Mindfulness Beyond Arm’s Length

Have you tried, just for a little while, to not focus your sight on something at arm’s length? 

Think about how difficult that is right now.  About things that might keep you occupied or busy. Drawing? Building a model? Reading a book? All our devices? 

You might be able to eliminate some forms like not looking at your phone, but the other stuff could be hard like reading a book.

Ever just try to sit and stare off into the horizon?

I tried that very thing this last weekend. Andrew Huberman, professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and podcaster, has been teasing a podcast about nearsightedness and research that indicates it would be healthy for those of us (me!) who have nearsightedness to go outside and focus on stuff far away for 2 hours minimum each day.

The benefits *could* be, reversal of my nearsightedness. That would be an amazing result! To not depend on eyeglasses for some activities. To be back to 20/20 vision. 

It all makes sense though. In our 21st century society, we spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on stuff at arm’s length. Studying. Reading. Playing games. Working. Zoom. Movie watching that used to be 9 feet away on a TV is now less than a yard.

We’ve trained our eyes to be great at focusing at 3 feet or less! How can we be good at focusing far away if we barely spend any time each day doing it?

I tried last weekend. Took my kids to the playground. I resolved to not fiddle with my phone. Even just for an hour. 

Oh man. It was HARD.

After some experimentation, I settled on listening to the audio version of Rick Rubin’s new book The Creative Act, set it on play and stared off at the horizon.

And mindfulness set in. Big time.

The urge, the draw back to look at my phone.

The tickle of checking my email. Doomscrolling just a little, puleez…?

These sensations faded after a little while.

Then it was…how far could I actually see? 

What did I notice?

The trees. The sky. The rooftops. The fence. The cars driving by.

The planes flying by high up in the clouds.

I did not wear my glasses and I practiced focusing on things far away. I found that I almost could do it!

After about an hour, it was time to take the kids back home for dinner. 

My mind was remarkably clear. I was calm.

I enjoyed listening to Rick Rubin’s book. Without sight, I took in his content in a fresh, unfamiliar way and it seemed to stay with me differently.

It felt good to be outside and under the sun. Breathing fresh air.

My eyes felt better. (And worse after I put my glasses back on for the bike ride home.) 

We often talk about mindfulness with meditation but mindfulness can occur in so many different ways and places. What if you were to challenge yourself with being mindful by looking on things far, far away? Away from your devices. Anything you can hold in your hand. What might you notice within you and out in the world? How might your state of being change?

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