In my last post, Being in Two Places at Once, I discussed the almost supernatural ability that our devices give us, the ability to be co-located, to sit in one place while teleporting to another, all by way of the internet, video, or other technology mediums. This power has enhanced and enriched our lives beyond needing explanation here, but it has also just as much destroyed part of our natural being, and that's what this post is about. Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom, there's bits of hope sprinkled in later on. Keep reading.
As the internet age strengthens, we continue to lose our ability to remain in the moment, a defining natural experience of human life. Our attention runs around like a toddler who has eaten too much sugar but really needs a nap. Nearly all of our attention spans are erratic, dysfunctional, and incongruous. And when I say "attention span" I don't mean our ability to focus on one given thing for a period of time, per say, what I mean is our ability to focus, period, whether on physical items in front of us or on metaphysical thoughts inside of us. Our focus is all messed up, is it not? Furthermore, the word Incongruous here, in describing our attention, means "not in harmony." I think that pretty much sums up how I feel after bouncing around from app to app on my smartphone for an hour before bed each night. No harmony here to see, move along.
Of course this isn't new information I'm sharing with you, the truth is self-evident: most of us can't sit still in silence for five minutes without the strong pull to grab our smartphones, tablets, or computers. Even when we are surrounded by stimulants we still reach for the hard stuff. For example, the candy and tabloids in the grocery store check-out line can no longer hold my attention for the 60 seconds that I wait there. People Magazine has lost its competitive advantage, of what little it had on me. OK fine, I'll be forthcoming here, if I enter a line of any sort, my phone is going to come out of my pocket, and my guess is that yours will too. Waiting is not waiting anymore, it's just time to check in with the rest of the world.
The irony is in your face on this one, these times we live in allow total connection, yet they lead to a disconnection. A solution is needed. That "not in harmony" feeling I mentioned comes when I am actually most connected. Isn't that funny? The more connected we are the more connected we starve to feel. The more disconnected we are (from electronics), the less we long to know what's going on in the world.
Maybe you feel fine and none of this resonates with you. Speaking personally, however, I feel "off" more times than not, and I'm confident that screens are to blame. Thankfully, there are a million ways to come back to balance. Being in the moment is, rightfully so, all the rage these days, and no, don't worry, I won't try to convince you to meditate here; it hasn't worked for me, not in the traditional form anyway, and I don't think it will work for everyone either. Instead, I have employed different ways to find escape from the world wide web of information. Some do this with sports, such as martial arts or marathon training. Those work well. Others find their own unique ways, I hope, such as reading or going for a walk. The strategy I will share here, however, isn't an earth shattering revelation and it won't require you take up a new hobby or join a club. It is a simple thought exercise that has been helping me stay in the moment. I want to share it with you.
The Satellite Strategy, as I call it, is a way to level out, find balance, gain perspective, and be present. I recently shared this idea with a friend, TG, and he said, "Oh, I do that too! Only I call it the 'zoom out.'" So call it whatever you want, but just don't knock it until you try it, deal?
Satelliting (see, I gave it a new name already) helps me understand my present state, physical position in the world, and the things around me. It brings awareness to my existence in the real world, not the digital one. I will explain the idea further, but after you have read the instructions you will actually need to stop reading and try for yourself. Gasp! Yes, look away from the screen or better yet, put it down. If that much is too hard, well, then you need this more than you know.
The Satellite Strategy goes like this:
Picture yourself, wherever you are. Mentally step outside of your body and look at you. This is called detachment. Observe your posture, your clothes, your face, hair, and eyes. Every detail you can, see it and make note of it. After this assessment, you might even sit up taller or breath deeper. You might let yourself smile or relax. Notice also where you are in the room and how you are positioned. If you are sitting, notice where and how and on what. If you are standing, see and observe what is around you.
Now, zoom out, lifting directly vertical above your head (figuratively, of course). In your mind's eye, hover above yourself as if you are viewing a satellite image from the top. If you are outside, zoom out above the trees. If you are inside, zoom out over the roof and above the building. Look down on yourself from up there for a moment. Observe yourself and your surroundings. You are still sitting or lying in the same position as before, still wearing the same clothes and still looking the same, only smaller, farther away.
Now, zoom out again, this time about 100 yards up, and observe yourself again. Did you move? No. Did anything change? Possibly the things around you, but not you. Maybe the wind is blowing or people are walking or moving about all around you.
Now again, zoom out as if you are pinching a map on your smart phone, try to stay focused even though you are reminded of your smartphone, yes, focus. Keep zooming out. You will notice you are getting smaller, like an ant on a sidewalk. Zoom out again, you may see the landscape of your community, the highways, hills, or water, all the while keeping an eye on yourself, no matter how small you become.
At this point, you will appear in your imagination as a small dot, but zoom out again once more, and now you will see the continent that you live on, the ocean surrounding, the world.
Now, finally, zoom out for the last time. You have likely disappeared. The speck that was you is no longer visible in your satellite image imagination. You might see everything besides you: packed cities and desolate valleys, mountains and skyscrapers, land, water, clouds. The world is a big place and you are small and seemingly insignificant for a moment.
Now try it. Go. Come back and read the rest once you are finished, provided you don't think this is ridiculous or too "woo woo" for you.
The Satellite Strategy is a healthy exercise because it puts your relevance to the rest of the world into perspective. It shows that you are small and singular; and although you are an important living being with significance, you are also still only a tiny piece of this earth. Zooming out on yourself and gaining this perspective should not discourage you, no, it should do quite the opposite. It should help you to step outside of yourself, to observe the world around you and your place within it, and to find new interest in where you are and what possibilities stand around you. It should help you to be in the moment and to realize the potential that exists in your physical presence. It should give you, dare I say, mindfulness. Although that word is severely overused these days, it seemed all too necessary as a final elaboration.
You can practice the Satellite Strategy often, always putting into perspective where you are and what surrounds you. Doing this will give you a new way to be present. Or, practice it infrequently, whatever suits you. It's not for everyone. Most of all, however, regardless of what you do after you have read this, go out and be who you are to the fullest of your ability. Build strong bonds with those around you. Fulfill your potential. Experience new things. Challenge yourself. To do these things, you will have to be in the moment. It will be hard to do any of this with your mind in the cloud. (nobody understands the cloud)
And if that all fails, then the internet will still be here right where you left it, won't it? You can spend your day Googling Schrödinger and Quantum Mechanics, YouTubing Kenan and Kel or David Blaine, or scrolling the SnapChat stories to help ease your FOMO. Whatever suits you. (If none of these references make sense, then go read my previous post: Being in Two Places at Once)
If you're struggling to understand what you should be picturing in your imagination with the Satellite Strategy, it will look something like this video illustrates, only the addition will be you as the star of the video and your zoom out should be much slower: