Saying No to Distractions

I was preparing for dinner and thinking about what I wanted to read while eating when a voice said “just stop”. It wasn’t an angry voice. More like a gentle restraining hand at the edge of a cliff…”don’t do it…”.

And so I stopped my questioning and planning and opened up to the silence of mealtime. It wasn’t easy. I felt agitated and restless and had difficulty settling. Mealtimes are a respite from my workday reality of deadlines and busyness, and it’s not simple to stop the motion. Reading is an important transition from outer to inner and is something I look forward to.

So why does distraction matter to me? It matters to me because I set out to be not just a maker, but a meaning maker. And in order to make meaning, I need some emptiness.

Yesterday, I found this great passage in “The Elements of Graphic Design” by Alex White:

“Emptiness is an essential aspect of life. It is the unavoidable opposite of fullness, of busyness, of activity. It is the natural and universally present background to everything we see. Emptiness is silence, an open field, a barren room, a blank canvas, an empty page. Emptiness is often taken for granted and thought best used by filling in. It is generally ignored by all but the few who consciously manipulate it to establish contrast, to create drama, or to provide a place of actual or visual rest. It is best used as a counterpoint to filled-in space”

If I fill up every moment, there is no emptiness. Which is most likely why I do it. Emptiness can be frightening. Because emptiness can also be a black hole waiting to pull me into its darkness. So learning to work with the lure of distraction is a great challenge…deciding when to indulge and when to stop…finding the right balance of taking in the new and processing what is already present.

This week I started reading the blog “ZenHabits” by Leo Babauta. One post in particular is titled “Leave Yourself Wanting More” and I find that thought a worthy companion in my tussle.

Reading at mealtimes isn’t the demon after all. But it can become one. If I want to remain true to my longing to make meaning in my life, the simple and not so simple path is to pause. Check in with the body, the mind, the breath. Entertain the idea of nothing.

“We use clay to make a vessel; but it is the space where there is nothing in which the usefulness of the vessel depends.”
Lao Tzu

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