I walked to the library the other day. It’s my office, where I write my “work stuff.” I hadn’t done the walk in awhile and figured I could use it. Save some gas, get some exercise. I found myself enjoying the time between home and work immensely. It took me away from the ever encroaching storm of “other things I need to be doing.” There was nothing to do but walk and think. It was a relief.
The walk itself is about 1.5 miles and goes through a quiet neighborhood and drops into a small wild canyon, before topping out back in civilization. It’s beautiful and I’d be hard put to think of another place I’ve been where wild country cuts civilization so easily.
It got me thinking about what we miss when we get caught up in conveniences. Driving to the library is convenient. It’s quicker, makes going home for lunch an option, and a quick run to the store after work easy. But, it’s also depriving me of a good opportunity to get out in the fresh air, have some time to myself. Time to think about work or other projects, get some exercise, and -though briefly- puts me in a wild place.
The definition of a convenience is something that allows us to “proceed with less effort or difficulty” and invariably less effort means getting something done quicker. That something can range from communication, to travel, to washing dishes, to getting information, and everything in between. But there’s a gift in letting go of conveniences when we can.
Each convenience deprives us of something, and the kicker is, many times, it’s not even missed until we become mindful of the processes outside of the help of the convenience.
We can’t forgo modern conveniences all together. They’re not only nice to have, but many have become a essential part of being able to function in this hectic modern world. Which isn’t good either, and there’s probably a good discussion here about making life less hectic, thus taking some power away from what we perceive as our need for those conveniences…for another time, though.
The simple question I asked myself on that walk was; what are we losing by not performing that effort? What might we be missing by continually taking the “easier” route, the route paved with conveniences? Let’s take a look.
Yes, they are necessary, but I’d hazard to say most of us use them much more than necessity dictates. By using them when we don’t have to we’re missing out on those “gifts” I found myself appreciating on my walk; exercise, time to think, time outside, saved gas -not only a gift to our wallets, but a gift to the environment-, and less stress.
Even the way we park our vehicle is, often times, based on ease. It’s convenient to park as close as possible to our job, the store, etc. But, again parking further away gives you the gift of exercise and possibly, depending on your parking habits, saved time and gas. I’ve seen people cruise a parking lot until a “perfect” spot is free. I’ve also seen multiple people drive from one class to another on a small college campus. It’s nuts and we’re missing things in that dogged pursuit of making things quicker and easier on ourselves.
• Cell Phones
I’ve got a major gripe about how most people use cell phones in the first place. Every time I see someone walking, head down, texting away or talking, I want to walk up and knock the phone out of their hand. Gift yourself some awareness of your surroundings, quit using your phone in public unless completely necessary.
Awareness, or lack of it, is a whole discussion in its self though.
Beyond robbing awareness, cell phones -we may as well lump other electronics in here too- can completely takeover our life. When was the last time you ate a meal without watching a movie/TV, texting, or surfing the internet? What are we losing by doing this? The opportunity to interact, talk, strengthen and deepen relationships with our family, friends, loved ones; or the equally needed chance to sit quietly. We also miss out on eating mindfully, enjoying the food for what it is, and being thankful for that food.
Also when a conversation is going on and a question comes up, it’s not necessary to jump on the internet and look it up right then. Gift some practice in patience.
Texting is another convenience better used as little as possible, at least in my opinion. Sure it’s convenient to shoot a text, but people use them like machine guns, when they should be signal flares. It’s easy to want to have “text conversations” about everything, but it shouldn’t rob us of the tools to communicate face to face. Don’t let it become the easy way of taking care of conflict. It’s hard talking to someone about something emotional or scary or sad in person, but it’s worth it. Things are less likely to be misconstrued or taken wrong and reactions can be measured. Leave the conveniences of texting to simple things. Practice the skills of direct communication when life gets complicated.
We could easily go on with this list:
• Chairs- sit on the floor or squat whenever possible and gain the lost gifts of naturally better posture, movement strength/flexibility, and, in a sense, humility.
• Cooking- Cook a meal from scratch and gain the gifts of letting your body prepare to eat, intimately connecting with your food, being in the moment, and slowing time down.
• Dishwashers- Wash dishes by hand once-in-a-while and gain the gifts of patience and slowing time down.
There are no doubt many others, but the point is try to get away from overusing our conveniences and gain some of those gifts in return. In some cases we’ve probably never considered what we might be giving up for convenience. It’s hard to see a task made easier as anything but gain. Try it. Pick a convenience and do without it for a time. See if you can find the lost gifts.