Here’s a simple evening exercise to help you gently step away from overly complicated living. One of the greatest conveniences of brief mental time travel (or going off the cultural grid) is that it doesn’t cost anything. No fancy machinery, expensive tickets, long lines, or invasive security searches need be involved. In fact it’s the opposite!
When we’re overstimulated we develop an unhealthy tolerance which can lead to burnout. We often confuse “normal” with healthy. It’s now become completely normal to allow ourselves to be bombarded with bad news, inconsequential news of acquaintances and the opinions of unknown anonymous masses (like comment sections of news stories) and be stuck with the resulting mental baggage. Giving up all social media (which would include my blog!) isn’t desirable nor realistic for many people.
Here are simple steps to take time back from your day (and not “out”) to reduce mental clutter:
Turn off the TV. Turn off your phone. Turn off the lights in the room you choose to read. (Don’t panic–this can be for a period of only five or ten minutes to start). Select an uplifting book that takes place or was written long ago. Little House On The Prairie or my present book, Pollyanna are suggestions. And yes, those are children’s books but all the better since they explore important and meaningful complexities of life via simple narratives. Also highly recommended is the Bible.
Slowly breath in and out after you sit down to read, and ideally burn beeswax versus synthetic and scented candles. Let your eyes slowly adjust to the light. Move the candles or your book so that you have adequate illumination on the open pages. You may need to light more candles. Just be safe about it, of course! The flickering light will be reflected on the page; it’s definitely not the steady light of a backlit screen. However, you won’t need any ad blockers to keep out annoying ads, flash videos and other unnatural spooky digital apparitions. (For some reason the ad algorithm for Facebook thinks I’m looking to buy adult diapers and move into assisted living?!)
Next, let yourself get drawn into the story. Really focus on the words and, like a good meditation, don’t pay attention to the background noise of your modern mind clamoring for your attention. Just keep bringing your focus back to the story. If this proves too challenging I find that reading aloud can be extremely helpful.
Afterward, when I close the book on the fictional world of Pollyanna’s old New England, I feel replenished. It’s like reverse jet lag!
As our mind becomes accustomed to slowing down and finding contentment in tangible present moment realities, over-stimulation in general feels very unnatural. I feel more sensitized than desensitized. That’s not always an easy place to be, but it means I’m more tuned into my heart and what matters. From that place making healthier choices of how I want to enjoy (not spend) my evening time becomes much simpler and the reward is real.