Something I’m becoming ever more aware of is the importance of not losing ourselves in the mundane humdrum of everyday existence. Let’s face it, it’s so easy to lose ourselves in the neverending tasks, duties, responsibilities and, worse yet, trivialities and distractions, that are always demanding our attention and devouring our time, focus and life energies.
To an extent this is unavoidable. We have to exist in this world, we have to eat, sleep and get up in the morning, eat again, work or study, take care of our responsibilities, pick up the kids from school, feed the cat and walk the dog. That’s just the way it is and it’s best to take care of these things with the right mindset — a mindset of ease and grace, which helps enable our lives to flow smoothly and without too much obstruction. I heartily recommend the approach of karma yoga, wherein our every action is undertaken with an attitude of devotion and detachment, for everything we do is offered up to the benefit of all life. If the busiest and most stressed of people could consciously adopt this mindset, a great deal of their stress would simply evaporate. Worth a try, no?
Where things get really sticky is the area of leisure time. We’ve done what we needed to do during the day and what time we have left over has to be filled somehow, right? So we plonk ourselves in front of the television and spend hours watching soaps and reality shows or whatever else tickles our fancy. If there’s nothing on the TV, we could always while away the time gossiping on the phone or by text, or catch up with our social networking? Or we might read magazines or books we secretly know aren’t worth the trees they’re printed on, or trawl the internet watching silly videos on YouTube and engaging in flame wars with people who dare to have opinions that differ to our own on internet forums.
We’ll do whatever we can to keep ourselves engaged. Only we’re generally not very engaged while doing those things. Instead, we’re kind of unengaged: unengaged from life, from the world around us, from other people and from ourselves. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the above activities in themselves. But what may be harmful is using them compulsively as a means of distraction and escape. I always used to be fascinated by the concept of ‘escapism’. It always seemed a strange notion to me. What is it we’re trying to escape? I believe what we’re generally trying to escape is ourselves.
Most people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to distract themselves…from themselves. Our culture is almost designed to facilitate this. There’s an infinite number of distractions, each seeking to consume our attention and numb our minds. It’s a never-ending merry-go-round and one that’s self-perpetuating; for once you’ve lost your attention in one distraction, it usually remains there until the next supercedes it. And that’s the way we generally like it. This is what I call being lost in the mundane. It’s pandemic in our culture: it’s ‘normal’.
The problem is, we can easily spend our entire lives lost in the mundane, never taking the time to consider what’s truly important: never stopping to ask who we are, what we’re here to do and how we can make a difference in the world. I remember being at a funeral and when the minister stopped to talk about the person who’d died, aside for the obvious factual statistics, about all I remember was “she loved watching her soaps”. I mean, when you get older, you’re wholly entitled to enjoy your soaps and that’s wonderful. But I remember being struck by a sobering thought: what if, when it comes to my funeral, about all that can be said of me was that I liked watching TV? That thought filled me with horror. The thought of being so totally side-tracked by the mundane that TV programmes and entertainment become more important than my truest priorities, hopes and dreams was enough to jolt me awake.
It’s pretty clear to me that we’re not here to spend our lives watching TV, reading trashy books or picking fights with strangers on the internet. I can’t tell you why you are here; only you can figure that one out, but really, you must take the time to do that and to make it a priority. Otherwise you’ll probably tend to slip into mental default like everyone else and lose yourself in the endless sea of distractions that seek to swallow and entrap your minds, numbing you into a false sense of satisfaction (or stupor). We get totally lost in the matrix when that happens; with no idea who we are or what we’re here to do…just totally consumed by the phenomenal dream.
Next up: analysing WHY we seek perpetual distraction and why this is causing immense dysfunction in our lives individually and collectively.