The four-day Easter weekend was, for me, a heaven-sent opportunity to step away from my desk. I didn’t manage to leave all my gadgets behind: the iPhone and the iPad insisted on coming with me to Scotland. I know that, as a yoga teacher, I’m expected to set an example in these matters and believe me, the spirit is willing – but oh, the flesh is weak. Thankfully the absence of wifi or 3G signal in our Galloway valley reduced both of my multi-functional gadgets to little more than overpriced cameras, and I felt a little foolish for not bringing an extra book in place of at least one of them.
Constant busy-ness – particularly the kind that is facilitated by being always online – is a great means of escape. Being online allows us to be slightly elsewhere, distracted from the full experience of here-and-now. I know I had several uncomfortable conversations this past weekend that I would have been able to avoid at home, with the phone beeping and the laptop blinking their mesmerising demands, holding me at one remove from the people around me.
But escapism is not a great problem-solver, and (to paraphrase psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum) every human relationship is one sticky 10-minute conversation away from being a whole lot healthier and more honest. To escape from the messy business of face-to-face relating is to lose touch with something vital to human identity. In Howl, Ginsberg writes,”ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you’re really in the total animal soup of time.” This interdependence, on each other and on the physical world around us, is a defining feature of our humanity. The technological mechanisms that appear to allow us to step out of the ‘animal soup of time’ – creating carefully engineered online identities for ourselves and fixing them in splendid, unassailable isolation – are no more than illusions.
People who spend a lot of time ‘living’ online seem to me to go slightly out of focus. They have this in common with anyone who undertakes a task that requires us to go into our heads or into an imaginary space for any length of time. Writers know it well, this disembodied feeling. It’s what makes us consume so much chocolate/wine/toast (or other comforter of choice): food brings us back into our bodies, where we feel safe. But the online world comes with its own special anxieties and neuroses. It feeds us just enough affirmation to make us constantly hungry for more, whether in the form of ‘likes’, followers or just replies to our emails. If we don’t figure out a way to regularly leave the virtual realm behind and come fully back into the embodied space where we actually live, we end up hovering on the edge of life like the hungry ghosts of Buddhist mythology: gaping mouths, pencil necks and rumbling bellies that are never satisfied.
Taking a four-day weekend every week is sadly not an option for most of us. That’s why I’m such a big advocate of minibreaks: opportunities to take a breather from technology and reconnect with the body, several times a day. If you have the time, a complete tech detox of several days’ duration can be a powerful experience, but I have found it’s the little everyday interventions that prove transformative in the long run.
I’m running a yoga and meditation workshop this Saturday 26th April that will teach you how to take tiny technology holidays every day, helping to keep the body and mind in a healthy relationship with the gadgets that surround you. I’ll be sharing a range of practical techniques drawn from yoga and meditation that you can take away and start using immediately.
During the workshop, which is suitable for all levels including beginners, we’ll address a series of niggling 21st century issues, such as Smartphone Hump, Keyboard Wrist and Mouse Shoulder, not to mention Screen-ache and Social Media Mood-Swings. If you love your gadgets but sometimes hate the way they make you feel, this mix of creative and practical exercises should help you make peace.
Yoga for Busy Minds: Time for a Digital Detox?
DATE: Saturday 26th April
PRICE: £20 booked in advance (just email me to book), £25 drop-in on the day
PLACE: Yoga Body Centre, 3rd Floor Regal House
152-156 Lower Clapton Road, Clapton Pond, London E5 0QJ
Contact me for more information.