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February 02, 2018

The Double-Edged Sword Of High-Speed Technologies

The communication, information and travel technologies that we have access to – as 21st-century human beings – could hardly have been imaginable to our ancestors:

* In a matter of seconds, an internet search-engine provides a list of literally millions of sources of information on a given topic, each just a "click" away.

* Various social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) -- along with Skype, Facetime and other video conferencing technologies – have opened the gates to 24/7 "real-time" communication with pretty much anyone in the world.

* Even physical journeys that used to require months of travel (e.g. on a trans-Atlantic ship) now can happen in a matter of hours.   

While such technologies provide a host of benefits, they are not without their downside. Sometimes, the speed, power and complexity of these technologies makes our lives easier. But sometimes, if we're not careful, their speedy complexity can make our own minds and lives even more uncomfortably speedy, distracted and complex. So we need to be smart about how we relate to them.

Keep It Simple, Smarty!

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of information, and the demands of instant communication, here's a fun acronym that you can use, to help you regain your balance: KISS.

K = Keep

I = It

S = Simple

S = Smarty

Keep it simple, smarty!  While loads of information can make us smart in a certain way, there are other forms of intelligence and wisdom – equally (or even more) important to our health and happiness – that are rooted in silence, serenity and simplicity. Let's explore a few of these …  

The KISS Of Mono-Tasking

While all our new technologies make multi-tasking quite possible, there's genuine pleasure and deep healing to be found in mono-tasking: focusing deeply on one – and only one – activity. So if you find yourself juggling two or more activities – toggling back and forth between them at a rapid pace – allow some time also to enjoy the KISS of mono-tasking: of attending fully and completely and simply to one task, and one task only.

When an athlete is "in the zone," he or she is mono-tasking – and derives great joy and power from this. You can do the same thing, whether it's sweeping the floor, making tea, talking with a friend on the phone, or writing a report. Give yourself fully to the activity, and complete it before moving on to something new. This is a great way to "keep it simple, smarty!"

The KISS Of The Natural World

Part of the stress of our so-called "information age" has to do with the sheer quantity of information available, which can easily generate feelings of overwhelm, as we attempt to sort through it all.

But a deeper source of the stress that we feel has to do, paradoxically, with there being too little information. Here in the computer age, a vast majority of the information that our body-minds process is of a very specific kind: namely, written and spoken language, and conceptual thought-forms. This type of information represents just a tiny fraction of all possible forms of human experience and sensation.

Being in the natural world – walking along a forest path, sitting next to a lake, enjoying a beautiful flower garden, or listening to birds singing in a park – provides a whole other "bandwidth" of information to our bodies and minds. This sort of non-linguistic and non-conceptual information is of vital importance to our health and happiness. So don't forget to enjoy the KISS of the natural world (hopefully without checking your phone, even once!) at least a couple of times each week.

The KISS Of Following Your Bliss

Among all the activities that are available to us – all the directions in which our attention is being pulled – how do we decide which ones to say "yes" to; and which ones to pass on with a courteous (or very firm) "no, thanks"?

The great mythologist Joseph Campbell used to encourage his students to "follow their bliss" – and this is still very good advice. Find out what makes your heart sing – the kinds of activities for which you feel genuine enthusiasm – and prioritize these.

What might also help is to write down – in a journal or a computer file – a list of your intentions: for the day, or week, or month, or year. Keep this list somewhere handy, and read it once or twice a day – to remind yourself of your priorities, of how you're choosing to shape your life. You don't need to be too rigid about it – or too attached to specific outcomes – as this will just add more stress to your life :)  Just understand that you do indeed have a certain amount of control, and being clear about your intentions is an excellent portal into the KISS of following your bliss.

Like a surfer skillfully riding a wave, you can skillfully navigate whatever circumstances life presents, when the surfboard of your priorities/intentions is carefully crafted!

The KISS Of Meditation

A healthy daily rhythm includes periods of silence/stillness, and a simple form of sitting meditation is a wonderful means of providing this. Out of silence and stillness, intuitive knowing and creative insights quite naturally arise. But mostly meditation is a way of giving our bodies and minds a break from the barrage of ever-more-complex information, and all of the "figuring out" and "planning" and "theorizing" in which our minds tend to engage.  

Try this: Find a quiet room, where you'll be undisturbed for ten or fifteen minutes. Sit down in a chair, or on a cushion on the floor, with your spine in its naturally upright position. Now say "ahh" a couple of times, to release any tension in your face, neck or jaw; and bring a soft, gentle smile to your face. Then simply bring your attention to the movement of your breath; its inhalations and exhalations. If your mind is wandering, say (either out loud or to yourself) the word "In" with each inhalation; and the word "Out" with each exhalation. For the next five or ten minutes, your only job is to observe the movement of your breath, and enjoy the utter simplicity of this.

Simplicity & Balance Are The Keys

We don't have to give up the convenience of digital information and instant communication – but our mental-emotional and physical health requires that we take breaks from this, to enjoy the simplicity of a cup of tea with a friend; or a walk along a forest path; or sitting quietly attending to no more than the flow of our breath: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale – and the spacious awareness within which all of it is happening.

So remember to gift yourself with at least a couple KISSes each and every day!


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