A great pleasure this past winter holiday has been reading. Among my favourite books (ever) is Lyanda Lynn Haupt‘s book Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature and Spirit.
There is so much wisdom, reverence and irreverence to ponder in this book, and yet, Haupt’s writing style has a sprightly quality that makes burrowing into this book pure pleasure. Reading Rooted reminds me of reading anything by Thich Naht Hahn – I feel different after reading. Tingly, lighter, spacious inside, quietly delighted. I also fervently wish every adult book was illustrated! Helen Nicholson’s illustrations not only catch the spirit of the text, they amplify it. An example is the illustration below which accompanies the very funny and dear invocation to the book entitled “Frog Church”. The book is structured in chapters entitled “Listen”, “Wander”, “Alone” with an invitation at the end of the chapter, like “listen for the wild summons”, “walk a new way” and “sometimes, go alone.”
My reading coincided with a twenty+ day break from social media, so I was especially open to Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s thoughts about distractions.
(Social media = distraction? Sometimes, yes! Or is it a tool, an essential part of my work and my social life? Both?)
Lyanda Lynn Haupt notes that common wisdom implies that we use only small portions of our brains, but that the research shows otherwise. Our brains are “running at 95% of their potential most of the time”. During the 1990’s, neurologist Dr. Marcus Raichle studied different parts of our brains, and how each part is affected by certain tasks. What fascinated me about the results of his research is that “when external distractions are removed, certain parts of our brain are allowed to work at full capacity.” When we are not distracted, the areas that light up in the brain are
- the recall of personal memories
- emotional states and feelings, and
- the evaluation of sensory input
All essential areas of the brain for any of us, and vital fodder for creativity.
Lyanda Lynn Haupt addresses the subject of distraction in her chapter on solitude. While I am familiar with the rich and (sometimes challenging) benefits of an undistracted mind and heart during a period of solitude, I am more focused right now on how surprisingly good it feels to be undistracted (if only for a time) from social media.
Without the distraction of social media, I notice that I feel more restful. Without the distraction of social media, I feel more spaciousness within.
I notice that the rhythm of my day changes. The second thing I used to do in the morning (after making coffee) was check my social media, and if I was posting, I posted first thing in the morning. Depending on the posts, I checked regularly throughout the day to see what attention the post was getting (if any), and to respond. I definitely seek validation and approval on social media. I feel a compulsion to check social media, and what bothers me is that that is part of the big plan – the designers of Instagram and Facebook want me to feel this compulsion. I notice that my compulsion activates and speeds up my nervous system.
I notice that I hardly take photos when I am not engaged with social media. When I take photos, I take them with an eye to how they might look on Instagram or Facebook. (Note the set up photoat the top of this blog!!)
I try to take a break from social media regularly. I notice that I am never eager to return to this part of my life, even though I miss some aspects of it while away. So this particular time, I am returning but very minimally, and very slowly. I am taking my time.
Don’t get me wrong – there is lots I like about using social media. Yes, it absolutely helps my art business providing both contacts and validation for my offerings that I might not normally get. I also like the social aspects. I love the baby photos, the puns, the daily lives of families I would never otherwise see. I enjoy my friend’s art and poetry blog. I follow artists I might otherwise not know about. I love some of the political commentary. I have been introduced to so many wonderful books, ideas and podcasts. Occasionally a post makes me laugh out loud. What would I do without the Highway 10 Road Report? I can keep up to date with local happenings. And more.
Stepping away for a time, operating a little less from my own compulsions feels very, very good. I have just skimmed some articles on dopamine and the instant gratification associated with social media use, but when it comes right down to it, I simply want the restfulness and the spaciousness I am enjoying now to last a little longer. It seems to be just the medicine I need.
“No wonder solitude is so unnerving, powerful and essential,” writes Lyanda Lynn Haupt. I feel the same way about this break from social media. She goes on to write that the break that solitude (or removing some distractions) “allows our brains to form interconnected neural root strands beyond those we typically utilize”.
I don’t know if my break from social media increased my enjoyment of Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s book Rooted or not. I am pretty sure I would have loved it either way. I read it slowly, with lots of breaks to stare out the window or take a walk. I wrote notes on it afterwards. I liked it so much, I am reading it a second time. Someday, I think I would like to own my own copy, and perhaps buy a copy for a friend or two.
“Sparks from the Book Pile” might become occasional series on my blog – something sparks my interest in a book I am reading, perhaps because it intersects with my everyday life. “Sparks from the Book Pile” allow me to share that with you. This is my first Spark.