Growing up in New York in the 70’s required special training especially when it came to riding a subway car. They basically consisted of my mother saying “Don’t talk to strangers, don’t stare at anyone, know where you are going, keep moving and be alert at all times.” This sentence was drilled into me every time I walked out of my home. This was an “old school style” training program, heavy on “the don’ts” and very little light on the “how to’s.”
But the “don’t stare at anyone” message came through loud and clear. In order to follow that directive, I began to practice what I now call “subway mindfulness.” I never left my house without a book to pass the time and also made sure that I didn’t draw attention to myself.
Every day I honed my peripheral vision and taught myself to take in what was happening around me while appearing to be staring at subway ads and the floor with rapt attention. I got really good at spotting movement at the far end of the subway car.
But it started to occur to me recently that I am not following my old rules and have taken to watching strangers. Why? Because no one is looking up anymore on subway cars. In fact, they are not looking up anymore anywhere. In restaurants, on park benches on the New York Library steps.
I find myself looking to see if I can find someone staring into space, thinking, daydreaming …just looking up and taking in what’s around them. The available the time between being “bored’ and “informed” has narrowed and lapsed. I wonder what we are not allowing our brains to do. Is being bored a dying art form? How does it affect us?
So ironically, in order to answer this question, I had to go to the internet! Here’s a couple of articles I came across that will give us something to think about the next time we have the urge to grab our phone when we are bored (or maybe even putting off thinking about something we don’t want to address!) Chances are we are missing some great opportunities to learn something about ourselves.