I have been phubbed

I was in the midst of leading a pilates class, guiding the group through a short meditation and breathing exercise, when a woman on a mat directly in front of me, in the centre of the room, nonchalantly picked up her mobile phone and began to scroll. Before I proceed with the story, allow me to reassure you, dear reader, that the majority of people who attend my classes do not need to be reminded to put away their phones prior to the start of class. This woman, whom I had not seen previously, must either not have been aware of the common etiquette or chose to ignore it.

The following day, I learned that there is a term for what happened to me: phubbing.

Perhaps she felt bored or found it challenging to sit with her eyes closed and focus on her breath. She is not alone in that. Later, however, when I guided the group through a challenging flow that focuses on strengthening the core and upper body, she missed my instructions whilst distracted by her mobile, then proceeded to practise push-ups precisely the way in which I asked the group to refrain from practising in an effort to prevent discomfort or a potential injury.

Questions ran at the back of my mind, and I allowed them to arise as I later drove home. Did she find my class boring? In class, I remained focused and did not allow my thoughts to venture into an analysis. During the drive, however, I felt myself becoming annoyed. I reminded myself to be compassionate, to consider that perhaps she is dealing with a personal issue and that is why she feels distracted. Then again, I retorted, perhaps she is simply dealing with a major case of FOMO.

I know better than to take personally the manner in which a student reacts to my instruction. I do my best to lead classes from an authentic place, but I am in control of very little of what actually takes place on the mats of the people in my classes. I instruct the group to ease into a pose, to breathe deeply, to soften and engage, to remain focused. I am passionate about transmitting fundamental teachings concerning awareness and mindfulness, but the rest is beyond my control.

As for the woman who ignored me in favour of her phone, I doubt that I will ever see her again, but for all I know, she may actually have enjoyed the class in-between texting. One lesson that I have learned from this experience is to resurrect the reminder, at the start of the class, to turn off all mobile phones.

Still, as I conclude today’s post, I wonder about the social implications of an assumed attitude of acceptance of ubiquitous phone use as a means of distraction when a situation becomes in any way challenging. What are your thoughts on that? 

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I return to this lesson over and over.


(Almost) two years ago on the blog: Writing advice from Kate Morton. While browsing a local secondhand bookshop yesterday, I picked up a copy of Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours, only to find it signed. I smiled gratefully at Serendipity for gifting to me a second book signed by one of my favourite authors.

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1 year 2 months ago

Why on earth does anyone have/allow cell phones on the mat?