So I was reading about a study in which people were asked to sit quietly and do nothing for 15 minutes. The only distraction available to the participants was to give themselves a painful electric shock. Incredibly enough, 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose to inflict pain upon themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Seriously?!?
While these findings make me sad, and do make me wonder if I'm living in some sort of a never ending production of theater of the absurd, somehow I can't say that I'm terribly surprised. If there is one thing that's clear to me about our culture, it's that people will do just about ANYTHING to avoid having to face themselves.
I know I've grumbled about these issues before. I whine about the "busier than thou" mantra of our society, I complain about our addiction to technology, and in general I chafe against the idea that I should be "connected" all the time (yes, I am a FaceBook and Twitter conscientious objector.)
It's not that I'm immune from the desire to be constantly entertained and enjoy the escape from my own insecurities, uncomfortable emotions and personal demons, but experience tells me that this is not a good strategy for long term happiness.
Here's the thing. I think that most of us yearn for a sense of peace. We constantly complain that we are too busy and don't have enough time to ourselves. Yet, when we are actually given time to just sit and do absolutely nothing, peace tends to elude us.
Remove the distractions, and suddenly we come face to face with a whole pile of feelings and emotions that don't quite "fit" in this modern society of ours. At least that's the case for me.
And it's just SOOOO much easier to get wrapped up in doing just about anything (including, apparently, self-administration of electric shocks) than it is to feel all of that stuff that we're busy avoiding.
And while voluntary simplicity/minimalism/slow living (or whatever you want to call this lifestyle I lead) is a great start, it too is rife with opportunities for distraction. We "simple livers" are always busy cooking, gardening, de-cluttering, DIY-ing and the like... sometimes I wonder if we haven't missed the point.
So... I think I'm gonna try just sitting for 15 minutes every day. Well, to be honest, I probably won't do it every day, but I'm gonna try to do it regularly and see what happens.
I must admit that I approach this little challenge with a bit of trepidation. Who knows what sorts of emotional ugliness might bubble to the surface.
I don't know if this happens to other people, but regularly when doing yoga I'll find myself bursting into uncontrollable tears for no apparent reason... so who knows what dark corners of my psyche might come to light through this exercise.
But whatever's there, I think it's better to feel it than to waste any more of my life running away.
Anybody wanna take the challenge with me?