If you’re a frequent traveler like me, you’ll have heard the following announcement at the beginning of most flights: please turn off all electronic devices, followed by: flight attendants, prepare for take-off. Which makes you more nervous?
My guess is that, unless you have a fear of flying, your palms are more likely to sweat when you have to put away your portable entertainment.
Some airlines now allow you to keep your mobile phone on airplane mode in case you fear withdrawal symptoms from this or some other kind of distraction enabling device for the duration of your journey. However, being both a student and teacher of yoga and meditation, I am all too happy to completely power off the most stress-inducing item I own and surrender to simplification.
Believe it or not, life is often better without pocket-size technology.
Of course there are other places where we’re asked to partially digitally disconnect such as museums, classical concert halls or movie theatres. But while we might not choose to have a long chat with grandma who lives an ocean away during these visits, we may still want the perk of tweeting about a piece of art we’re enjoying at the Matisse exhibit or checking work emails during a film just in case we can resolve an issue that would otherwise end up on our plate the next day.
We’re a generation of multi-taskers who have emotional connections to the devices that enable this. We want to see and share at the same time. We want the ability to be in three places at once. We want to get more done faster. We want to have our cake and eat it too (but instagram it first). And these are all marvels of modern day technology. But what we forget in all this excitement and momentum is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and digital delight can soon turn to digital indigestion.
Luckily there’s one place where we can cultivate an actual desire to be away from technology and that’s the yoga classroom. If you walk into a yoga class with your mobile phone, you’re going to get dirty looks. But I rarely see this as a teacher. Why? Because yoga time is off-limits time. It’s self-imposed take-a-break time. And just like some popular Apps, it’s a little addictive.
When I teach I like to think of the classroom as a sanctuary or haven from the stresses of modern-day life that we impose upon ourselves. While rolling out a mat and practicing yoga postures can work wonders for your body, it’s the time we spend during class cultivating awareness, being present, and connecting with our breath that works the magic we need to keep a balanced life.
We shouldn’t need an air stewardess to tell us to switch off our phones. We shouldn’t need a reminder to turn them to silent at the cinema. What we need is to remind ourselves that it’s okay NOT to be connected 24/7, to allow ourselves to be in one place at a time, to focus on a single item and take things at a slower pace. While the initial reaction may be resistance, the mind will migrate towards a place that is less cluttered and more centred. The result? You’ll be a much more focused, energized, attentive person to be around and work with and that can only help you stay ahead.
So here are five simple things you may want to try this week to find more balance with your digital routine and keep a clear mind:
- Transport Timeout – most of us have some kind of public transport commute that involves waiting. What do we do? We start checking emails, waste hours on social media, play around with Apps. What if for one week your transport time became a digital time-out? Would you read more? Breathe more? Look at the scenery? Give it a try and surrender to simplicity.
- Get an old fashioned Alarm Clock – if you’re checking emails first thing in the morning and going to bed staring at a screen, maybe it’s time to make your bedroom a digital-free sanctuary. Instead of exiting and entering your day by cluttering your mind, what if you did 10 minutes of yoga or meditation? Give it a try and see what happens.
- Pick up a Book – remember those things? They’re sad; they miss you. You used to take them on holiday but now hotels offer wi-fi and you’re sucked back into the Internet even when poolside. Give your books a front seat and respect them as elders to your tablets. Focus on one story rather than ten news flashes at a time and observe the delight in being in one world at a time.
- Pick Up an Old Hobby – could it be knitting? Drawing? Cooking? What’s something you can do that doesn’t involve screen time? That requires focusing on the task at hand. Multitasking is an art, but it’s not art. You know what I mean? Create something. Spend time getting better at it. Don’t worry about what the rest of the world is doing and you’ll produce something great.
- Start a Yoga Practice – okay so this is an obvious one, but I credit yoga for calming my monkey mind and creating a craving for detoxification. When you become more aware of your body, your energy levels and the way you breathe, you start to notice how technology as a negative impact on your well-being and you’re much more likely to moderate and feel justified and confident in doing so.