn – it is a time of renewal. The sign you’re waiting for is already up and all you need to do now is see it.

Not as easy as it sounds

What we can get stuck in is a rut of things being literal. We expect the world to put up a billboard for us and to advertise directly in a way we can’t miss. After all we’re busy! We’ve got a lot of emails to read and stuff to do. It is not like we’re sitting around with time on our hands, no way, we’re multitasking our way to the end of every week trying to keep a dozen things on the go. As people say these days “Aint nobody got time for that!”.

But wait – there’s less

You have all the time there is – a lifetime – but how easy is it to get that confused with jobs and roles and the expectations of the world. House prices and debt repayments and whoa Christmas is on the way! It all rushes up and around us. Take a moment here. The sun comes up every day. Let it be your sign. Let the sun’s tides be a cue to do a little less, take a little time, wait a little longer. There’s a time later on for blazing away. Now is a time for looking around and taking in what is waiting for you.

Is there something you’re asking for? Look and listen now for the answers that are being suggested. This is it. Life is here now.

Hoarder’s regret

Hoarders regretHoarding is one of those compulsive behaviours that is hard to battle. It makes so much sense when you’re in the grip of it, and this digital age gives hoarders easy access to so much more stuff and to so many more reasons to hoard. Sorry, not reasons – justifications. Our reasons are hidden and lost so much of the time, they’re the last thing we want unearthed.
Stuff is the most obvious symptom, but it certainly isn’t the only thing. Food is also very common. Books I have previously confessed to also. Bits of string. Obviously. So handy. Photos – another thing made easier to duplicate and hoard in this digital age. Money. Like Scrooge McDuck there’s an urge to pile up coins and notes somewhere safe against a future of doubtful resources. Hmmm but what if something happens to money? Best diversify and hoard precious metals or gems too. And it is now, at this far shore, where the hoarding mind spins into another space and realm. What if those thing are no longer precious? Plush toys, pocketknives, fishing hooks, lenticular placemats of unicorns, all this and more becomes important. Potentially life saving.
I’m lucky. My hoarding is driven by this wildly irrational fear of the future. Others cling more strongly to the past, or are caught in a time-vortex around a particular event. So many flavours to it, and we all wish it were otherwise and can’t imagine any other possible way to face a day.
The future is a fascinating beast. She swirls and morphs moment by moment, drawing everything thing into an unknowable melange that defeats all but the most gifted of divinatory oracles. And so a future arrives, needs unravel and find the hoard … wanting. The hoarder misguessed, mistepped, invested heavily in screws when widgets took precedence. Oh the pitiful tragedy of a hoard unusable.
Here’s a lesson. Nothing stashed is worth anything. TV shows of antiques and rare finds that earn a fortune to the collector are a rarity worth mentioning. Reality is the regret in having to eventually pay someone to take it all away. Unless you use it, for the original purpose you purchased it for, before the mice and mould and age weary it beyond hope or you simply forget you have it. You won’t listen. No hoarder does. You’ll entomb it in plastic and seal it in tubs and catalogue and cross reference the resources. But it doesn’t help.
The future demands nothing of us than the bravery to live in right now. Everything else is a case of hoarder’s regret in the brewing.

The moon follows you home

bloodmoonThe moon follows you home.

It is a dream and you know it is.

You walk with your beloved through a market and fall into a deep, warm pool of water.

Everything you’d been holding was dropped. All that money.

Everything you’d been wearing was washed away. All that jewellery.

Everything you thought dissolved. All those stories of right and wrong.

It is a dream and you know it is.

Someone pulls you out and they love you – even though you don’t recognise them.

It is your beloved. It is another you. The first and final you.

The moon followed you home.

You’re naked and proud, standing tall in shivering skin. Blazing your innocence in the crowded market place.

The you who waited while you were lost, who waited while you sank and then pulled you out, tenderly wraps your new body in a soft blanket.

It is a dream and you know it is.

But the moon had followed you home and you’re consecrated now.

Love always, you’ll never regret it.

The moon follows you home.

It is never just a dream.

Let’s all win lotto

I’m just going to put this out there into the universe. I want things to change. I want to be that happy person that smiles no matter how things are going. I want it so badly that it is an ache every single day. The Happy Pills the doctor gave me aren’t enough. So it is time, time for the one ticket to rule them all and according to the internet, if we just want it bad enough we’ll attract it. So Let’s do this – let’s win lotto!

Will money make you happy

The internet also told me that to attract wealth I should be living as though I’m already rich. Huh? How stupid is that? Obviously I can’t afford to do that or I would be rich already and I wouldn’t be worrying about attracting wealth. Who writes this stuff? Sheesh.

Anyway. Winning numbers, happy days.

Why win lotto

Lots of people have thought about what life might be like if they win lotto. Here are some highlights:

  • enjoy life
  • no more money worries
  • freedom
  • help other people
  • more security
  • spend time with those you love

Great list isn’t it – so why don’t more people go ahead and win lotto? It is a no-brainer that you’d want more of that stuff. I’ve learnt how to get results and I’m more than happy how to share it.

Three amazing tips to buy the winning ticket

What I’ve learnt is that a lot of people don’t realise that they’re buying the wrong tickets. There’s a system to win lotto and a lot of it comes down to the ticket. I’ve been researching all the big winners and they have more than you think in common. It isn’t even really a secret but you have to know how to apply it. So how do you buy the winning ticket? Here are the three amazing insights and tricks I’ve learnt through my research:

  1. What are you buying it with? If you want your life to change, you have to pay. What are you really paying with and is it valuable enough to earn you a win?
  2. Who are you buying it from? Is the seller truly capable of giving you a win? Will they actually deliver what they promise?
  3. Are you in the right game? A lot of people mistakenly enter lotteries that offer cash prizes and this is where their strategy falls over, as even if they win, all they have is more money. #Fail

Apply the simple system for great results!

You’ve got to get more strategic, play the bigger game, make the move that addresses your needs at the right level. Here’s how to apply the simple three point system to achieve the results you’re yearning for.

  1. Pay with your time, your habits, your pride, your ego. Really dig deep to find what you’re willing to release.
  2. Get your entry from the only supplier who has the authority to deliver what you need. You. No one else can deliver the good. Don’t believe the hype or the sales pitch, it is just you.
  3. Be in the right game – ask only for the Bliss of Being. No amount of cash can buy this, nothing else is a prize worth winning.

Do you see how it all works together? Do you see the symmetry and logic of the system?! I’m playing again tonight, and tomorrow, and again until I get it right. Please join in and we can all win the lotto of the soul.

Road rage reflection

It can happen to anybody, maybe even you. Road rage. That ugly beast we can become on the road, and the zombie partner that forms it; if you slip into one, you’ll flip into the other. Let’s take a minute for some road rage reflection.

Chariot pile upImagine if, on a weekday morning, you came out of the house to start your daily commute and found this note on your windscreen.

“To the driver of this vehicle,
You have cut me off twice now, both times I don’t think you saw me at all, even though you came so close and put us both in danger. If you cannot recall the incidents with absolute clarity, then any excuse you think you have is invalid.
Driving is a privilege not a right. Please take this opportunity to refresh your knowledge of the road rules and your understanding of courtesy, and take care to apply them both.
Please don’t make it a third time.”

If that note would give you reason to pause and mentally scroll through memories and evaluate your possible guilt or culpability then you could be someone with an opportunity to change your habits and values when behind the wheel.

Perhaps your opportunity is instead in your habits dealing with shop staff, workers from a different team at your job, the staff who operate the public transport you use, the other people buying groceries at the store, fellow pedestrians, it goes on and on. We have so many interactions every day with so many different people who all have their own story in which they are the central character. For each of us, these are habitual interactions because we live in a world brimming over with people. We have become functions to each other, not fellows, not real people. Functions, meatbots.

Do you ever criticise people who seem continually clenched around their gadget screen or asleep at the wheel or pushing others out of the way in queues? I know I have. It doesn’t feel like enough to try breaking the cycle when those other people then take advantage of you for being nice. We’re all afraid of someone taking advantage of us. I wish I had a moment of enlightenment for every time I’ve been told to ‘toughen up’ or ‘get a thicker skin’.

Actually, when people tell me this I feel more hurt (even fundamentally neglected or undervalued). After all, why can’t other people just be nicer? Why am I the one who’s ‘wrong’? The same types of folk who have no compunction about telling others to ‘toughen up’ seem to never be willing to similarly command others to “be less of an arsehole”. Just sayin.

A wise teacher recently told me that every time I complain about others’ behaviours I am a in fact setting myself back significantly. “Oh great” I thought, “wrong again! Wrong for being too soft, wrong for wanting the world to be more pleasant and now wrong for complaining when others are rude or mean.” That little story I just told to myself there, that was the key to figuring out what he really meant by what he said.
Here are his words:

See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

I did not want to hear that.

I tried to argue with it. The very first way was by making up that little story above – exaggerating how I am always being made to be wrong – a little melodrama with me as the swooning star. I thought about it every way you can. For weeks. But that’s the trouble with hearing something true, once you know it your life truly changes. So it has been for me as I digest this insight. All else is indeed madness. Leave or accept. Act where you can.

In trying to come to terms with this, I stumbled over this little twist on an old favourite “the grass is always greener where you water it”, fresh enough for me to reflect on my own habits of envy, and to remember the “which wolf you feed” story) and these both made a bridge for me into the key idea that through habit I was allowing a self-identification as a victim in all kinds of realms of daily life. Perhaps that’s another part of road rage – there is a desire to take action against an unfairness or wrong action – and yet violent response outside of building and understanding context and consequence is feeding the wrong wolf, watering the weeds.

In a moment of rage we can be lost to our stories and triggered into moving far from our center. It can feel like blacking out, like being possessed. Inside that unconsciousness we are simply reacting, not making choices. If you feel that you’re in a rut in trying to get positive patterns started in your life then look for places in which you’re complaining about something rather than acting to generate the change that you want. Look with honesty in how you’re describing the story of your situation to yourself and ask if you’re truly supporting the person you want to be or simply enduring the habits you used to water. Imagine forgetting what useless, impotent rage feels like. I think that sounds wonderful, let’s try together.

Image credit.