January 18, 2016

What Are You Hungry For?

(Note: For the next few weeks, I am going to be posting about the rituals and boundaries I, personally, use to keep technology from overtaking my life.)

“Sit. Feast on your life.”
            – Love After Love, Derek Walcott

It’s halfway through January.  The time when the joy and newness of the year has started to wear off. When the resolutions we so carefully chose have begun to fall by the way side.  Yet, the month isn’t over yet, and there’s something about January, that for me, still seems bright with possibility and things to come.  Perhaps it’s the new eyes filled with hope for what is to come, what is laid out before me for the remaining eleven months, that increases my awareness and makes me see things from a fresh perspective.  That heightened awareness made me notice something the other day, while having lunch, solo, at one of my favorite SoCal spots.   

Anyone who reads this blog, knows I love technology.  I embrace and accept it in many parts of my life.  But I am also tuned in and aware of my technology use.  Yes, there are times I use it as a distraction…a mindless scrolling exercise through all things Facebook or Instagram, to avoid doing something I don’t want to do, or perhaps to feel connected in social situations when I’m flying solo.  So turning to my phone, while dining alone, would easily be understood and accepted.  But here’s the deal…I have certain rules or rituals around technology and one of my big ones is no usage at mealtime.  No phones at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table…even in a public place on my own, the rule applies. So instead of hiding my face in my phone, I notice the world around me and when my meal arrives, enjoy it with my full attention (instead of looking down at an empty bowl and realizing I never tasted a bite, because I was busy scrolling, texting or searching online while eating).

So while I sat there at the Veggie Grill last week, I happened to notice that every single person in the restaurant, save two (and myself…so a total of three), were heads down with their attention on their phones.  Now these were not just the people eating alone, like me. These were people sitting with others, waiting for their food or enjoying their meal together.  The only people not on phones were the cutest little boy, who looked to be about two, joyfully jogging laps around the restaurant laughing all the way.  He stopped to look at me, I waved, he smiled and giggled with a joy that was palpable.  His parents were watching him, while both deep in conversations on their phones.  The other non device focused person appeared to be about eighty. A kind elderly woman, being taken to lunch by what looked like her son and daughter-in-law.  I think she was having the same realization as me, because she looked my way and smiled.

That was it.  Me, an eighty year old woman, and a two year old little boy…the only people not lost in their devices, in a restaurant filled with customers. Now I don’t want you to mistake my observation for judgment.  I have no way of knowing whether these people were conscious technology users, who only had an hour in the middle of a busy work day, to turn to their phones and get some personal things done. Perhaps the mother deep in conversation was talking to her realtor about a new house they were preparing to make an offer on. I have no way of knowing what compelled each person to use their phones over lunch, and it doesn’t really matter.

What I do know is that neuroscience shows there is no such thing as multi-tasking. The human brain does not multi-task, instead it task switches, which means it quickly switches from one task to another.  We can’t hold two tasks in our brain at the same time.  While some people’s brains are faster at task switching (so it might appear they are multi-tasking), and some tasks or combination of tasks are better suited to be switched between more efficiently, all in all, whenever we are task switching, there is an inherent loss of processing ability.  In addition, our attention to each task is less than if we simply focused on only one task at a time (ahhh…the beauty of mindfulness).  I also know that studies show, families who share meals together feel connected and children (especially teenagers) are more likely to share what’s happening in their lives if they have your full attention on a regular basis.   Sadly, the studies also show, with the pace of our busy lives, the family meal seems to be dwindling, and that many family meals (if they do happen) aren’t technology free zones.

What this entire lunchtime observation had me wondering was perhaps people aren’t even aware of how easily they are distracted by their phones…how quickly they fill up empty spaces with online connection.  That their hands and eyes are so used to being on their phones, that it’s become second nature, and appears in all moments of their lives, including mealtime.  That to choose to focus on one thing…to choose to eat a meal without a distraction…whether with another person or alone…requires first the awareness, then making the choice, and, finally, putting your phone away.  Maybe some of those urgent things you’re working on over lunch, aren’t so urgent, and if you turn it all off for a while, they will resolve themselves, or you might come up with a better solution, if your brain has a break.  If you can bring your attention to the one thing in front of you (which for me happened to be a yummy kale quinoa salad) you can more full enjoy it.  That taking the time to notice and nourish your body, without trying to multi-task, may translate to more overall awareness of your body, in general.

Perhaps if your eyes are up in a busy restaurant on a random Wednesday, you will get a glorious smile from a precious little boy and a beautiful old soul, that fills your heart with gratitude for humanity.  Who knows.  Perhaps your biggest hunger isn’t for a specific food, but to quietly sit and share a meal with yourself or others, without feeling pulled to reply or respond to someone not present at your table.

A Different Example of Love…

A poem I wrote about my divorce that was published on Elephant Journal.

A Different Example of Love. 

How do you know when it’s over.

When it’s done.

When you can no longer pretend.

No longer will your feelings to change.

When your desire for love, life, passion

Are stronger than words uttered in a commitment long ago.

Life changes. Feelings change.

Passion waxes and wanes.

Children change everything, they say.

But what if those words come from fear.

A place of settling.

Afraid to face the desires stirring in your heart.

So you go through the motions.

Convince yourself it will be fine.

Try to behave your way back to love.

While all the while your heart is breaking.

Breaking that the feelings aren’t changing.

The love isn’t growing, it’s dying still.

And you die too.

Each day you swallow your desires for peace.

Put on the smile and pretend it’s fine.

When you betray your soul

Out of fear for what might come.

Fear at the changes, the heartbreak, the judgment, the unknown.

The example set for the children.

People always come back to the children – what is best for them.

A family – strong, staying together, working things through.

But what if working things through means you lose yourself.

You sacrifice yourself for some greater good.

Until you don’t remember who you are.

You’ve forgotten.

You become the shell of the person you’d hoped to be.

Settling for less than you dreamed of.

Not able to show them what real love looks like.

The small moments of connection

In glances shared, quiet laughter,

Gentle touches in the actions of the day.

Instead you teach them love means solitude and distance,

Unspoken resentment, only connecting over things to do with them.

And you begin to wonder when you will be brave enough – if you will be brave enough,

To want more for them – for you.

To want a life of joy, love, connection and desires fulfilled.

To show them things can change.

That change isn’t always bad.

The heartache involved is a different kind.

An open ache you name and discuss,

Which eventually opens your heart wider, and truer, and deeper.

You realize you all will survive.

You will laugh once more, and love again.

You realize that believing in love might not mean staying.

Leaving can also mean you believe.

Believe in a different example of love.

She was done….

I wrote this post in 2015, and submitted it to Elephant Journal for publication. I had no idea how much it would resonate with others.  It’s been viewed over 800,000 times and shared another 500,000 across social media platforms. I feel grateful and humbled to know that others share similar challenges and feelings about life.  The kind messages, emails and comments I have received from readers have touched me more than I could have imagined.  So this one goes down in my book as technology having a positive, encouraging impact on a new writer trying to share her truth and experience.  Thank you.

 

She Was Done.

She was done not fully being herself. She realized she was the only self she could be—and not being unapologetically true to herself was a disservice to her soul and the world.

She was done listening to the noise of the world. She realized the quiet voice of her own soul was the most beautiful sound.

She was done questioning her motives, her intentions, the call of her soul. She realized questions seek answers, and maybe she already knew the answers.

She was done striving, forcing, pushing through and staying on the hard path. She realized toughing things out might be a sign to pick another path.

She was done with friends that admonished her to be more light and breezy. She realized they didn’t understand she swam in the deep waters of life, she felt at home in their dark depths and died if she lived on the surface.

She was done with the distractions, the denials, the small addictions that pulled her away from the true desires of her soul. She realized that strength of character came from focus and commitment.

She was done not following the desires that yelled out in her soul every day. She realized if she did nothing about them, they died a quiet death that took a piece of her soul with them.

She was done with dinner parties and cocktail hours where conversations skimmed the surface of life. She realized the beverages created distortion and a temporary happiness that wasn’t real and disappeared in the light of the day.

She was done trying to please everyone. She realized it could never be done.

She was done questioning herself. She realized her heart knew the truth and she needed to
follow it.

She was done analyzing all the options, weighing the pros and cons and trying to figure everything out before leaping. She realized that taking a leap implied not fully seeing where she landed.

She was done battling with herself, trying to change who she knew herself to be. She realized the world made it hard enough to fully be herself, so why add to the challenge.

She was done worrying, as if worry was the price she had to pay to make it all turn out okay. She realized worry didn’t need to be part of the process.

She was done apologizing and playing small to make others feel comfortable and fit in. She realized fitting in was overrated and shining her light made others brave enough to do the same.

She was done with the should’s, ought to’s and have to’s of the world. She realized the only must’s in her life came from things that beat so strong in her soul, she couldn’t not do them.

She was done with remorse and could have’s. She realized hindsight never applies because circumstances always look different in the rearview mirror and you experience life looking through the front window.

She was done with friendships based on shared history and past experiences. She realized if friends couldn’t grow together, or were no longer following the same path, it was okay to let them go.

She was done trying to fit in—be part of the popular crowd. She realized the price she had to pay to be included was too high and betrayed her soul.

She was done not trusting. She realized she had placed her trust in people that were untrustworthy—so she would start with the person she could trust the most—herself.

She was done being tired. She realized it came from spending her time doing things that didn’t bring her joy or feed her soul.

She was done trying to figure it all out, know the answers, plan everything and see all the possibilities before she began. She realized life was unfolding and that the detours and unexpected moments were some of the best parts.

She was done needing to be understood by anyone but herself. She realized she was the only person she would spend her whole with and understanding herself was more important than being understood by others.

She was done looking for love. She realized loving and accepting herself was the best kind of love and the seed from which all other love started.

She was done fighting, trying to change or not her accepting her body. She realized the body she came into the world with was the only one she had—there were no exchanges or returns—so love and acceptance was the only way.

She was done being tuned in, connected and up-to-date all the time. She realized the news and noise of the world was always there—a cacophony that never slowed or fell quiet and that listening to the silence of her soul was a better station to tune into.

She was done beating herself up and being so hard on herself as if either of these things led to changes or made her feel better. She realized kindness and compassion towards herself and others accomplished more.

She was done comparing and looking at other people’s lives as a mirror for her own. She realized holding her own mirror cast her in the best, most beautiful light.

She was done being quiet, unemotional and holding her tongue. She realized her voice and her emotions could be traced back to her deepest desires and longings. if she only followed their thread.

She was done having to be right. She realized everyone’s truth was relative and personal to themselves, so the only right that was required was the one that felt true for her.

She was done not feeling at home in the world. She realized she might never feel at home in the world, but that feeling at home in her soul was enough.

She was done being drained by others—by people who didn’t want to take the time for their own process and saw shortcuts though hers. She realized she could share her experience, but everyone needed to do the work themselves.

She was done thinking she had so much to learn. She realized she already knew so much, if she only listened.

She was done trying to change others or make them see things. She realized she could only lead by example and whether they saw or followed was up to them.

She was done with the inner critic. She realized its voice was not her own.

She was done racing and being discontent with where she was. She realized the present moment held all it needed to get her to the next moment. It wasn’t out there—it was right here.

She was done seeing hurt as something to be avoided, foreseen or somehow her fault. She realized hurt shaped her as much as joy and she needed both to learn and grow.

She was done judging. She realized judging assumed the presence of right and wrong—and that there was a difference between using information to inform and making someone else wrong.

She was done jumping to conclusions. She realized she only needed to ask.

She was done with regrets. She realized if she had known better she would have done better.

She was done being angry. She realized anger was just a flashlight that showed her what she was most scared of and once it illuminated what she needed to see, she no longer needed to hold
on to it.

She was done being sad. She realized sorrow arose when she betrayed her own soul and made choices that weren’t true to herself.

She was done playing small. She realized if others couldn’t handle her light, it was because they were afraid of their own.

She was done with the facades and the pretending. She realized masks were suffocating and claustrophobic.

She was done with others’ criticism and complaints. She realized they told her nothing about herself—only informed her of their perspective.

She was done yelling above the noise of the world. She realized living out loud could be
done quietly.

She was done needing permission, validation or the authority. She realized she was her her
own authority.

She was done being something she was not. She realized the purpose of life was to be truly, happily who she was born to be…and if she paused long enough to remember, she recognized herself.

FOMO and the Case for Missing Out….

I have been thinking about the concept of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), lately.  I was wondering why it seems to be a topic of conversation, enough to be given an acronym (you know it’s in the ethos of the culture when there’s an acronym for it).  When I look back on my life, there was very little fear of missing out.  Yet if I’m honest, my level of FOMO has risen over the years.  Perhaps that’s because I’m getting older, and realizing there’s less years ahead of me than there are behind me.  But I don’t think that’s the sole basis for my increase in FOMO.  

So why the rise in FOMO?  I think it has to do with a combination of factors largely found in technology and social media.  When I was younger, you knew about things that were happening through several avenues:  the traditional media (TV news, magazines, newspapers, etc.), communicating with others (in person or on a land line telephone) or just being out and about in the world.  Information gained or gathered in this way was on the slow slide.  Easy to filter and relatively close to home.  Exciting things you saw happening far away, felt far away and landed on your “some day” list, realizing it might take time to reach them.  With the power of the internet the world has gotten smaller, faster, the possibilities endless and people are far more informed.

In today’s world, everything seems closer…smaller. We can see and experience things from across the globe on our desktop or on the screen in our hand.  Dreams don’t seem so impossible when we see others doing them right in front of our eyes.  This exponential increase in the level of information we can see and gather increases our desires for what we long to experience or be a part of in the world…and to long for it sooner…speed things up…experience it faster.

Our world has become instantaneous.  Need to find the best Indian restaurant nearby…yours in a minute via Google, Yelp or Urban Spoon.  Answer to a question, background information about the person you are meeting for lunch…all just moments away on your phone.  When our brains get used to having questions answered, instantaneously, or information at our fingertips, the speed at which we observe life, our thoughts, our desires, also increases.  We no longer “wait” for things…we want them now, this moment, this instant. When that doesn’t happen, we feel at a loss, as if something is missing.

Not only does the connection technology provides also gives us a broader and faster roadmap from which to choose the things we long to experience, but the ubiquitousness of social media adds another complex layer to our FOMO.  In the days of old, as I shall call my younger years, you might hear about a party you weren’t invited to, before or after the fact.  Yes, you would still feel like you missed out on something, but the feeling probably wasn’t as acute.  In today’s Facebook and Instagram world, you get to see all the photographs, the play by play snapshots of the event you missed, as if you were there, but you weren’t.  And it’s not just local events that feed into your FOMO.  You can be having a challenging day, stuck at work, perhaps in a snow storm.  You log on to Facebook to see a friend’s collage of her fabulous vacation in sunny, warm paradise taking place at the same time on the other side of the globe.  You may have been fine at work, but in that moment you mind starts to play the comparison game and you begin to think…why don’t I get more vacation time, or get to go on fabulous vacations in paradise, will I ever? Your thoughts can spiral to the point that what started as a good day, now has you feeling stuck and listing off all the things you are missing out on…sitting at your desk.

FOMO is greater in the younger generation largely because they are so plugged in, and the way they process and filter information so quickly.  They are the generation that can create kickstart campaigns, their own businesses, or websites from their smartphones.  Expectations run high.  Freedom and flexibility is the norm.  They no longer reside in a small bubble or cocoon where there wasn’t much to miss out on. The cycle has accelerated as to what is an acceptable time frame and what you shouldn’t be missing.

So what can you do when FOMO strikes?

  • Pause. Breathe. Be Present – The best antedate to FOMO is to take a deep breath…pause…and bring your awareness to the present moment. Be here now.  The only moment you ever have is the present one. When FOMO strikes, you are not in the present, you are looking at the future and comparing your present moment to the future and all the possibilities it holds.  Bringing your awareness back to the present moment, grounding yourself in the current moment, is the quickest way to end FOMO.

  • Meditate – Oftentimes the missing out feeling that lies at the heart of FOMO, stems from a feeling of lack or less than.  Meditating not only grounds us in this moment, but a self-inquiry form of mediation, can often lead us to the source of our fear or the desire driving whatever is on our FOMO list. When we get to the root of our fears or desires, it can often change how we view our current circumstances or what we choose to place on our FOMO list.

  • Move you Body. Get Outside – Moving our bodies, is one of the best ways to bring ourselves into the present moment.  Our bodies can ground us in this moment, and combining that with time spent in nature, only further forces all parts of us…body, mind and soul…to experience this moment fully.

  • Practice Gratitude – Being grateful for all that you have or what you are currently doing, not only makes you happier, but it brings you into the present moment.  Missing out implies that something is lacking, you are searching for something…being grateful is a state that doesn’t reside in the future, but in the here and now.

  • Avoid Comparing – Comparison is always a sticky trap.  When you compare yourself or your life to others, you are looking at things from your perspective.  Your perspective is never the same as the person actually experiencing that moment. Much of comparison only scratches the surface, without an idea of what truly lies underneath.  Comparison by it’s very nature implies differences or levels of hierarchy (better or worse than), all of which can lead to feelings of lack, superiority or separation…gratitude doesn’t live in any of these places.

  • Don’t get Online – Don’t look to social media when you are feeling small or discontent with your life, it becomes so easy to compare and to feel worse about your life.  The only exception to this would be to visit sites that encourage happiness, gratitude or inspire you.

  • Be Selective and Delete – Be selective giving out your electronic information, subscribing to online communication, or making FB friends or Google circles with every person you encounter.  Many of the communications you receive convince you if you don’t buy this item, click on this article, sign up for this class or do this thing, you are missing out.  You decide who gets to communicate with you, and delete all those that drag your down or make you feel lacking in any way.

  • Manage your Notifications  Consciously choose which apps will notify you, and when.  You don’t need notifications on every Instagram, Facebook or Tweet from your friends.  These notifications often pull you out of the present moment, your present moment, and drop you into someone else’s experience, which depending on the circumstances or your current state of mind, can often increase FOMO.  This includes turning down the volume on your computer so you don’t hear the arrival of every email or post in the background while you are working.

  • Pick One Thing – If you spend all of your time looking for the one best thing to do, or going through all the options you don’t want to miss out on, and never actually stop to pick one, you are missing out on everything.  Simply start some where…begin…pick one thing and focus on it. When your mind begins to wander and worry about all the things you are missing, bring your attention back to the one thing you have begun.

  • Find JOPMA – Instead of the fear of missing out (FOMO), I propose a new acronym…the Joy of Present Moment Awareness (JOPMA).  JOPMA involves knowing that you are fine, right where you are, in this moment, whatever it holds.  Life is a path of moments and experiences, and if you are worried about getting to the next one, or the one you might be missing, you aren’t here now…present…experiencing this moment. True joy can only be found in this moment…the one you are living…right now.

It all comes down to being present.  Please choose to miss out on some things, so you can fully experience the one thing right in front of you…this moment.  Know that if you are lost in FOMO and thinking about what you are missing out on, you are actuality missing out on the most important thing…your life.  

My Desires…

One of my favorite people is Danielle LaPorte.  I subscribe to her newsletter, take part in her women’s writing group, and have been to in person workshops. Her book, The Desire Map, is one of my all time favorites. She is a visionary who talks clear and straight, with compassion and kindness.  In one of her newsletters, she gave a writing exercise to complete.  The exercise consisted of writing what you wanted your life to feel like, using her prompts.  Here’s my answers…

I want my morning to feel like roses…fresh and fragrant, with the dew from the night before.
I want to ease into my day like cashmere. Transitioning from night to day quietly…softly…with a sense of honor and purpose of the day.  I want to feel where one day ends and the other begins…subtlety…no hard edges.
I want my body to feel strong and supple, to move with grace, and to feel like my own.  To feel connected and grounded to the earth, but light enough to reach the stars.
I want smiling to be like clementines, juice filled with the lingering scent of citrus.
I want kissing to taste like a blend of salty and sweet, to feel soft and hard, to leave a longing on my lips for more.
I want friendships to feel like the soft satin edges of a baby blanket that when wrapped around you gives a sense of love, safety and being held…tinged with a scent that’s a blend of fresh and familiar.
I want my mind to feel fluid and open.  At peace among all the thoughts and activities of the day. As if I were on the banks of a mighty river observing all that passes by.
I want my work to feel like a calling. Something I must get out of bed to do each day, because I can’t imagine not doing it.
I want my home to feel like a temple…a scared space for all who enter to feel love, warmth and a respite from the world.
I want my integrity to feel like the mountains…tall and solid…with a foundation built over years.
I want my money making to feel like play…a party that blesses the world, not just me.
I want my word to feel like a dove…peaceful, clear and light.
I want my laughter to feel like a mountain spring…bubbling from deep inside and watering the roots of those around me.
I want my end of the day to feel like enough.  A contentment with all that has been done…or not done.
I want my philanthropy to feel like an act of worship…a joyful service that honors all of humanity.
I want my ideas to feel like love letters, that my hands quiver with excitement to unfold and read.
I want my challenges to feel like deals and one of kind items, I secretly find.  A quiet blessing that only I have discovered and know what it goes with.
I want my next success to be bold and quiet at the same time.  I want it to be far reaching, thought provoking and soul opening.  But to do so without a loud entrance or “look at me” fanfare.
I want my love to feel like aspen trees…connected deeply at the root…intertwined and quaking with brazen joy at the breeze that blows through them.
I want my writing to feel like water, that flows and moves and winds its way through the world.  That carves pathways in even the hardest stone hearts, while soothing and quenching as it moves.  I want my words to be a blend of poetry, humor, humility and shared humanity – stories we all recognize.  I want to be a combination of Gabriel Garcia Marquez meets Elizabeth Gilbert on the way to tea with Rumi, Rilke and Hafiz.

I Believe…My Non-Manifesto

Everyone seems to be writing a “manifesto” these days – businesses, bloggers, artists, etc. Manifestos of truth, statements of power and strength about their product, their company, their art.  I never truly loved the word manifesto.  I appreciated the passion behind it, but, for me, it conjured up feelings and ideas of revolution, of a creed you wanted others to live by, force them to follow and swear allegiance.  For me, my manifesto is not a list I want others to subscribe to, not something where I lay my opinions and thoughts on people to absorb and follow.  Instead, I viewed it as a process to deeply think of what I know (for myself) to be true, and what beliefs I hold when it comes to mindfulness and technology. Your beliefs create your vantage point.  With this in mind, here’s my list…

I believe technology is only as good as the people using and designing it.

I believe the human brain is more intricate and amazing than any computer ever developed or that will be developed.

I believe true connection requires your attention, awareness and presence to be meaningful.

I believe the internet supports forms of collective consciousness and changes peoples lives.

I believe quick clicks, likes, or dashed off tweets, texts and emails, without thought, clog the consciousness of the internet.

I believe choosing where, when and how technology is a part of your life is a powerful choice for yourself and others.

I believe pausing, to think, feel or breathe is never wasted time, it actually saves time in the long run.

I believe the internet has brought us closer together and further apart.

I believe words are powerful…they hold energy, purpose and meaning…use them wisely and kindly.

I believe words, spoken or written, in person, in the pages of a book, or online, hold the same amount of power and meaning.

I believe the form in which words are presented, is secondary to their actual content.

I believe silence is golden, and necessary, and needed more than ever in this world of noise, activity and constant interaction.

I believe there are times when people shouldn’t be able to reach you via email, text, phone, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other form of communication.

I believe in the ability and creativity of technology to reach out, share stories and connect us in ways we didn’t or haven’t imagined yet.

I believe in the beauty, memories, creativity, art, stories and humanness I see shared every day on the internet.

I believe stories are the way people remember, share, learn and allow us to see ourselves in another…shared stories bind us together.

I believe we each have stories to share, and all our stories woven together create the fabric of being human.

I believe if you don’t know yourself, you can’t truly know another.

I believe meditation creates the space to step back from your life…pause…and feel connected on a deeper level to yourself, the world and something bigger than yourself.

I believe that feeling small, can be a good thing. Being in awe of the vastness of the universe and humanity, can be beautifully humbling.

I believe if you can’t be alone with yourself, you are not as interesting to be with, as people who can.

I believe meditation is not just a gift to yourself, but to the world.

I believe true communication happens when compassion is present.

I believe you can be authentic, and true, and real, even in the digital world.

I believe in the beauty of long walks or a cup of tea to unfold and share with another, and we all need more of both.

I believe we need to be better at communicating “with” rather than “at” each other.

I believe we are connected in more ways than we could have imagined, that the world has gotten smaller, but the distance within the walls of own homes and workplaces have gotten larger.

I believe brilliance is not found in the newest gadget or latest app, it’s in the depth of your soul, the fire of your desires, and the kindness in your heart.

I believe we are all better together — collaborating, than we are alone or competing.

I believe we each have a presence, an energy we share with those around us, in person and online.

I believe your digital presence matters and affects others.

I believe our digital presence touches those to whom we are directly connected, and ripples out to include others we don’t even know.

I believe being conscious of your digital presence is necessary, and the quality of all digital communication would be elevated if everyone took the time for this awareness.

I believe technology is not good or bad, it’s what we make of it, how we choose to use it, and the intention behind it that determines the outcome.

I believe the world is a better place with technology, and technology is better with conscious human beings designing and using it.

I believe the brilliant balance of technology and our shared humanity can change the world.

Hello…

Hello. My name is Adrienne. To understand why I am writing this blog, you need to know a little bit about me.

First of all, I love technology. I am one of those people who always gets the latest gadget, loves to figure out things, and have never found a computer or device that intimidates me. I play around until I understand it. Before children, my previous career started with designing and installing computer networks, and ended with designing, programming and creating artificial intelligence multimedia education systems (trust me, it’s not as hard as it sounds). I have two Master’s Degrees: an M.S. in Telecommunications (a combination of electrical engineering and computer science) and an M.A. in Learning Sciences (which is cognitive science/psychology as it relates to how people think, learn and organize information). I received my Learning Sciences degree while working at the Institute that created the afore mentioned AI computer systems, so I focused on Learning Sciences as it relates to technology use and interaction. I loved working on the whole user experience, from beginning to end, the design of the user requirements, the system, the interface and the final steps of user testing and rollout.

Now…with all that being said, you also need to know that I have meditated more than half my life. I first learned transcendental meditation as a junior in college (I was 19), and have practiced some form of meditation on a regular basis since…I’m 47.  While TM is no longer my chosen form of meditation, it was my introduction, and I have enjoyed practicing many different types of meditation since my first exposure. I am also a certified meditation teacher. Meditation has always been that quiet center, that space I go to when the world feels like it’s too much. The calm in the storm, where I hear my soul and commune with God. It grounds me and centers me, opens me up, makes me pause, stop the endless stream of thoughts filling my head and take a step back, deeper into my life. My meditation removes me from the busyness of the world, while making me feel more connected and present, all at the same time. It’s part of who I am.

I don’t know how, or why, but these two seemingly polar opposites areas…mindfulness and technology…are the things I love most in all the world to explore. You will find me learning, studying, discussing, immersing myself and generally spending my days studying these amazing topics. I can’t imagine my life without either. But I also can’t imagine my life with technology, the way I see its presence in other’s lives. Technology occupies a space in my life, it is not my life. Technology is a tool to make my life better, not an addiction or distraction that keeps me from being in or avoiding my life. My Macbook, iPhone, and iPad add to my life, not take away from it. I love my life, and have no interest in abdicating it to a seemingly better one online. There is a space and boundary I keep for where and when technology enters my life, like any relationship healthy boundaries matter.

I observe too many people with unhealthy boundaries (or none at all) regarding technology. Too many friends, who can’t carry on a dinner conversation without checking their phones constantly. Friends who can’t experience a concert or walk in nature, without stopping to record or photograph every moment to add to their FB or Instagram accounts. Children who can’t problem solve questions for themselves, when they get stuck, they go online for a quick answer or YouTube “how to” videos. People who can’t mull over an idea or wait for a reply, they need an immediate answer to a less than life threatening question. Colleagues who call, text, email, then check your online accounts to hunt you down, trying every avenue to reach you…right now. Friends that define themselves by the witty comments they make to every post, without thinking if what they are saying is kind, or true or actually needs to be said. Students pondering questions in google search term formats. So much of life is now instantaneous, urgent, lived online, and has to be shared…leaving little room for something to be private, sacred or special.

Even with this all consumingness, the reach of technology can also be amazing. I have found long lost friends from high school on Facebook, and reconnected with them online and then in person. I communicate with more people every day than I would otherwise, if I had to sit down write a letter, find a stamp and mail it. More friends know about my life than would without technology and I have felt encouragement, support and yes, even love, via text messages, Facebook posts and emails, during difficult times in my life. I write more, each day, than I did before a computer and keyboard allowed me to quickly capture and express my thoughts, ideas and feelings. Technology allows me to self publish and reach people, easily, quickly and in far away places, and to create this blog. Technology also makes the world feel smaller. We see things happening in faraway places. We share our stories, come to understand our differences and fight for causes we would have been unaware of in days of old, or which wouldn’t have had a human face or story to capture us so easily.

So there is the crux.

Technology, just like everything can be used well or badly, and everywhere in between. Technology matters, it’s wonderful, and it’s not going away. But it’s use needs to be balanced and occupy a healthy space in our lives, not be the sole occupant. And that’s where mindfulness comes in. Meditation and mindfulness allow one to step back from their busy lives, observe, be present and make choices from a space of awareness, rather than habitually responding to each bing or alert from our devices, like Pavlov’s dog. I’m not saying turn off your phone and throw it away. I am saying find a balance of its presence in your life. A space that you and it both occupy. The gift of having both designed artificial intelligence systems and studied the human brain, is that while computers are amazing…there is a reason they call it “artificial” intelligence. Nothing compares to the depth, wonder, creativity, connections and general miraculousness of the human brain (yes, I know there are computers that have tricked people into thinking they were humans…the Turing test….but who do you think programmed and created those computers and software). I marvel at our capacity as humans each and every day, what our brains and hearts are capable of creating and sharing. I truly believe computers will never replicate or encompass all of what it means to be human. And they shouldn’t. It’s not an“either-or” equation, it’s a “both-and” …how can we be both human and present and enjoy the connections, ease of communication and information technology gives us. There is room for both…room to design a mindful life in the digital age.

So join me, as I start this process of examining what it means to pause and be present in a high tech world. I’ll write blog posts on observations and ideas on technology, mindfulness, neuroscience and anything intriguing overlapping these topics. I also plan on interviewing some of the interesting people I meet along the way, as well as post book notes and reviews.

I have specifically chosen the word “pause,” because it’s uniquely human. Computers run programs (a series of instructions), written in code that start and continue a process until it’s logical conclusion, or a certain state is met. In some cases, when coding a new piece of software you end up in an infinite loop…which is not a good thing (I still love that Apple Headquarter’s address is 1 Infinite Loop). An infinite loop means your program is stuck in a process and will continue that loop endlessly. You need to reboot to stop the program.

The gift of being human, is that we can pause at any point in the process of our life. While there are some people who seem to operate their lives in an infinite loop…as humans we always have the space to take a breath, pause, become aware.  Use the human gift of consciousness to be present, living your life, instead of lost in a program of your own or the world’s choosing. I’m excited to elevate the conversation of what it means to be human in a digital world…to be a mindful human in the midst of technology that begs otherwise. I truly believe the combination of our humanness with the power of technology can change the world, for the better….if we consciously choose it.