|The Pacific Crest Trail|
But of course most of us never get the chance to just walk out of our everyday lives, and move into a completely different situation. And those same everyday lives are made increasingly complicated by the demands of modern technology, and by today's social media. A few days ago, I came across a fascinating article by neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin, which argues just this: that the constant switching of the attention from one thing to another - between e-mails, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and whatever else bleeps to alert us - is damaging our efficiency, and making it hard for us to concentrate on just one thing when we are working, or to let go and properly relax when we're not.
I know myself that if I'm working on an address or a blogpost or an essay, and the phone goes, or an e-mail alert pops up, it takes some willpower not to switch my attention away from what I'm doing. But I'm beginning to realise how insidious this constant barrage of alerts can be. So I'm starting to let the ansaphone pick up phone calls and to ignore e-mail alerts, until I come to a natural break in what I'm doing. Facebook is the other great seducer, of course, the great time-waster, at least for me. I understand that you can get software which blocks social media programs for particular periods, to help you stay focussed for longer chunks of time.
It's about being entirely present, in a very uncomplicated way. About concentrating on one thing at a time, and giving our whole selves to it, and then going on to the next thing, and giving our whole selves to that. I know that this sounds hopelessly idealistic, but we can at least try. Because it is in the present moment, and only in the present, that the numinous lives.
I guess we have to do what we can, where we are, with what we've been given. And just do our best to be there, and to notice the moments going by.