Going Gray (with My Phone)

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I grayed my phone, and it's awesome.

It is now less apt to grab my eye, and when I glance at it, it's...boring. Turns out that companies use color and shape to manipulate our attention, so turning my phone to grayscale minimizes the effects (and is sort of a middle finger to them and their damn cutting-edge brain research). As the author who prompted me to try this experiment succinctly states, her phone is now more "like a tool rather than a toy."

So this got me thinking about graying things, more generally.  

Winter in Minnesota means being trapped inside and stuck in my squirrelly brain. I am more likely to overthink an interaction with a friend, obsess about an upcoming work presentation or worry about overeating chocolate.

But the season is also a gift. Winter is an opportunity to turn inward and try a dulling filter - on my mind. 

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When I gray my thoughts, I can view my mind as a tool rather than a toy. 

Any contemplative practice filters our thinking, allowing us to tame the gleam of a brilliant idea or the seduction of obsessive planning. Mindfulness (being aware of the present moment) helps me recognize habits in my thinking and create space between me and the colorful charms (and foibles) of my mind. 

For example, maybe I drop a glass and as it smashes on the floor I think, Oh, that was clumsy, Keren! Instead of immediately feeling bad about myself or catastrophizing (This day is terrible!), I just notice that I had that negative thought. Labeling it 'thought' creates a helpful separation. A thought comes and goes. Thus I am less beguiled, less tossed around by my own brain. 

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The filter of mindfulness - of 'grayscaling' my thoughts - makes me a better parent.

When I am more aware of what I'm thinking or feeling and less sucked into the bright colors of an emotion, I make decisions that better align with my values.

So when I notice myself feeling annoyed by how long it takes my 5-year-old to get dressed, instead of yelling I might say (to myself or aloud) Grr, I'm feeling super frustrated that it's taking this long to get out the door! From there I can separate from the emotion, take a deep breath and remind myself that a few minutes isn't going to matter.

By first noticing and then detaching from my frustration, space opens for my creativity and playfulness to sashay in and support the effort.

A moment of playfulness better connects me to my children. And I find that I can still value and model an expectation - like being on time - and it doesn't have to be a stressful experience. In fact, when I’m playful in reinforcing our values, my son is much more apt to go along for the ride.

So maybe my son's shoes say: Oh, please don't put me on! Your feet are soooo stinky! I don't want to be on your foot aaaallll day!!

And certainly not on his feet as soon as possible