5 Ways to Tame Mental Clutter

Overscheduled lives and too much information sap our energy and distract us from our higher purpose

by Barry Dennis • Next Avenue
Woman typing on phone image
Photograph: Shutterstock

On a family cruise around the South Pacific a few years ago, my son C.J. was playing with the light saber app I had downloaded for him. With his back to the ocean, he was waving the green beam of light around like Luke Skywalker in an epic battle with Darth Vader, when his arm accidentally knocked into mine. On a family cruise around the South Pacific a few years ago, my son C.J. was playing with the light saber app I had downloaded for him. With his back to the ocean, he was waving the green beam of light around like Luke Skywalker in an epic battle with Darth Vader, when his arm accidentally knocked into mine. The next thing I knew, the light saber — that is to say, my brand-new iPhone — was sailing through the air, up and over the ship's railing.



A sick feeling overcame me as I ran to the rail and watched it hit the water far below and float peacefully down, down, down. Here’s what went through my head in that instant: No calls. No emails. No texts. No social networking. No instant weather reports or headline news. No camera, music or videos. No games or apps to twiddle my thumbs with. 



By dinner, the news had spread throughout the ship. One fellow approached me and said, "Oh man, I never let my children come near my phone. If they threw my phone overboard, I'd kill 'em." I was taken aback by the intensity of his remark. Later that night, C.J. said to me, after I had completely forgiven him: "Dad, maybe what happened wasn't such a bad thing. You were getting way too attached to your phone.

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First Step: Admitting You Have a Problem"



It may seem ironic that a 10-year-old boy would be telling a man more than 30 years his elder that he had a phone addiction, but C.J. was right. Like so many of us, I had allowed myself to become fixated on my electronic toys. And my mind had become cluttered with way too much information.



When I thought honestly about it, I was forced to admit that my iPhone was actually keeping me from being in the present, on that ship, with my family, in a beautiful place.

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