Detachment Drill #2 – Taking Field Notes

“Watch it.”

There’s no need to complicate mindfulness beyond this simple two word sentence.

I can’t claim originality for this mantra, having lifted it wholesale from Jan Willem Van de Wettering’s excellent The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery, wherein the young Dutchman washes up in Kyoto circa. 1948 and becomes one of the first post-war Western “seekers” to be fully welcomed into a zen community.

“Watch it.” can be taken two ways. As a command implying your behavior is near or over the line of decency … or as a cordial invitation to pay closer attention to your immediate circumstances.

For this exercise, I want you to “Watch it.” both ways.

As a realization that your digital device and media consumption/behavior is out of control…

And as an opportunity to detach and observe yourself without the harsh value judgment above.

There are excellent apps available for this exercise, and we’ll talk about those in future posts. But in order to avoid the irony of tracking and understanding your digital addiction … with more digital technology … let’s approach this detachment drill with nothing more than pencil, paper, and, insofar as possible, a “beginner’s mind.

This drill works well with a “Field Notes” pocket notebook, but can be accomplished just as well with some folded pieces of printer paper.

field notes mindfulness

From the time you wake up until you go to sleep, you’re going to write down each encounter you have with a digital device. A sample entry might look like:

Time: 8:45 am
Device: Laptop
Cue? Sitting down at my desk
What for? Blog post writing
How long? 32 minutes
Distractions? Email tabs open, tempted to click through links about JW Van de Wettering, stayed pretty focused though

Feel free to note any other observations you find relevant.

As you’ve no doubt immediately guessed, the very act of “analog observation” will alter your daily habits. Feel free to note these observations as well. At the end of the day, you’ll have a compelling, hand-written source of “data” that’s yours to do with as you wish.

This drill is not for every day, but is extremely useful as a sort of “monthly checkup” habit.

I hope you find it as useful as I have.

Become a Digital Detachment reader: | twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *