Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tuning Out

While practicing qi gong the other day, there was water running in the background. Even during a pose where envisioning water running, I was tuning out the actual running water. A few days later, while doing the same pose, the sprinklers came on. The universe has a way of smacking us in the face when we don't want to listen.

Tuning out seems to be our modus operandi. It is so much simpler than being present and focused on what is in front of us. Yoga, meditation, and qi gong have helped me tune in these past few years, but of course that tuning in easily becomes tuning out in this culture . . .  even while engaged in those activities. 

There is no question that tuning out is absolutely necessary. If we did not do it, we would probably lose our minds. We are aware of only a fraction of the information our brains receive every second. But tuning in can benefit us and allow us to be more aware of the world we inhabit. When I was a young child, my family dubbed me "wrong way Becca" because I could not make sense of directions, always turning the wrong way and getting lost. When I moved to Michigan for college, I would constantly call my parents (who had not lived in MI for 20 years) to ask for directions. But then I moved to France, and all of that changed. I had no choice but to tune in and be vigilant in France. I was more scared to ask for directions than to tune in. Then I traveled in Poland, Germany, and Spain, all places where I could not have asked for directions if I wanted to--I simply did not speak their language. All of a sudden, I had a good sense of direction . . . or I had just started to pay attention. It is no surprise that I started doing yoga the summer before I first lived in France. 

In a world of twitter, facebook, RSS feeds, and sound bites instead of news, if we did not tune out, I think we might explode. But when tuning out becomes the norm, we have to relearn how to tune back in, or we will become "wrong way people." I think you're going to start to see a trend in my posts here; we need to find a balance between tuning out and tuning in. We need to recognize that which we need to tune out in order to focus on that which is important right in front of us. I just spent 3 days in Reno at a family law conference, and I was amazed by all the wonderful new information being presented. I was also amazed at all of the hunched shoulders in the rooms, focused on their blackberries instead of the presentations. Ok, I was not actually amazed, but how can we learn to tune into the wonderful information being presented when we are more focused on our twitter and email accounts? I am guilty of it as well, and the day I presented was tough because I had to actually pay attention instead of check my email. But I learned a lot that day from the other presenters, and I'm glad I was able to tune in.

Just like my sprinklers, however, tuning out will cause the universe to force us to tune in. For lawyers, this means a malpractice suit for failing to file a claim before the statute of limitations runs. For students, this means getting sick during finals or every vacation because of ignoring the body's pleading for some TLC before that. For all of us, tuning out means missing the most important parts of life. It means missing the falling leaves in the fall (ok, not in Phoenix, but I can dream, right?) and the beautiful full moons this time of year that lit the harvest for so many generations before electricity.

Finally, tuning in allows us to exist from our essence and not our frantic, caffeinated selves. As professionals, we can only be there for our clients (or customers or colleagues) if we tune into our own guidance. When we tune in we can see all that is important in front of us. Tuning in helps guide our ability to tune out that which takes away from what we need to be seeing. 

There is a lot more to say about tuning in . . . what do we see when we finally do? What are we willing to tune out consciously in order to tune in consciously? How do we reenter this world and balance the two? But these are for another day? For now, I ask you, what have you tuned out instead of facing? What results have you seen by failing to tune in? As always, I love hearing from you.


1 comment:

  1. I think about "tuning in/out" often when I'm out and about plugged in to my ipod. Occasionally, I won't have it or it will run out of battery and I am suddenly plunged into the real world with no escape. It's a bit jarring and of course much safer to hide behind my ipod - I get to ignore people panhandling or giving out flyers or otherwise being annoying, or choose when to interact with them. If I'm not plugged in/tuned out, I have to either ignore them, which makes me feel bad, or find a way to interact politely. Tuning out goes against wanting to validate everyone's existence, so sometimes I feel bad anyway and smile politely... but I digress...