When I first heard about the Be Present cell phone box (see below), I thought it was freaking brilliant. The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is your presence. This is a challenge when so many of us are addicted to our computers and phones. In fact, Quallcomm says that on average, we check our phones 150 times a day! That’s once every 6.5 minutes. I’ve noticed that when I’m in Mama-mode and I check my emails on my phone I begin to feel instant panic. Stress overcomes me with a sense of urgency to reply or resolve client issues when, instead, I should be helping my children. I have decided that ignorance is bliss when it comes to emails. I prefer NOT to know about things until I can work on them during my set work hours. When I’m with the kids, I force the “phone fanatic” in me to hide my phone from myself. Your loved ones want your full attention and they’re not going to be around forever. It’s not everyday that your little ones will be small enough to sit on your lap or innocent enough to still want to hold your hand. So be in the present by turning off your phone or computer to really be “with” the people you are with. If we fail to give our undivided time to those we love, one day we’ll regret it. Wear your Mom hat OR your Photographer hat, but don’t wear both at the same time or you’ll feel frazzled (and look ridiculous!)
I had an idea for a small wooden box a week ago. A birthday present for a close friend.
I made it with the help of my friend Michael (who has a computer-driven machine that can carve wood), took a quick and dirty snapshot (below), and posted it on my personal Facebook page to show my friends.
And it went completely viral. Nutso.
Six days later, the snapshot has now gotten more than 1,000 likes and 300 shares (at least that’s how many I find when I follow all the trails), and I’ve received more than 250 personal messages from people all over the world asking if it is for sale. I told Michael what happened. We both took a deep breath and said, ‘Okay then, let’s make some more.’
So yes, it is for sale.
I took some better pictures, I created a little website, and we’ve now got a plan for making the boxes in multiples.
Michael and I have over fifty years of combined experience working wood professionally. But we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s overwhelming, in the best possible way. And we both believe very strongly in the message the box represents: We should better learn to put our phones away and be present in the moment.
Please don’t think for a minute that I’m good at being present just because I came up with the idea for this box. Quite the opposite. I thought of it precisely because I’m not good at it. When I’m with friends, if I’m not looking at my iPhone I’m thinking about looking at it. When I’m with my family, I’m the one with a hand holding the phone and the other held up to signal ‘Just a minute…’
And I realize that life didn’t used to be this way. Not for me, and not for all the people I see at restaurants and parties and plays, sitting with friends yet looking at their phones instead of each other.
And I’m aware of a shift in myself, in my mind. From focused to frayed, from single minded to scattered, from present to remote. I’m aware of the feeling that wherever I am I seem to be focused somewhere else, wanting something else.
And I’m pretty sure that’s a good recipe for sadness, depression, relationship problems, and feelings of alienation.
What can anyone do about this new addiction so many of us seem to have? When you feel you have the whole world and everyone you know in your pocket, it can be so difficult to just stay focused on where you actually are, on just a few people.
My friend Barb, who is one of my spiritual heroes, lives in London. We text and talk often. We’re in daily contact, and normally we respond to each other’s messages quite promptly.
A few weeks ago she began a new discipline of mindfulness, of paying attention to the things and the people around her, of being present. One day she didn’t respond to a message for a very long while, and later she told me that even though she was riding the bus and therefore would have had plenty of time to send me a text, she decided not to. She put her phone away and just focused on the people and sights around her.
That made me think. And I started trying it myself. Putting my phone away even in situations where it would be perfectly natural and acceptable not to. Just for the sake of my own soul. And I felt an immediate shift, back toward the un-fragmented person I used to be.
Barb’s birthday was a few days ago. I wanted to give her a gift to show my appreciation for this gift she’s given me. A visual representation of the idea of being present. A piece of functional art meant to serve as an expression of a value, like a doormat that says ‘Welcome’ or a family Bible on the coffee table. And I wanted it to be just a little funny, because Barb is a lot funny.
And that’s where the weird idea for The Be Present Box came from.
I know that people don’t need a box in order to put their phone away and be present wherever they are. But what we do need sometimes is a reminder of what’s most important.
That’s often where art comes in. I hope The Be Present Box is less like a pragmatic ‘cell phone jail’ and more like a good story, or a moving photograph, or a powerful song. Something that taps right in to the best part of us and inspires us to be better versions of ourselves.
So The Be Present Box is functional art. It’s a reminder, whether or not you ever actually put your phone inside it, that we do all have choices. No matter what new technology is currently nipping at the heels of our attention, we still have the power to choose the better things.
To order your Be Present Box, click HERE.