Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: life (Page 2 of 4)

Why Yoga Lovers Should Visit Cascais

Visit CascaisAfter finding life in Morocco a little challenging, it was with some relief that I found myself in the beautiful town of Cascais, Lisbon. Although I spent quite a bit of time last summer in Portugal, I never managed to visit Cascais, and this was a mistake. However, it’s only March, and I’ve already rectified this, with a stint teaching yoga at Perfect Spot Lisbon.

Cascais is a little gem of a beach town. It’s bustling and popular, without being too touristy (ok, it is super-touristy, but not in an obnoxious way). The beaches are beautiful, and there are plenty of them. The town itself is quaint and sweet, full of quirky cafes and shops.

Visit Cascais For Yoga

I took a class at Yoga Cascais, where they offer yoga classes twice per week in English (always helpful, as my Portuguese is limited to being able to order wine…) These classes are great if you want to explore yoga beyond the postures – pranayama, mantras and meditation.

Perfect Spot Lisbon will also be offering in-house yoga classes over the Summer, so guests there can enjoy yoga in the garden as part of their holiday.

Visit Cascais for Food

The Portuguese really know how to cook (and eat!). An afternoon trip that I went on involved not one, but two picnics in the space of three hours. It was great.

And for eating out, perhaps because of the bohemian surfer-y vibe in this part of Portugal, there are unexpectedly good veggie and vegan options in the cafes and restaurants. The supermarkets also had veggie choices to rival those in the UK – a real bonus after my time in Spain (where I was told the Spanish word for vegan is “crazy vegetarian!”) If you’re a fan of fresh fish or seafood though, Cascais is the place to be.

Visit Cascais to Explore

Lisbon and Sintra are both less than 45 minutes from Cascais by public transport. Lisbon is amazing – creative, cosmopolitan and colourful. I’m a little bit in love with it. You can easily spend hours wandering the cobbled streets, and without even intending to, every corner seems to lead to another panoramic vista point. The bonus of all the walking is that you work up an appetite for the gourmet food market Mercado da Ribeira (I know – more food…).

Sintra is another magical place. It has it all – castle ruins, grand palatial houses and stunning natural scenery.

Visit Cascais for Surfing

As I’ve discovered, surfing and yoga compliment each other perfectly. If you’re already a yogi, your core strength, flexibility and body awareness  will help you to find your feet quicker on the board, and for surfers, yoga is the perfect way to warm and release your body before and after surfing. Whatever you do, you can find the perfect balance through the combination of surf and yoga.

For many people who try surf and yoga together for the first time, they discover it makes for an “ideal day”. You can get up, practise yoga before breakfast, then head to the beach to catch some waves, before chilling later in the day. It’s the perfect balance of activity and relaxation, action and zen.

Visit Cascais To Chill

I’ll be completely honest, my time here hasn’t been nearly as action-packed as this blog makes it sound. I’ve basically practised yoga in the garden, caught up with writing, walked along the beach and eaten delicious local food. It’s been such a great opportunity to take a step back and lead a simpler life in a beautiful place. So if that’s what you’re looking for (and really, who isn’t?) visit Cascais – it’s dreamy.

If you want to combine a trip to Cascais with a yoga retreat in Portugal, I highly recommend the amazing five day retreat I’ll be teaching at in June. Message me for full details, and a special discount before the end of March.

Happy travels!

Love Jade xxx

How To Be Kind To Yourself

Be Kind To YourselfI wrote recently about the power of self-love. That’s a different concept to being kind to yourself, although the two are intimately linked. But it occurred to me as I wrote that how hard it can be to do the little things that show yourself compassion and love.

I don’t 100% believe the idea that you can only be as kind to yourself as you are to others. I know plenty of people who care unremittingly for others while really struggling to be kind to themselves. BUT, I do think that without also being kind to yourself, this constant giving is hard to sustain. Sometimes, consciously or otherwise, we wait for others to show us the kindness we aren’t showing ourselves, which can lead to disappointment and even resentment if they don’t.

10 Easy Ways To Be Kind To Yourself

  1. Do yoga. Regular readers may have seen this one coming. I’m a big advocate for yoga as an act of kindness towards yourself. But, make sure it is yoga that makes you feel good, not something you tell yourself you have to do. Give yourself 10 minutes to move in any way that makes your body feel amazing. Stretch, rock, lounge – whatever works for you. Luxuriate in it.
  2. Give yourself time off. This can be time off anything that you feel like you “should” do – work, studying or training. Throw away the to do list and the “shoulds” for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole weekend, and let it go. The world won’t fall apart.  
  3. Plan something nice for yourself. Here’s some news – you don’t need to wait for someone else to book tickets to a show, or plan a trip, or choose a holiday. Do it for yourself. Schedule it in your diary and give yourself something to look forward to.
  4. Give yourself some great advice. Whatever it is that’s troubling you, have a think about how you’d encourage and support a best friend/ child/ loved one in this situation, and follow that advice. You’re wiser than you know.
  5. Write some positive affirmations for yourself and repeat them regularly. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe them, or if it feels cringey and awkward. Just do it. No one said being kind would be easy. Oh wait – I did. Sorry about that…
  6. Prepare (or buy!) and enjoy your favourite meal. Let go of the diet/ detox/ nutrition program for one meal and allow yourself to just enjoy it. Seriously, no one will die if you eat what you want to for one meal. Chocolate brownies for dessert, anyone?
  7. Give yourself a massage. Spend 10 minutes massaging your feet, shoulders or scalp. Coconut oil is my favourite. This is especially good if you do it just before Number 8.
  8. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. It doesn’t matter whether you actually fall asleep early or not. Switch off your mobile phone, turn off the TV, get away from all your electrical distractions and relax.
  9. Take a dance break. Put on your favourite music and dance like no one’s watching. If they are watching, you get extra points for this one.
  10. Treat yourself to something you want, but you don’t need. This doesn’t have to be super-expensive (unless you want it to be!). It can be as simple as stopping for a latte on your way to work, or buying yourself a new T-shirt just because you want it.

If the thought of doing these things makes you feel a little uncomfortable, that’s ok. Do them anyway. There’s no need to wait for other people to do kind things for you, or to give you permission. You already have permission. Commit to trying at least one thing on this list today and show yourself some of the kindness you cultivate for others.  It will be life-enhancing, I promise.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Love yourself I’ve struggled with the concept of self-love in the past. It seemed to me to be self-indulgent and even narcissistic. And, I thought, surely if you just decide to love yourself,  you’ll lose any motivation to develop or grow?

But lately, I’ve had some great conversations with people who have helped me to see the advice “love yourself” completely differently. I also signed up for a one month trial of EkhartYoga online classes (the best one euro I’ve spent this month – if you haven’t tried it, sign up now. It’s brilliant. Seriously.) and watched some thought-provoking talks about loving yourself.

What I’ve realised is that my discomfort around loving myself came from my misconceptions about what it meant.  My new understanding is that self-love means shifting your attitude towards yourself, dropping the negative self-talk and embracing all aspects of yourself – the light and the dark.

Here’s what self-love isn’t:

  1. It’s not self indulgence.

I associated loving myself with spending hours having luxurious baths, painting my toenails, and buying expensive face creams. Which was fine, but seemed kind of superficial. No matter how nice these things are, I was unconvinced that they could be the key to lasting happiness. But I’ve come to think of these activities as self-care, rather than self-love. Self-care is an important aspect of loving yourself, but it’s not the whole story. Self-love requires a more profound mindset shift.

  1. It’s not narcissism.

I thought loving yourself implied believing that you’re awesome – and far more awesome than anyone else. But that’s not the case. Loving yourself and embracing all that you are does not mean thinking that you are better than anyone else. If anything it’s the opposite. It means seeing all of your “flaws”, and annoying behaviours  and choosing to love yourself anyway. When you develop that compassion for yourself, you expand your capacity to be compassionate towards others. Practising self-love trains you in how to see every aspect of another person, the good and the bad, and loving them anyway.

  1. It’s not complacency.

This was the scariest aspect of self-love for me. I worried that if I loved myself as I was, I would lose all motivation to develop and grow. Because there’s still so much I want to work on, and learn and progress with. I didn’t want to lose my drive. But actually, self-love and acceptance doesn’t have to mean thinking that you have nowhere else to go in the future. It means recognising and deeply accepting where you are right now. And that place of deep acceptance and love for yourself is the perfect foundation from which to evolve. The criticism that we inflict upon ourselves is more likely to promote self-punishment and destructive behaviour than growth.

The hardest thing about self-love?

When you realise that self-love is not about indulgence, narcissism or complacency, it becomes a much less scary prospect. And the hardest thing then is that like any shift in mindset, it requires effort to retrain your brain. Until it becomes habitual, you need to consciously choose more loving thoughts towards yourself.

But how do you actually do this?

I like being practical about things, and having tangible strategies to try out. So I’m sharing Esther Ekhart’s advice, which I’ve personally found really useful. She says that when you do something “wrong” and you’re feeling frustrated, annoyed or upset with yourself, stop. Recognise that if you had known or had the ability in that moment to do it better, you would have done. See yourself from the outside, acknowledge and accept all the good and the bad, and meet it with compassion. Repeat the phrase,“I see you, and I love you,” to yourself.

It’s likely to feel strange, and maybe uncomfortable at first, but give it it a go. Even if it’s just for this week, see what difference it makes to love yourself.

Let me know how you get on!

Lots of love, Jade xxx

Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it – Thaddeus Golas

When Not To Follow Your Heart

Follow Your HeartAfter making one too many bad decisions that I justified by saying I was “following my heart”, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you shouldn’t follow your heart. I suspect that’s going to be a controversial statement, and I’m open to the debate, but here are my thoughts on it…

 

What does “following your heart” actually mean?

Let’s be clear about this. Your heart does not make decisions. Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood around your body. It’s incredibly important. Vital in fact. But it is not a decision-making tool.

So why do we talk about following your heart?

Our heart is the area that we associate with emotions, particularly love. It is what we connect with a feeling state, as opposed to a thinking state. We can also use the term “heart” to mean “the innermost or central part of something.” So when we talk about following our heart, what we perhaps mean is that we are making choices that come from a place of deep emotional longing.

What’s so wrong with this?

Nothing. There are definitely times when you feel something so powerfully that you know it is the right thing to do. Those are the decisions you make that you throw yourself into, whole-heartedly and they can be pivotal moments in your life. I’ve definitely made those kind of decisions. Deciding to turn down a promotion to travel and teach yoga instead was definitely one of them. There were plenty of logical, financial and sensible reasons why I shouldn’t have done that, but actually that way of life was not making me happy. So taking the risk and “following my heart” was a good call.

However, I have also been in situations where I know rationally I am making a really poor decision, but I’ve justified it by saying, “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I’m following my heart.”

I read an great article recently by Steph at Blissbombed, who wrote that,

When you’ve been in a dark place, the heart and intuition can be a bit off-kilter. It wouldn’t be uncommon to think, “I should leave this situation, but my heart is leading me to stay out of compassion for [insert bad situation].” If you’ve been ignoring or betraying your intuition for a while, it loses its voice and becomes warped.

This resonated a lot with me. Sometimes the feeling of wanting to do what you know is wrong can be really strong. This is especially true if it’s driven by fear – especially fear of being alone or fear of failing. People who stay in damaging relationships, or abandon projects that scare or challenge them may justify it by saying they’re following their heart. 

When shouldn’t you follow your heart then?

If you find yourself with a heartfelt longing to do something, check in with your head. This doesn’t have to be a case of “head” versus “heart”. If you’re making a wise choice, often you can find a way which is perfectly in tune with both. In the example of me leaving my job, yes, there were financial reasons to stay, but I also knew the alternative could be financially viable. What’s more, my “head” knew as well as my “heart” that my current situation was not fulfilling me.

So there are a few questions you can try asking yourself. Steph at Blissbombed suggests this one:

What is the most self-respecting thing I can do now?

I’d also recommend considering:

Is this longing driven by fear? And if so, how could I face this fear rather than letting it steer the course of my life?

and

What is the most healing action I can take now?

When you follow these kinds of questions, you’re being far more honest with yourself than using an evasive “I know it’s bad, but I’m following my heart.” Sometimes, your heart can be seriously confused. Tune into your intelligence, your knowledge and your wisdom, and you’ll find the rest follows.

I’d love to know what you think to this – what are your experiences of following your heart?

With (genuine!) heartfelt love,

Jade xxx

 

3 Amazing Ways That Yoga Makes You Strong

Yoga Makes You StrongThere’s a misconception out there that yoga is:

a) Only for the super-flexible

and

b) Solely to make the super-flexible even more bendy.

To steal a saying from someone wiser than I am, that’s not yoga, that’s just bending.

Yoga is great for flexibility, but for me its power has been in the strength it’s given me.

Here are three of the ways that yoga makes you strong:

  1. Physically. Just try lowering slowly from High Plank to Chaturanga and back again and you’ll see that there’s more to yoga than having open hamstrings. Yes, flexibility helps you to move deeper into postures, but so does strength. Full Wheel pose for example requires upper body strength to lift yourself up as well as flexibility in your back to move into the back bend. You can be as bendy as you like, but without the strength to support your body weight, after a few rounds of Sun Salutations, your muscles will be shouting at you. Your body needs flexibility and strength for optimal health, and yoga can help you to develop both.
  2. Mentally. Meditation is like exercise for your mind. Repeatedly bringing your focus back to the present moment takes real mental effort, and just like strengthening a muscle, regular meditation improves your ability to concentrate. Yoga is meditation in motion. Maintaining mindful awareness while moving through yoga postures can be even more challenging than trying to do it while sitting in meditation. Not only that, but yoga challenges you to move out of your comfort zone, to face your fears and to experience discomfort without shying away from it. This last one is especially true in yin yoga – if you haven’t tried it, do! The discipline and focus yoga requires is as strengthening for the mind as it is for the body.
  3. Spiritually. It’s hard to find a definition of spirituality that doesn’t sound new-agey and weird. But one way to think of your spirit is that it’s the thing that lies beneath the fluctuations of your mind. Your spirit is deeper than your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and your worries. You might prefer to call it awareness, or consciousness or your soul, but whatever term you use, it’s the idea that there’s part of you that observes everything that happens, but remains untouched. And as such, it’s the source of your inner strength. No matter what happens there’s part of you that’s still okay. Yoga helps you to connect with that.

Yoga’s power to make you strong on all these levels is one of the many reasons I love it so much. Whether you’re experiencing physical, mental or emotional challenges, yoga can help you to become strong enough to handle them.

If you’re wanting to take your strengthening yoga practice to another level, and work through some of your fears while you’re at it, I highly recommend this free online class from the incredible Ana Forrest. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Let me know how you get on!

Much love Jade xxx

What David Bowie taught me

David Bowie YogiI always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.’

Growing up, David Bowie was the soundtrack of my childhood. My Dad was, and is, an obsessive Bowie fan, and he tells me that as a baby the only way he could get me to sleep was to play me Bowie’s Young Americans. When I was older I visited New York with my Dad, and we spent literally hours traipsing around Manhattan trying to work out which section of which apartment block was David Bowie’s apartment. As a teenager I can’t say I was thrilled by this, but looking back, I’m strangely glad we did.

Because as I grew up I began to appreciate what Bowie stood for and why he’s much more than the sum of his artistic work. There’s too much to do justice to in one blog, so I’m not even going to try. But this is what speaks to me about his life.

Bowie was the epitome of all that was uncool. Subversive, androgynous and irreverent, he was the ultimate misfit. He was mocked, misunderstood and asked repeatedly to justify himself. But he didn’t change, or at least, he didn’t change according to anyone else’s agenda. And in doing so, his defiantly uncool became strangely cool.

All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.

Bowie recognised that his real power was in being absolutely true to who he was and what he wanted. He embraced his individuality and refused to be confined by other people’s expectations.

So today I’m trying to remember this lesson. Because actually, I think we all have it in us to be superhuman, if we’re ruthlessly honest about who we are and what we stand for.  

Final thought to leave you with…

As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

Have a superhuman day everyone.

Jade xxx

 

What Works Better Than Making New Year’s Resolutions?

New Year's ResolutionsIn January 2014, I moved to Birmingham. It was a scary decision for me. I knew no-one there, I was starting a new job, and I was moving into a house full of people I didn’t know. But instead of making my usual New Year’s resolutions that year, I started a couple of things that helped me beyond measure. Firstly, I decided to have more fun. I’d spent the first half of my twenties being hard-working and successful, but incredibly unhappy. So that was it – my aim for 2014 was just to have more fun. I prioritised immediate happiness.

The second thing I started doing was taking time to feel gratitude. At the end of every day (or the beginning of the next – sometimes I forgot!) I wrote down at least 3 things I was grateful for. Although I found it cringey at first, I did it until it became a habit, and something I looked forward to.

I think those two things were what started the happiest year of my life until that point. It was the year in which I made two huge decisions – to begin my yoga teacher training and to travel, both things I’d wanted to do for years, but had found excuses not to. Neither decision featured in some master plan for my future. Instead, they came naturally, almost effortlessly, from the strength, positivity and self-confidence that prioritising happiness and being grateful had brought about.

So I’m asking you at the end of the year to take 15 minutes to write down your answers to the following questions , and notice how doing this makes you feel. I promise it’s far more effective than making endless lists of new year’s resolutions to bring about positive change.

  1. Which experiences are you grateful for in the last year?

These might be travel, relationship or work experiences. For me this is gratitude for the diverse experiences I’ve had travelling – doing yoga on a beach in Thailand, partying my birthday away in a tiny town in Andalucia and participating in a Mayan Fire Ceremony in Guatemala.

  1. What life lessons are you grateful for learning?

You might find, as I did when I thought about this, that some of the life lessons you’re most grateful for have come from the toughest parts of this year. I’m now grateful for the time I spent being hyper self-critical, because it helped me to recognise the difference it made when I began working on self-acceptance instead.

  1. What opportunities are you grateful for being given in the last year?

Your brain is programmed to focus on your negative memories, so it can be easy to overlook the opportunities you’ve had. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work at some amazing places – Suryalila Retreat Centre, Moinhos Velhos Detox Retreat and 21st Sanctuary Retreats, and to have started my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga International.

  1. Who are you grateful for having in your life in the last year?

Consider all the people who’ve contributed to your life this year. Even people who at the time had a negative impact may have taught you a valuable lesson that you can be grateful for now. I’m ridiculously grateful for my family, who have supported me both practically and emotionally through all the ups and downs of nomadic lifestyle.  I’m also grateful for the inspiring people I’ve met on my travels and for the lovely people who read and share my blog posts (thank you!).

  1. What are you grateful to yourself for in the last year?

Think about what it is that you’ve done to help yourself this year, and thank yourself for it. I am grateful for my own energy, and the fact that I kept going when things were difficult. I am also grateful to myself for keeping up my yoga and meditation practice which helped me to find the strength to do that.

Looking forward to next year

Once you’ve done this, if you’re in the mood for looking ahead, think about what you want to bring more of into your life in the coming year. Bear in mind this research from Amy Cuddy about why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Keep it simple, memorable and positive. Possible examples:

  • To have more fun (I highly recommend this one!)
  • To enjoy being active
  • To find the opportunity in every challenge

Having already expressed gratitude you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to make a difference to your next year.

Wishing you an amazing new year lovely people – let me know how you get on with your 15 minutes of gratitude!

Five Reasons Why Meditation Is So Hard

meditation (1)“I’m really bad at meditation.” I’ve heard this from many yoga students, and I’ve said it myself. I blogged about my meditation challenge here in fact. But what are the reasons why sitting still in meditation is so hard?

  1. It seems to go against everything we’ve been brought up to believe, in terms of striving for goals and taking action. You can read all the scientific studies you like about the benefits of meditation (and there are plenty of them – try this article for starters) but it still seems counter-intuitive that to enjoy all these lovely benefits you have to sit still and be quiet.
    2. It’s not actually just sitting there. If you come to meditation believing that it will be an easy, relaxing experience, you won’t be prepared for the sheer effort it requires. It takes focus, concentration and discipline to meditate. And that can be hard. The main feeling I used to experience on hearing the bell to mark the end of meditation was relief that it was over, and that I could stop trying to focus. This is normal, and it has lessened with time.
    3. Most people don’t understand the real purpose of meditation. The point of meditation is not to relax. Although meditation can, and does, help you feel relaxed, contrary to popular belief, that’s actually not the intended purpose behind it. The actual purpose of meditation is to understand the nature of the mind. Through that understanding, you gain the potential to harness the power of your mind, rather than being at its mercy.
    4. It’s said that your ego does not like this, which is why you experience such resistance to meditation. When you meditate, you recognise the way that thoughts and feelings arise, seemingly from nowhere, and fall away. And you realise that you are not those thoughts and feelings. You are the observer or the witness of the thoughts and feelings – a much deeper state of consciousness that’s completely unaffected by the events that happen to you. This brings the realisation that so much of what you think matters really doesn’t. Your ego doesn’t like this, so it resists.
    5. Being alone with your thoughts can be difficult. Sometimes they’re negative, disturbing, or (a lot of the time!) just plain boring. Meditation is so hard because your mind doesn’t want you to be doing it. It craves stimulation and distraction, and will try any number of things to get you to stop.

So what can you do about it?

There’s so much information out there about how to start meditating – a Google search returns 1,790,000 hits. The most crucial thing though is deciding that you want to meditate, and that you want to enough to put the effort into overcoming the challenges. It’s worth asking yourself – do you want to understand the nature of your mind? Do you want the potential to master your mind, rather than being enslaved by the random thoughts and feelings that pop into your head for the rest of your life? And if the answer is yes, meditation is probably a good place to start.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Jade xxx

P.S. All credit for my latest learning about meditation goes to my wonderful teacher Vidya at Frog Lotus Yoga.

 

 

Why you need to sort your head out first

Sort your head outWhat do you want most right now? A promotion at work? A beautiful body? A new car? A puppy?

And now consider why it is that you want that. Most of the time we want the things we want because we believe those things will make us happy. But so often you can get the things you want, only to find you’re utterly miserable anyway.

I know because I tried it. I starved myself and exercised like I was training for an ultramarathon (I wasn’t), because I thought I’d feel better once I was thinner. I didn’t. At work I became a super-employee, never saying no, because I thought I’d be happy once I had a promotion. I got it, and I did, briefly, feel happier. And then that disappeared. I clung onto relationships that were broken because I thought I’d be happy once I’d fixed them. It didn’t work, and it just made me more unhappy.

Because the thing is, until I turned my attention to developing a healthy mindset, nothing worked. As a friend said to me, “The only achievement in life that matters is good mental health.” I think that’s so true. It’s great to want to make positive changes to all aspects of your life, but none of those will work unless you sort your head out first.

I see lots of people coming to yoga retreats who set themselves up with the idea that the 5 or 7 or 10 days of the retreat are going to be transformational for their mind, body and soul. They think they’ll leave a different person, with a whole new life. And maybe it works. Maybe they do the “detox diet”, they exercise more, they enjoy a bit of yoga and they feel good. But then they return to their lives, and does anything actually change? Sometimes, I’m sure. But I’m also pretty sure that a lot of the time life carries on as it always has. More worryingly, perhaps they then feel disappointed in themselves for not having lived up to their own expectations.

I’ve been lucky enough recently to be the resident yoga teacher with 21st Sanctuary Retreats, where they have a slightly different take on things that I like a lot. Their primary focus is unapologetically on mental health and wellbeing. Yes, they had daily yoga (that’s where I came in!), fitness, vegetarian food and a beautiful setting, but they also facilitated life coaching and mindfulness sessions. They wanted to empower guests to make meaningful changes through improving their mental wellbeing and setting achievable goals. They also offered a longer-term support programme, to keep guests on track after the retreat.

I think this mind-based focus is the way forward. Although yoga has been amazing for my body, it’s been more amazing for my mind, and it’s the happiness it has brought me that I want to share with people.

So what about all the things you want? My best advice is to sort your head out first. Everything else will follow.

Have a beautiful week, everyone.

Jade xxx

Put down your damn phone and be present

phoneI was at a gig the other night. Unusually cool for me, I know. I have my little brother to thank for that. Left to my own devices I’d have spent Saturday night eating tofu stir-fry and watching Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway, I was struck by the number of people who had their phones out filming it. Their whole view was reduced to the size of their phone screen. I could understand filming a little bit to share with friends, or to play back later, but the entire thing? Really? Is having a pale imitation of the gig to keep worth diminishing the actual experience of being there?

To be clear, I am the last person to be able judge someone for being on their phone and not being fully present, as the photo with this blog testifies. Smartphones are mesmerising things. At your fingertips, you have access to everyone you’ve ever met (or at least everyone who’s been foolish enough to pass on their phone number), the whole of Facebook, all the awe-inspiring images of Instagram, and the entire world wide web. This is a beautiful, crazy, incredible phenomenon. It’s also distracting as hell.

Even for me, to experience the whole gig through a mobile phone screen seemed like a lost opportunity. The band picked up on this too. At one point the singer asked whether people would put their phones down for one song. He spoke about the value of connection, and how he wanted fans to just be present for a few minutes. Most people did, but a few couldn’t even manage that. And at the end of the song, the relief as people were “allowed” to pick up their phones again was palpable.

And so, conscious of the fact that my experience of the world can be far more expansive and interesting when it’s not lived through the tiny screen in my palm, I’m working on putting my phone down a lot more. I blogged here about how I’d started to schedule time for communicating with people and the rest of the time remaining present with the people I’m with. While I’ve not stuck rigidly to that, I have learned that I often have the best times when I leave my phone alone, or even better, leave it behind. I’m more engaged in conversations, and more mentally present. I’m even finding it’s not necessary while you’re waiting for people to “look busy”. It’s kind of ok just to sit there.

I still love my phone (yes, it’s actual love), but as with any relationship, I’m learning that dependence is a bad thing. I want to be present, and I want to value being with the people I’m with. Who’s joining me?

 

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