I read an article recently in Psychologies magazine. On the plane, on my way to Singapore. It was about staring. Taking time out of the day – to stare. The journalist set herself a task to stare for 30 minutes a day. No distractions. It was a psychological experiment. It drove her crazy. At first. 30 minutes of doing nothing. No screens. No phone. No people. Just her. And nothing.
I pondered this. Staring. It’s natural to me. I thought everyone did it. Not in today’s techno world. Screens, social media. There’s no space left to fill. We can always find something. Always. No matter where. Boredom. You can fill it. Fill that space.
We live in a time of spacelessness. No one needs it. Clearly. Who needs ‘thinking time’? Google it. You’ll find the answer. It’s the answer to all life’s questions. No need to wonder. Or question.
I recently read in Time http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/ the average concentration span of an ill-focused goldfish is 9 seconds. Remember the saying? Recent research has found the average person now starts losing attention after 8 seconds. Less than a goldfish. Eight seconds. It changes the meaning of ADHD.
Wow. So. If you haven’t captured the attention of someone in eight seconds, you’re out. That’s it. Your chance has gone. No wonder Tinder appeals to daters. Just flick. It takes a second. There’s seconds to reel them in. Good luck.
What was I saying? Yeah, the article in Psychologies. Staring. I looked out the window. Above the clouds. Such glorious puffy things. Staring. I’ve done a lot of it.
I was raised a Buddhist. I learnt to meditate at 12. Sitting. Uncomfortable. Trying not to think of anything. Bored. I thought. A lot. I thought too much. I had time. To think. To ponder. To analyse. It set me up. Wired me to think a lot. It’s good. It’s bad. It is.
I had cancer. There was no option but to sit and stare. Chemo killed me, to stay alive. I’d sit in one spot for hours. Sometimes eight hours. I had no energy to move. I had no energy. I was on lorazepam. My husband back then would beg me to stop the lorazepam. Please eat a dope cookie, instead, he’d plead. I lose you on the lorazepam. And he did. I’d just sit. And stare.
I’d watch the butterflies in the garden. I’d watch day turn to night. My favourite were the sunsets. Every one different. I still stop to stare at the sunset. Where ever I am. I will never see that sunset again. It stops me. I breathe.
Letting go helps. This woman in Psychologies magazine, she struggled with filling the nothing time. Then she enjoyed it. That time to just think. You can’t action it. You’re forced to stop. You think about new things. You have time to plan. Time to reflect. You have time.
It’s a generation thing. No doubt. I spent my young years sitting in trees. Thinking. All day. Then I wrote in diaries. Thousands of words. Why wouldn’t I? I had nothing else to do. Nothing. Else. To. Do. Not a concept these days. Look around. Everyone is on their phones. Right now.
What if they weren’t? What if they turned the phone off. Put in their bag. Made time to stare. What would happen? It might be scary. It might be liberating. It might be nothing.
We should find time to stare. Out the window. On the train. From your balcony. In the garden. Just make it happen. Start with 10 minutes. Just 10. Sit and stare somewhere. See what happens. Experience it. Be in it. Write it down when you’ve finished.
It’ll be something new to post on social media.
It could be a hit.
You’ve got eight seconds.