On “Full-Screen Living”

Recently author and blogger Leo Babauta posted an entry on his blog zenhabits titled “A Primer on Full-Screen Living“. I’ve been a long time reader and admirer of Babauta’s work but always at an “arm’s length” capacity. I enjoyed what he had to say, but seldom took the time to respond.

This article, however, has stuck with me for several days, and I wanted to add some of my own thoughts and personal experiences regarding the advantages of what Babauta has dubbed (rather brilliantly) “full-screen living”.

Full-screen living is really no more than a technical metaphor for the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, but it’s one that resonated particularly well with me (and I’ve been a student of mindfulness—to mixed success—for quite some time). Take one task at a time. One application at a time. One project at a time.

Implementing a full-screen lifestyle on your computer is easy. Simply have your applications open in full screen! You won’t get a jumble of content begging for your attention, and you’ll be able to focus on the things that matter. Whether that means using a full-screen terminal, writing application, or internet browser, without distractions you’ll stay focused and complete each task to the fullest.

I’ve extended this idea of “full-screen living” even further on my own. Mindfulness, after all, isn’t just about doing one thing at a time: it’s about enhancing awareness. To that end, I’ve begun shifting my toolset to use simple, focused, and more powerful applications that minimize distractions and dispense with the bells and whistles. A cleaner Adium theme, a smarter selection of Google Chrome extensions, making more frequent use of Terminal, and cleaning my desktop with Camouflage are just a few of the changes I’ve made on my road to “digital mindfulness” — full-screen living.

Full-screen living is a bit harder to implement in actual life. While it’s easy to make a computer application full-screen and shut out all other digital distractions, it’s not so easy to shut out the distractions of life. Babauta alludes to it, but mindfulness requires active effort. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch. One way to keep yourself grounded is to set some kind of internal reminder that will trigger your “mindful” response. For me, it’s an emotional reminder, as straying too far from mindfulness gets me riled up and stressed. I know it’s time to slow down when I hit that level.

Mindfulness ain’t easy, but if you make a conscious effort it can be life-changing and make everything you do more meaningful. Start with the simple stuff, on your computer. Try out full-screen life for a few weeks. I guarantee it will leave you eager for more.

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