Stop! Look! Listen!

My six-year old twins learned these three words this past year in Kindergarten. Educators and parents often use them to remind kids to pay attention before crossing a street, or navigating the play yard.  In true coach fashion, I have adopted these powerful words as part of a daily mantra/practice for my family and myself. It quickly snaps me back to myself, away from the many distractions around me.

And the distractions are endless! Between smart phones and all of the other fun gadgets out there (and they are fun!), we have infinite ways to stay connected. The information highway is wide and quick and is a huge plus in many areas of our lives.

My concern is that all of these cool ways to instantly “connect” provide us more ways to disconnect from ourselves and others — if we are not careful.

Many of my clients are leaders managing huge projects and teams, and being plugged in at every moment is an expectation. I observe people with their heads down during a meeting or even sending a quick text in the middle of a conversation! (Of course you or I would never do such a thing!)  Even a ride to the airport is an opportunity to check our gadgets and see what needs to be responded to next.

I’ve come to call this “techskipping.” Like a flat rock skipping over the water, we hop from one thing to the next, skimming the surface quickly. We hear a sound bite about human suffering on CNN, we respond to an incoming text about the time of a meeting tomorrow, we check on email to find out a friends father just died … wow, how sad … but oh, back to the text to complete the scheduling before another call comes in and then we have to make dinner.

Have you ever experienced this?  If not with technology, then with the multi-tasking nature of your day?  I wonder … what Way of Being does this create? How can anything really “sink in” when we are moving so fast?

Just as the rock must stop skipping before it can sink into the depths of the water, must we stop skipping before we can sink deeply into ourselves, our relationships, our own creative source, our lives?

In this culture full of distractions, I want my kids to be able to stay connected to themselves, to hear their souls, their true voices, and their inner landscapes. I want them to learn to be still and quiet and connect to the earth and hear God’s whisper in the wind. As a mother and coach, I try my best to model this, but need help. So I practice “Stop! Look! Listen!”  This is what these three words are currently saying to me:

STOP! Turn off your iPhone (or gadget of choice), unplug, stop the distraction, the skimming, the multitasking, and the external stimuli.  Literally stop your body for a moment, be still, and take three deep breaths. (The Belly Breathing practice Andrea Dyer mentioned in March blog is perfect here.)

LOOK! Look into the eyes of those you love or the stranger at the store.  Look around–what is happening?  Look at the intricate wings on a butterfly.  Look at your behavior, and how you are spending your time.

LISTEN! Listen to the birds chirping, to the wind blowing, to what your body needs, to your own heartbeat and breath. Listen to others, to what is and isn’t being said. Listen to your life.

What do these words evoke for you? Do they resonate? If not, what would your words be?