Posted at 09:30 AM ET, 04/25/2011

Mount Athos: A world away from modern distractions


The monastery of Grigorio in Mount Athos, Greece. (Neil Averitt)
Mount Athos, an independent peninsula in Greece, is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries that have remained largely unchanged since they were built beginning in the 10th century. “60 Minutes” was given a rare look at the monasteries this Easter Sunday, revealing that the monks are isolated from the distractions that can complicate modern life, seemingly to their benefit.

The monks don’t have access to newspapers, television and radio. Although this isn’t explicitly said, I’m pretty sure the monasteries aren’t wired for Internet access. An average day for a monk is prayer, prayer and more prayer. Monks attend services that typically last eight hours and are “utterly transformed with a concentration so profound, they were immune from distraction,” Bob Simon, the “60 Minutes” correspondent, said on the special. Sadly, the only thing I can concentrate on for eight hours is a marathon of “House Hunters.”

This technology-free lifestyle seems to be working out for the men: Cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease are rarely seen on Mount Athos.

Researchers at UCSF recently published a study that claims technology multitasking impairs short-term memory and causes the multitasker to be more easily distracted. Of course, this is not the first study to suggest that there’s a downside to being constantly connected to the Internet. But that doesn’t seem to stop us from simultaneously checking e-mail, tweeting and watching videos of autotuned cats.

One distraction that’s banned on Mount Athos that’s not so modern: Ladies. No women are allowed to set foot on the pennisula in order to honor the Virgin Mary and to save the monks from distraction. I think that’s one distraction most men wouldn’t want to give up.

Watch the “60 Minutes” special below:

Part two:

By  |  09:30 AM ET, 04/25/2011

 
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