Yoga and meditation are great ways to ‘unplug’ from our digitally connected world, which leaves us little time for quiet.
Resident Medical Authority: J. E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM
On the first day of 2012, I went to the beach. The Gulf of Mexico was calm and reflective, and warm enough that I could take in the winter sun. During the holidays, I don’t go to cocktail parties, or raw vegan celebrations, or drum circles. This is because in order to have time to write – a solitary deliberate excursion into creativity – I require absolute quiet. To have time to think, a prerequisite to good writing, I need silence. For meditation, not only does the practice foster stillness, it requires utmost quite. And, as a clinician, I’ve found that healing requires all three: stillness, quiet, and a silent mind.
In our digitally connected world, shuttled about by cars, planes, and high-speed trains, where is the time for quiet? Or, for healing? Or, for balance?
As Americans, we spend too much time in front of a screen. The average American logs at least eight hours each day sitting and watching television or sitting and browsing the Internet. Electronic communication is almost instant. Texting and emailing, and social networking reaches friends, family, and followers across the globe. But, when do we find time for ourselves?
“The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context.” Pico Iyer wrote this in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, and he is perfectly right.
If that larger context is meditation, or writing, or personal healing, then too much noise, too many distractions, too much time surfing the Internet for answers to personal problems, including chronic disease, is counterproductive. So, why not do it less?
When things come at you fast, like on the Internet, you lose track of yourself. Discerning thinking, exactly the mental effort necessary to sort through the confusing information presented online, gets side tracked. Without good filters and an impenetrable firewall in place, “breaking news” and retail sales pitches pop up on the screen every few minutes. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn messages, and instant notes from Skype or Yahoo jump up, distracting us from the onslaught of streaming data. One would have to have the machine mind of a Data on Star Trek to process it all.
What to do about it presents its own dilemma, one that distracts us from our comfort zone of distraction. For one, you can connect to wise traditions that foster stillness. Practice yoga or Buddhist meditation, or “play” Tai Chi. (The Chinese way of describing the practice of Tai Chi, an exercise that leads one to the path of effortlessness, uses the term for play, not practice, the latter which implies effort.) In the very least, get away from the screen. Think less about yourself, and more about the welfare of others. Do more good in your community and the world. Get in a long walk – stroll, don’t run. And, leave the head phones at home. Bird song is more healing, and it’s free.
In my own case, when I get up, I enter my garden to water plants and see what changes the night made. Then, before opening email or reading text messages, I write for an hour. After that I do yoga asana practice (in the evening I meditate), and only then do I shower and eat, and then gear up for a fast paced day. A few times a year, I disconnect. Since 2000, I’ve been traveling to Peru, where I live and work with indigenous tribes. I walk and canoe, letting the ageless pace of life reset my nervous system. And, of course, I unplug. I come back more relaxed and energized — calmer, clearer, happier.
Slowing down might be the best New Year’s resolution you ever made. It just might be the newest health trend you were looking for.
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