In an effort to be more mindful and present, should you be less on your phone?
In an effort to be more mindful and present, should you be less on your phone?
Image: 123RF / Livio Monti

A few years ago I visited the Serpentine Gallery when the self-described grandmother of performance art Marina Abramovic was in residence. On entering the gallery I was given a key to a locker and told I had to leave my devices inside. Then I was led through a series of rooms and installations that encouraged what has come to be known in the popular parlance as “mindfulness”.

Mindfulness is bloody hard. Staring at a wodge of blue or yellow on a wall with sound-blocking earphones on is trippy. Standing in a circle staring at strangers in silence is worse. Blindfolded, wandering in large vacuum-like spaces where people – some of whom may or may not be Marina Abramovic – touch you on your arms and hold your hands is downright awful. I did not like mindfulness at all.

This week I was reminded anew of this essentially horrible state. I lost my phone on a Greek island. I think I had tucked it into my book (which in itself should tell you something) and it fell out in a beach towel moment.

Have I learnt anything? Well, if I must put money on it, perhaps mindfulness means presenting yourself more firmly in the here and now

It being a small Greek island, a Facebook group soon announced that the phone had been found – people who recognised my screensaver contacted my family and before I had even the barest chance to become technologically free and practice mindfulness, I was back with my technology crutch firmly in hand.

Clearly the gods of mindfulness did not approve this state of hubris. I had not learnt my lesson. So on the way to the airport (cutting it fine as no one wants to leave a Greek island unless they really are down the wire), I discovered I had lost the phone once more.

The Find My i-Phone app indicated that it was sitting at home – living its best life by the beach while I was about to board a plane and a period of enforced separation.

We are still apart. I have had the phone sent by courier – it may or may not arrive. Marina Abramovic would be very pleased.

Have I learnt anything? Well, if I must put money on it, perhaps mindfulness means presenting yourself more firmly in the here and now. By that I mean that I have had to do some forward thinking and planning.

I have had to look without the ability to give in to the impulse to record things – so no pictures of meals or experiences other than the ones in my head. Are they more vivid without the mediating technology? Did they even happen now that they are not recorded? Is this mindfulness? I don’t know but I obviously need some so that I don’t lose the phone again.

• This article was originally published by Times Select.

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