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This is Water…

David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech given at Kenyon College in 2005 is one of my favorites.  It’s entitled “This is Water” and a beautiful excerpt of it can be found below in this YouTube video.  When I am feeling overwhelmed, lost in the busyness of my day, or just plain fed up, I watch this video, and it brings me back from the brink, every single time.  Please take the eight minutes and watch it before reading further…trust me, it’s worth it.

This is water…this is water….some days it’s my mantra.  Life can be challenging; life can be banal. Day in and day out, there are responsibilities we have as parents, as partners, as friends and family members, as well-adjusted members of society.  Responsibilities that move us through our days in automatic ways, barely noticing the minutes and hours passing by, until the end of the day is reached, and we wonder where it has gone. We wonder why we didn’t get those five things done on our To-Do list, while at the same time  how we managed to finish ten other things that day.  In today’s world, our lives are filled with demands, busyness, and distractions.  Sometimes distractions of our choosing, our failed attempts to disconnect and tune out, looking for peace. But distractions never reveal those longed for moments of grace; they push us further into the automacy of life.

What David Foster Wallace talks about so eloquently in his speech is that all of it is water….all of is life. We are swimming in it every day. Whether it’s an ordinary day, one of basic existence, or an extraordinary one, filled with celebration or a special occasion, it’s all the same.  It’s all water…this is water.  Viewing your life through the lens of “this is water” changes how you pay attention, how you think and view each of the moments of your life.  Do you see them as chores or choices? Do you view them as beautiful opportunities for connection and growth or as society pressing on you with demands and needs? Can they begin as one, and when you pay attention, become another?  Can you view each one as sacred and precious, even the hard ones?

I know for me. When I choose the sacredness of every moment, when I breathe into the moment, bringing my full attention, and choose what I am going to think about that moment, it changes everything.  Can I see the flat tire I didn’t know how to change, as an opportunity for learning?  This happened to me last week.  When the AAA mechanic showed up, instead of being angry and frustrated and thinking of all the ways this was impacting my day, I breathed into it…this is water.  The young mechanic was kind and patient, and took the time to teach me how to change a tire on the spot. I left feeling grateful and empowered.  How did my response change his day?  Was it nice to be greeted by someone grateful to see him, accepting of the moment and willing to learn, rather than a pissed off distracted soul standing by the side of the road on her phone, barely acknowledging his presence?  I wanted to hug him when he left but instead shook his hand, looked deep into his eyes and said thank you.  This is water.

Can you remember “this is water” when…

You walk into your teenage son’s room, and can barely see the floor, covered with a week’s worth of clothes.  Then remember he’s had two papers, a test, and four soccer games this week. This is water.

A friend cancels on you at the last minute for dinner when you were looking forward to a night out.  Can you see this as the gift of a wide open evening that you can fill with anything you like?  This is water.

You are sitting at the hospital with a loved one, tired and weary to the bones, waiting for some good news and afraid it’s not coming. Can you breathe into the worry and tiredness, and acknowledge the strength that keeps you there, offering love and support?  This is water.

Your partner does that thing that drives you crazy and no matter how many requests you make, it never changes. Can you recognize it as an opportunity for patience and further communication, or perhaps simply acceptance and peace? This is water.

A busy day, leaves you going through the drive thru for dinner on the way home.  Can you be kind to yourself and notice sitting down to talk with your family over dinner (even if it’s from a bag), feeds your soul more than an hour spent in the kitchen cooking?  This is water.

The good…the bad…the hard…the easy. This is water. We are swimming in it every day.  For fish, the movement of water through their gills gives them life.  As water passes through the gills, oxygen is removed, it’s how they breathe.  Take a fish out of water and it dies. Our lungs don’t operate like gills, but can we feel the water around us, remove the life-giving pieces and see the gifts they bring.

This is water, asks us to see ordinary as extraordinary. To choose sacred…holy…precious.  To choose paying attention…being present.  In those moments, those challenging moments when life feels hard, when you are tired and drained, and can’t seem to find the sacredness in a given moment, take a deep breath and silently chant…this is water, this is water.

The Disease of Busyness

This.  I love this article.  It’s from one of my favorite websites and podcasts, On Being with Krista Tippett:

On Being: The Disease of Being Busy

I read it when it first came out, and as fate would have it, it ended up in my InBox today, the week I begin my two week sabbatical from all personal social media.  It’s beautiful and thought provoking.  I love the line, that in some cultures, “How are you?”  translates as “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?”  Can you imagine if that were the question we actually asked, rather than the obligatory “How are you?” where the answer is often “Fine” or “Busy.”  What kind of conversations would you have if you asked how someone’s heart was in this moment? Can you imagine?

My heart lately, is tired.  Tired of the battles, the anger, the hatred I see spread across social media platforms.  I know there are big issues this country is facing, and in an election year, which makes the conversations around them seem bigger and more emotion filled.  Whatever feelings, beliefs and opinions you or I may have on social issues and politics, there is one thing I know for sure…none of it will be solved with anger, pointing fingers, and seeing fellow citizens as the “other.”  Change happens through seeing into the soul of another, having compassion, sharing empathy…putting yourself in another person’s shoes…until you can share their walk…their journey. That’s when understanding grows…creates shared space for conversations and common ground.  That’s when taking the time to ask “How is your heart doing at this moment?” changes everything.

My heart longs for more time with my sons…more days at the beach…long walks with my dog…enjoying the days of summer which seem to arrive slowly, and leave all too quickly.  So starting next week, I am taking a two week break from all my personal social media accounts.  It’s something I try and do every year. Some times I announce to friends I am doing it, other times I have done it quietly.  And guess what….friends don’t miss me…their worlds go on without me being there to “like” or comment on their status.  Taking a social media break, I find more time in my days for things I love…writing, reading, laugher, watching baseball…and my heart feels content. It finds the space it needs…the space that summer represents for so many of us…from our memories of childhood where summer days were wide open with possibility and freedom.  I highly recommend it. For me, it’s summer, for others Fall or Winter when the world seems to turn inward may be more your cup of tea.  But trust me when I say, your heart will come back full, more peaceful and perhaps from that place you can add your small part to our world, because couldn’t this world use more full, peaceful hearts?  Blessings, dear ones.

 

Meditation as an Act of Worship

What if our meditation practice were done as an act of worship? A daily ritual to make present a hard to find peace that we offer to our lives, our loved ones and the world as a whole. When we worship something, we honor it, we revere it, we hold esteem and a place for it. What if our meditation were the same? What if those quiet moments of peace, those stolen moments of presence for ourselves carried over to the all the corners of our lives?  To be fully present in the day, in each moment, with ourselves, our loved ones, our co-workers, our patients or our clients. What if that act of worship brought much needed solace to yourself or others? What if instead of racing through the day in a blur that you were hard pressed to remember, you lived each moment fully? Brought your attention and presence to the present moment.  What would it look like if our meditation practice was done as an act of worship…a gift of peace to yourself, your life, to the world?

Learning to Love the Rain…

My friend, Carly Butler, curates a column called “Life’s Letters” for www.handwrittenwork.com.  I submitted this piece to her about a letter that means the world to me…a letter from my mother my first year in college.  I love the power of the internet to share words, connect with people, the ability to write so quickly and make edits from a keyboard…but I will say there is something powerful about a handwritten letter, note, or postcard.  Bits and bytes, jpegs and PDFs…can’t replace the feel of paper in your hands, or convey the feelings evoked when you recognize your mother’s handwriting on a letter sent to you thirty years ago.  Life is never an “either…or” it’s a “both…and.” Keep corresponding with others…electronically and in handwritten form…your friends and loved ones will be grateful for both.  Here’s a link to the column, it’s worth clicking simply to see my Mum’s elegant, beautiful handwriting:

Some People Life Their Whole Lives and Never Learn to Love the Rain 

Valentine’s Day For Those Without a Valentine….

Love isn’t yours…it belongs to the world.  This came to me in my meditation this morning, on Valentine’s Day.  I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day, probably because I never seem to have one.  But what if love doesn’t really belong to you.  What if it belongs to all of us.  What if love isn’t solely meant to be shared between two individuals, what if it’s meant to be shared with all of us.  What if your acts of love, your ways of showing love to your Valentine on this day, opens me to love, makes me feel love.  What if every act of love every moment of love, heals us all…creates a ripple of love waves that can’t help but touch each of us.  What if this day isn’t really about having a special someone…that one person you share love with on this day.  What if this day is about each of us simply being love.  Of showing up and giving love in all the places, in all the corners of our lives.  Giving love in each moment, to all the people in our lives.  What if our love was intended for all people everywhere.

So on this day of flowers, chocolates and Hallmark Valentine’s Day cards…none of which I will be receiving…I am simply going to show up in love. Be love. Not see love as something I am missing on this day meant for two, but as something that I have in so many beautiful forms, which surrounds each of us. That your love is my love, it’s our love…the world’s love.  That love is love in whatever form it takes.

Today I am going to see the beautiful acts of love spilling over in the world…and on social media…as rays of sunshine we can all bask in.  How does looking at Valentine’s Day from this way change your perception?  Does it make you less likely to lay low and wish for the day to be over, if you don’t have that special someone?  Does it make you realize that loving who you are, where you are, what you do and how you do it…is the kind of love we can all share on Valentine’s Day?  Does it make you want to start a love revolution, where the entire world is your Valentine?  Love is truly all around us…especially on this special day…Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

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.  

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.

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.