A few days ago our daughter came home from school telling me this strange story: A Romanian gang was abducting innocent young children. In one incident a blonde young girl had been abducted in a shopping centre, had her hair cut in the toilet, drugged and then dressed-up as a gypsy. She was only saved at the last minute when a warning was given on the intercom and all the doors to the shopping centre had been closed. Police, so the story, have asked the public to look out for a white van with eastern European occupants driving around the vicinity of shopping malls.
Had I not heard exactly the same story in a South African version some years back, I would probably have taken the story seriously. Fact is police in Germany had to issue a warning that the story was an absolute hoax after it made its rounds over countless “Whats-App” and “SMS” messages, causing near panic among schoolchildren and parents.
It is just one example of the power of distraction in today’s world of social media. Whoever started this urban myth either thought it a joke or deliberately planned sowing fear and panic. But that this urban myth could make its way to Germany after I had heard it for the first time about ten years ago had me stupefied. Without the Internet such urban myths were checked and double-checked by news desks and seldom, if ever made their way into the public domain.
This brings me to my point. Never before have we been confronted by such a plethora of electronic media and other distractions. We humans are especially prone to visual stimulation that has us fixated to a screen, depending what it is. Our two teenagers have a really hard time when we put our foot down in limiting X-Box, TV or smart phone chatting.
But seriously, how often do we catch ourselves checking our emails and facebook accounts per day? We are gradually forgetting to experience the wonders of life in the here-and-now. We are becoming prey to the sway of whatever emotion is being put out there.
A recent edition of the “Shambhala Sun” ran a cover story on the “modern obsession” of distraction. It provides for some interesting reading. Buddhist teacher Judy Lief recommends that letting go of all our distractions and entertainments is the path to awakening. There seems to be a deeper truth we’re distracting ourselves from, says the famous Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Here are some tips on how you can avoid the power of distraction and to stay in alignment:
Concentrate on your breathing. Is it coming in short bursts from your throat or chest (fear and anxiety) or is it centred in your lower stomach (relaxation, ease of mind)
How is your body posture? By imagining the centre of your head connected with an invisible string to your higher self and the centre of your feet grounded to a point deep in the earth, you will feel a wave of energy flowing through your body. It is a complete contrast to being slumped over a desk or in a chair, and make you really feel your body.
Resolve to listen more rather than talking and giving an immediate response
Take time out from all those distractions such as iPhones and iPods
Take a walk in nature. Listen to the huge variety of birds, insects or other animals, sense the smell of fresh blossoms, feel the wind on your skin. Feel alive. Experience the here-and-now. What a wonderful experience to be living!