31 July 2013

The one thing we need now more than ever before in our busy worlds

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire. Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind, the realm of your own.”  Marcus Aurelius

Are you sick of the noise, the constant barrage of information flying at you from all directions and the loss of your personal time trying to make sense of it all?

We live in the information age and its coming at us faster than ever before. I'm reading 'Abundance'' by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, and they say it's no wonder we're exhausted. They cite Eric Schmidt (Google Executive Chairman) who explains the exponential growth of information as an ever increasing avalanche; that from the beginning of time to 2003, we humans created 5 exabytes of digital information in total.  That's a billion gigabytes (or to see it visually with all the zeros, 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 gigabytes).   In 2013, we are generating 5 exabytes every 10 minutes!

No wonder our brains hurt. No wonder we are exhausted. No wonder we want time out.

What we don't need is more information.  The one thing we need more than ever before is ... Tranquility!

Tranquility is a beautiful word. It conjures up thoughts of still waters, reflective monks, the calm of dawn.  Tranquility is the state of peacefulness, quiet, calmness, serenity.

Tranquility is required for creativity to spark.  And from it emerges our emotions of appreciation and gratitude.  It allows for effective thinking. Yet, in this modern age, we've albeit banished it from our lives. We study and eat dinner with the TV on, check our phones whilst in meetings, attend to emails whilst multitasking on project work. We're consumed by being connected, to everyone and everything.  We feel guilty if we're not busy.

Yet what we need is to unbusy ourselves.  To disconnect.  To sit in solitude and be still. To be tranquil.

Yesterday I drove 2 hours to a country town to run a program.  Driving out of the airport on roads I didn't know and in a car I don't usually drive, I decided to turn off the radio to avoid distraction.  Once I got onto the open highway, I put the radio back on. And then quickly off again.  I realised I was enjoying the quiet.

What was interesting was that without the distraction of the radio, my senses were heightened.  I started hearing the sounds of the road, the car, my mind.  I noticed the sun on my arms, a welcome warmth on a cool winters day.  I started seeing, really seeing, what was around me - the beautiful landscape, rolling green hills, road signs directing to places I've heard about but not yet visited.  And I noticed how peaceful I felt.  A foreign emotion in a busy life.

Tranquility.

I was awed by its beauty.  Fascinated by its expansive and inclusive nature.  Drunk on its elegant simplicity.

Tranquility.

Try it.  Turn off the radio, the TV, the music.  Turn on the peace, the calm, the quiet.  And listen to what it tells you about yourself and what's around you and how you're connected to it.