I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I have been changed by the experience of leaving city life behind. The greatest change has been my new ability to at least occasionally be in the present. I see now that before I moved here, I was constantly stressed out, and in distraction mode.
“Distractions are both more tempting and more destructive than we realize. It’s tempting to fill in every little minute of the day with productivity or distractions. Don’t. Leave some emptiness.” – Zen Habits
It seems to me that cities are set up for constant distraction. Any time you feel uncomfortable in any way, you can call up someone to go see, order some new kind of food, go out shopping or to see a movie. People in cities spend most of their time sitting in traffic or driving somewhere else. Cities are distraction machines, and the Internet is the ultimate, easily available escapism.
Being in the present means you are not planning ahead. You are sitting still, willing to be here now to observe and absorb your present surroundings with no thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow, and no need to distract yourself. I find many of the observations of ZenHabits.com useful in my new mindset:
“If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.”
To be honest, I never really had the time to gain full awareness of all of this until I moved away from modern American life. I knew I was anxious and not as relaxed as I wanted to be in the city, and now I see why. Cities simply raise anxiety levels. I know because it took me at least a year away from a city to see how anxious I have been most of my life, and then find ways to allow myself to truly relax.
I have been a worry shopper my whole life. Once I solved one problem I moved on to the next one. Here there is so little to worry about, leaving me much more time to focus on what is important to me. Now that’s a great new challenge! And what is important to me now is a few important relationships, and appreciating the natural world and its wonders.
We can sit and dream about so many things, but we would be wasting our lives. This present reality is all we get. Let’s learn to love it.