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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.

Easy ways to be Mindful…

“According to recent research, we spend up to 50 percent of our time caught up in our thoughts; a proven contributing factor to our unhappiness. Instead of drifting through our lives in a daze, consumed by thoughts of what could have been or planning those things which our out of our control in the first place, mindfulness allows us to engage with the here and now and approach our lives with greater clarity and peace of mind.”

Here are some great suggestions on how to mindful, doing five everyday tasks….

http://www.dailygood.org/story/497/5-ways-to-bring-mindfulness-into-everyday-life-headspace-com/

Pause

My favorite word for 2015 (and beyond)…pause.  It’s a beautiful way to take a moment and be present.

Dance with me
in the infinite pause
before the next great inhale
that is breathing us all into being

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Dance

Meditation for Dealing with Difficulties

I love the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).  I have attended lectures there, and they have great resources online.  Here’s an article and meditation for dealing with difficulties, which may be appropriate for many, during the holiday season. The article also links you to MARC, which has online meditations and research articles.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/channeln/2014/12/mindfulness-meditation-video-for-working-with-difficulties/

What does Mindfulness have to do with Football?

Apparently, a lot this year. It’s the day after the Superbowl, where I sadly watched my Denver Broncos accept a crushing defeat by a far superior Seattle Seahawks team. The Seahawks were amazing to watch, and if they hadn’t been playing my Broncos, I would have watched their performance in awe. Their play was flawless, their coaching inspiring. It was an entire team effort, and truly, in hindsight, one of the best and most dominating performances I have seen by a team in a long time. The Seahawks succeeded in doing what most teams were incapable of this year, stopping the #1 Offense that had been scoring at will all season, and holding them to one touchdown. But it wasn’t simply the #1 Defense of the Seahawks that accomplished their victory, their offense was spot on too. Russell Wilson looked like a veteran quarterback, running his offense effectively. Even when scrambling out of the pocket, or evading a tackle, he seemed to do so with a sense of calm and composure you wouldn’t expect from a second year quarterback, let alone in his first Super Bowl appearance.
What makes this all the more interesting to me, a person who studies meditation, mindfulness and the neuroscience behind it, was an article I read at the beginning of the season in ESPN magazine. I was so intrigued by the article and what it might mean for football, that I saved it. You can find the full article here:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9581925/seattle-seahawks-use-unusual-techniques-practice-espn-magazine

2014 has been declared the year of mindfulness. The Huffington Post announced this fact in a front page article, and described how mindfulness, meditation and presence are all trending topics in mainstream conversations today. The latest issue of Time magazine has Mindfulness on the cover. It appears to be everywhere, which couldn’t make this soon to be meditation teacher and cognitive scientist happier. So maybe it was destiny that the team that seems to be the most mindful, would be the one to win the Superbowl in this year of mindfulness.

So in the aftermath of last night’s defeat, this avid sports fan who loves to examine the game from all angles, had to take a deeper look at what happened. When I did, what intrigued me most about this Seattle team was two fold. First and foremost, I like Coach Carroll’s compassionate, whole player coaching philosophy. In a sport where player’s are only as good as their body, and it’s ability to play each week, his program of getting to know and coach the whole player — mind, heart and body, is refreshing, and novel, to say the least. NFL players often talk about feeling isolated or alone, even as part of a team, which always seemed odd to me. But if you are competing week in and week out to keep your starting position, or gain one, against other players on your own team, this isolation may be a natural result. In a game where players are known for how hard they hit, how fast they run, or how far they throw…to focus solely on the player as a body, has been the norm. But the science shows that your mind is stronger than your body, and to isolate and focus on only one piece of the whole human equation, leaves you with less than you started with. Coach Carroll has figured this out and seems to be showing that having individual visions for each player, within the team vision, and giving them the tools, language and support to reach that vision, actually elevates the entire team. While the whole matters, it’s not at the cost of the individual, which I imagine is not in line with the majority of NFL coaches’ philosophies. To see Coach Carroll talk about his respect for the individual within the team framework on the post game show, stopped me in my tracks, and made me think…something is changing here. To see Steve Young’s excitement at Carroll’s approach made it seem all the more plausible.

The second intriguing point for me, is the Seahawks are so committed to improving their player’s mental focus, they have their own meditation coach. Meditation has been shown time and time again to improve sports performance. The ability to visual your actions on the field or court, and then to maintain a mental awareness and focus during the game or performance have been studied and documented.  During meditation, lots of things happen in the brain. One of these things is a decrease in the activity in the parietal lobe. The parietal lobe provides a person with a sense of self in relation to other objects in the world. This is where a person’s sense of separateness lives. When brain activity in this area decreases, the walls of separation come tumbling down. This is why meditators often describe feelings of connectedness with others or something bigger than themselves when they meditate. So a team meditating together, would most likely deepen those feelings of connectedness. That appeared to be the case with the Seahawks last night. The entire team, and especially Russell Wilson, seemed to know where each player was on the field. They moved with a fluidity and ease that seemed to provide evidence of this interconnectedness. Ironic that by teaching each player how to focus on their own thoughts and mind, it improves the team’s play and the performance of the whole. Meditation also gives you the ability to respond, rather than react to a situation. To step back, see it all, weigh the options and then choose your response. Sadly, for the Broncos, from the opening play, they seemed to be simply reacting rather than responding to the tasks at hand. And the further away the game slipped, the more lost in their thoughts of defeat the Broncos players appeared to be.

On the bright side of things, if there is a bright side after a Broncos loss, the team that won provides an interesting program for discussion. I know some diehard fans will be worried that Carroll’s kinder, softer coaching style might change the game, make the players themselves soft in some way, and to that, I say “Did you see the Seahawks last night?!” They displayed a full range of strength and toughness physically, emotionally and mentally, and it was unlike anything I had seen this season. They were firing on all cylinders and had a rhythm to their game, that left the Broncos without a chance. I, for one, feel this new approach to coaching adds another dimension to the game. It reminds me of the Chicago Bulls (another of my favorite teams), when they were led by Phil Jackson, the zen master himself. The teaching of meditation and the development of the mental side of the game allowed the Bulls to run the most complicated offense in basketball, the triangle offense, with an ease that made it look like a well choreographed ballet. Maybe Pete Carroll will be the Phil Jackson of football.

Now some people will say, Seattle won because they have one of the youngest teams in the NFL, which in a game where physicality matters, gives you an advantage. Or maybe they were more prepared, simply chose better plays or it was just their night. But something inside me, saw something in September when I first read that article, and it came to fruition last night. Seattle has been quietly doing the deep work that matters, and is often neglected, and it showed up in their Super Bowl performance. While my love for the Denver Broncos cannot get me to the point of being a Seahawks fan, I am a fan of Coach Carroll and his program. Maybe Pete Carroll will change the face of football, I for one, hope he succeeds in bringing his whole, mindful coaching to the NFL. Watching my team lose to a better coached squad, with a clearer vision and a mindful player program, somehow makes it easier for this Broncos fan to swallow.