Doing nothing for 2 minutes: mindfulness, hyperactivity and technology loops

I was first introduced to meditation as a teenager via the FWBO Centre in Manchester. It’s something that has always appealed to me but it’s also something I’ve long struggled with. On a number of occasions in my life I’ve sustained a meditation practice, only for it to eventually lapse. Part of the problem is carving out the time and space to meditate. But even when I’ve managed to do this, it seems that habitualisation is a double-edged sword. The very fact of having got into the habit of meditating begins to corrode my lived engagement with it, with a practice which purports to be about cultivating mindfulness becoming progressively less mindful until I eventually give up. Guided meditations help me establish the habit but also seem to intensify this slide into empty routine, soon becoming something I sit down to tick off a to do list rather than something I’m making time for in any meaningful sense.

I was reminded of why meditation appeals to me when I came across this website. I find it very difficult to do this for two minutes. I note how rapidly I start to fidget and project forwards to my next task. I note how this mental hyperactivity works to detach me from what I am experiencing at any particular moment. I note how effective this simple website is and speculate about the particular significance of it being in a web browser. I ponder the conceptual puzzle of what the ‘nothing’ means in the phrase ‘do nothing’. This website provokes all sorts of thoughts, ideas and plans. But what I struggle to do is actually sit and do nothing. This is why meditation has such an allure for me and it’s also why I’m so crap at it.

I’m also sure technology makes this worse. I often feel mildly stuck in a technology loop (see below). It’s easy to break but I have to be aware of the fact I’m stuck in it before it occurs to me to break it. I used to do a lot of work in coffee shops (etc) when I was a web editor but I struggle to do serious writing in that sort of environment. It confuses me that the conditions that allow me to concentrate on writing (sitting at my iMac in my office with my books on hand) are also the conditions in which I’m most prone to get stuck in a technology loop.

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About Mark