Tag Archives: internet

I Am Not A Damn Smart Phone; I Am A Body!

10 Aug

Today, in an act of defiance, I left the house for a hike and purposely left my cell phone at home. I typically take it with me even though I have a no-talking-on-the-trail rule. I like to have it in case I want to photograph something and because the hills are remote, it’s not a bad idea to carry it. Today however, I couldn’t bear to take the damn thing with me.

I debated at first. During the ten minutes it takes me to walk through the neighborhood to the mountain, I thought to call a friend I needed to get in touch with today. I also contemplated listening to a podcast. I could make use of the time and multi-task, right?

I’m so sick of multi-tasking! We reply to texts while our cars idle at traffic lights, we answer emails while we’re standing in line at the grocery store, and we talk on the phone while washing the dishes and cleaning the house. While all of this makes us extremely efficient, I am so tired of constant device time. I want to hear silence in my head for once and to look at something that is not virtual.

I never want my smart phone to become an appendage. If you look at people walking around these days, phones look like an extension of individuals’ bodies. I want my body to remain what it is – flesh and blood! I don’t want it to grow a selfie-stick or I-Phone.

On my hike, I started to feel a peace descend on me that I haven’t felt in awhile. I smelled sage, saw a butterfly cross my path as opposed to my screen, and felt myself sweating profusely in the Southern California sun. It reminded me of surfing because you can’t take your gadget out into the ocean, nor would you want to if you could. Your life depends on paying attention to what you’re doing – watching the tides and sensing the momentum of the waves.

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Our bodies too are like waves. Each inhalation and exhalation is a cycle. We need to be attune to them if we are to live in an embodied state.

For an hour and a half I was free- blessedly free. When I returned, I made breakfast and felt completely in the moment. I didn’t resent my work or my computer when I had to eventually get down to business. My body and mind had needed a break and they got one. I felt refreshed.

Seth Godin recently wrote in a blog post, “Every time I see a toddler in a stroller with an internet device in hand, I shudder.” Me too. Will that kid grow up knowing how to sense his or her body? Or how to access his or her imagination? The other day a friend and I noticed that little kids these days hold picture books and try to swipe the page or press a button. This breaks my heart. Will there come a time when books can’t hold a child’s interest because there aren’t any whistles or bells to stimulate the nervous system? Are we there already?

Technology robs us of boundaries and privacy, if we don’t set limits and reclaim quiet corners of our lives. For instance, when I was writing my book, I refused to answer non-emergency email except for during certain times of the day. I’m trying to get back to that personal protocol. I also have started to power down my devices by 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. unless I’m working on something special. I value my sleep way too much and am not a night person anyway. When I stay away from screens a few hours before bed, I sleep a full eight hours. This is something that matters to me. I am a body; not a machine.

We do everything in front of a computer. We work on-line, we pay bills on-line, date on-line, read on-line, make travel arrangements on-line, etc, etc. etc. Modernity isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. But I can carve out time for my body. I can power down, look around, and sense my surroundings. Because I am not my damn smart phone! I am a body in a human form and that is something that I never want to take for granted.

The Art of Practice

15 May

When I used to teach mindfulness meditation in the hospital where I worked, I candidly told people that they would feel no benefit from sitting once. To experience a shift, they needed to “practice” mindfulness.

Most people try meditation once, get frustrated that they feel no change, and then never try again. I find this curious as we would never expect to become a concert pianist without practicing our scales. Yet when it comes to wellness, and stress management in particular, most of us want a quick fix. We want to feel good, yesterday!

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I remember a yoga teacher once saying that in order to relax, one had to invest a certain degree of effort. I was struck by his comment because he was right. I found it a chore to go to his Friday night restorative yoga class. Inevitably, I just wanted to go home and have a glass of wine. To switch into yoga clothes and drive to a busy part of town was the last thing I felt like doing. What I discovered though was that after an hour and a half of lying in various poses, I felt as if I had been drugged. I actually couldn’t stop myself from falling asleep by 9:00 pm and sleeping ten hours straight.

All a mindfulness practice requires of us is that we be willing to sit on a cushion. And yet for a number of us, this can create tremendous resistance. To stop and pause in the midst of our busy day can seem both a waste of time and even silly. But if we want to develop the ability to be present with anything and everything that is happening within and around us, it is a practice worth cultivating.

Mindfulness is both a philosophy and a practice in which there is no goal. One doesn’t try to relax, to empty the mind, or to achieve a perfectionist blissed out state of being. The only objective is to observe one’s thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations with curiosity and compassion vs. judgment.

This is actually really hard to do at first. When I’ve taught mindfulness I have experienced people’s resistance in the form of coughing, shifting in their seats, fidgeting, and even getting up and leaving the room because they couldn’t tolerate sitting for fifteen to twenty minutes in relative silence. Yet inevitably, if we offered the mindfulness class a few times a week, which meant that individuals had more mindfulness exposure, and a structure to practice it, they began to actually look forward to the experience and to request it more often. As they practiced, they began to feel the comfort that  sitting with one’s breath can bring – even if comfort isn’t the objective. Once again, the only task is to just “be” in a state of curiosity and compassion vs. judgment.

I too have gotten out of practice. I have no idea why but after years of an active sitting practice, I simply stopped doing it. Getting back to sitting has taken some “practice.” I’ve had to develop a routine: ten minutes in the morning, ten minutes at noon, and ten minutes before bed. To enforce this schedule, I’ve had to leave my cushion out where I can see it as a reminder and sometimes I have to set an alarm. Mindfulness doesn’t come automatically. One actually has to be mindful about mindfulness.

I started sitting while living in NYC . I was overwhelmed by the onslaught of stimuli there coupled with my own emotional experience. I no longer live in NYC but now there is a different onslaught of stimuli that overwhelms me. While I enjoy the benefits of modern technology, the constant barrage of information makes me spin. I also find the pressure to respond to constant messages, whether they be texts, emails, or phone calls, exhausting.

The outside world isn’t going away. It’s here to stay. My inner world and physical body are the only things I have some measure of control over. I can take a few minutes to sit while the world runs around doing its thing. I can make a choice to be still and to enjoy a few breaths. Before the moment is gone. I can make living a practice and that practice an art.