Dialing down our digital distractions

Especially these days, when millions of people around the world have been asked to stay at home as much as possible, it can seem all too easy to be consumed by digital distractions. But as a man who once felt irresistibly, habitually pulled to digital distractions found out, praying to better know God as divine Mind lifts the impulse to indulge in such behavior.

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In these times of lockdown, smartphones, tablets, and computers offer precious connectivity to family, friends, and colleagues. But it’s also tempting to scroll through far more news alerts and social media posts than we truly need to obtain the information that we require. What if our digital devices are dominating our days? Can we stop racking up far more screen time than we intend?

Yes! I can say from experience that there is a way to get beyond this. Many years ago, I “graduated” from playing “Space Invaders” night after night at college bars and in local cafes to getting suckered into playing slot machines in arcades, day after day … after day. Going back to moderation didn’t feel possible.

Yet I was finally helped to freedom through learning that the stimulus-based consumer we seem to be isn’t really us at all. I was introduced to the Bible and to “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science. These books illustrate and explain that we each have an individual, spiritual identity derived from God. More radically, I’m learning that this is all that’s really true about us. As Science and Health says of this spiritual identity, using capitalized synonyms for God, “When we fully understand our relation to the Divine, we can have no other Mind but His, – no other Love, wisdom, or Truth, no other sense of Life, and no consciousness of the existence of matter or error” (pp. 205-206).

As gaining an understanding of this spiritual sense of myself became a central part of my day-to-day life, it had a direct impact on me. The impulse to indulge in that habitual behavior started losing its hold on me, and alternative activities came into my experience that were less self-centered.

Admittedly, it’s quite a stretch to contemplate having “no consciousness” of matter when being bombarded by a plethora of activities grounded in matter. But a key point throughout Science and Health is the liberating idea that the material mentality that seems to be our thinking, which opposes our spiritual nature, is a counterfeit, and ultimately insubstantial, inversion of what we truly are. Its seeming influence is always misguided, because it’s not impelled by the one true Mind, God.

As I eventually found out, we don’t actually want the self-indulgence that superficially seems so tempting. What we truly want, and can have, is the goodness of infinite, ever-present divine Love – the source of all that’s truly satisfying and harmonious. Time and again, satisfying this thirst to know God also brought practical good into my life, whether it was as simple as an unplanned encounter with an old friend or as sweeping as finding a vague desire to be of service blossoming into clarity about how to do so.

Whenever we pause and pray to gain a truer, spiritual view of our desires, the pull of material distractions diminishes. On some days we may need many such pauses! But the impact of knowing that God-centered consciousness is our true consciousness is powerful, as exemplified by what happened when Christ Jesus interacted with people in need. He had an entirely undistracted clarity about God’s nature as Spirit, and everyone’s true identity as God’s spiritual creation. And this enabled him to reach the thoughts of others in ways that freed them, transforming their behavior and healing physical and mental illness.

Of course, Jesus didn’t have to deal with digitally distracted minds. But there are many ways in which the human mind gets diverted from accepting God’s reality, and Jesus showed how that idea of our true nature could overturn a diversity of distractions.

Today, grasping the same idea can free us from believing we are governed by material impulses – including digitally prompted impulses – that interfere with the demonstration of our God-governed nature and hinder our ability to be healed and be healers. It leads us to forgo faith in matter as a source of satisfaction by awakening us to our true selfhood and satisfaction in divine Mind.

As this becomes our base point, our ground zero, we get less and less swept up in worldly distractions, and experience more of the harmony and satisfaction of living our relation to the Divine as reflections of God’s love.

Adapted from an editorial published in the March 2, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.