I think we've all experienced that awkward moment, when you're speaking to someone and the cell phone rings. For a moment one person glances at their phone, while the other wonders if they're about to be trumped by a phone call. No one likes being ignored in the midst of a cell conversation. It's rude. But this is the reality of our 21st century lifestyle, where technology constantly competes for our attention. Social media, cell phones, emails and iGadgets. It's hard to keep track of it all. And it can stress you out. Twenty years ago, we did not face the same challenges of managing our time and energy. We live in unprecedented times of distraction and stimulation. We are connected 24/7 -- and oddly, disconnected.
It isn't just the plethora of tech offerings that keep us feeling preoccupied and divided, it is our relationship to these devices that keep us wanting more. What can we do to shift our relationship to the technology that surrounds us? How can we make technology work for us and not the other way around?
The good news is we can use technology as a tool to raise our awareness. We can do this by paying attention and asking ourselves questions about the way we use our technology. Just notice: Do you hold your breath when you're working on the computer? Do you notice how often you feel compelled to check your cell phone?
Here are seven ways you can practice mindfulness with your technology platforms. Try these practices as an experiment to raise your own awareness. Refrain from judging yourself or being too harsh about how these practices work for you. These exercises are intended to raise awareness by simply being aware.
1) When the cell phone rings: Have you ever noticed how quickly you respond to the phone ringing? From the moment it rings, do you instantly feel the need to respond right away? Does a ringing phone knock you out of your present moment or disconnect you from the people you're with?
Try taking three deep breaths and center yourself before answering the phone. Experience a moment of presence before answering the phone. Notice what it's like to pause before your answer.
2) Before checking email: Do you ever make a bee-line to your email first thing in the morning? Do you feel the need to constantly check your email?
From the moment you think of checking your email, try waiting 1-2 minutes, or take 10 breaths before checking your email. Notice if this is a challenging practice for you. During those 60 seconds, become highly aware of your breath, feeling state, what you're thinking. Are you impatient, anxious, relaxed? What are you looking for in your email?
Pay close attention to your bodily sensations.
3) When you're checking social media: When you're reading your Facebook newsfeed or your Twitter page, how do you feel? Notice the thoughts you're having as you read each news item. Do you feel neutral, judgment, happiness arising? Notice your emotions and your feeling state.
Which news items bother you most? Which ones do you enjoy the most? Where do your feelings arise from?
How do you feel before and after you check social media?
4) Try leaving your cell at home or turn it off: Do you always feel the need to wear your cell phone? On occasion, practice leaving your cell phone at home, or turn it off. Notice the way you feel when you don't have access to your cell phone. Do you feel naked, disconnected?
Do feelings of insecurity or anxiety arise? Do you feel out of control? Be aware of your true experience without any judgment.
5) When you're working on the computer: Notice your energetic state as you work on your computer. What is the cadence of your breath as you're surfing the net? The quality of your inhale? The quality of your exhale?
Do you feel rushed and pressured, or calm and at ease? What helps you relax while you're working on your computer? See what helps you to breathe easy while you're on your computer.
6) When you're waiting: When you are waiting at a stoplight or for a friend, do you feel the need to check your cell phone? Where does the need arise from? How do you feel when you don't check your cell phone? Are you uncomfortable without having something to do?
What would it be like to simply take three breaths and allow yourself to relax without doing? What helps you to drop into the present moment?
7) Checking your cell: How often do you feel the need to check your cell phone? How do you feel when you receive a text or voicemail? How do you feel when you don't receive any messages?
Be fully aware of what is happening to your energy before, during and after you are using your cell. See how detailed you can become in your own awareness of using your cell phone. Track your feelings, your mental state and your thoughts. It also helps to write them down.
Some of these exercises may seem impossible at first, but you can begin by simply planting a seed of intention: to be more aware when you're using your technology. A simple pause can make a difference. Be light-hearted when you are practicing these exercises. I am often amused by the way I get sucked into social media, and how seriously I take myself while I'm on my computer. I do what I can to raise my own awareness around my use of technology and not to beat myself up about it. Technology, like anything, is inherently neutral and can serve a multitude of purposes. It can be used to escape, hurt others, or even raise your consciousness.
The Huffington Post recently released the GPS for the Soul App at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show). The new app has a free BPM monitor to measure your heart rate and relaxing guides that inspire you to slow down and breathe. I tried it myself. It was a little bizarre at first to have my heart rate measured by my camera lens, but I was amazed by the power of technology to relay information that really lets me know if I'm in a state of ease. These applications have the potential to shift your internal state and are a simple way to start a relaxation practice. We will see more like it to come, and it serves as a perfect example of integrating technology and mindfulness in order to promote health and raise awareness.
Awareness leads to self-empowerment. It allows us to release our automatic reactions and make conscious choices about how we are spending our time and energy. Technology is here to stay. Why not embrace it and use it to raise our levels of presence? We can do this by tuning into our breath, our feelings and bodily sensations. This lets us know how we are relating to technology in the moment. Let each breath you take be a guide in your connection to technology. When you feel yourself tense and breathing little, give yourself permission to take 3-5 slow breaths. Take a walk or break. Your technology will still be there waiting for you.
A good affirmation to practice is "I allow myself to breathe easily and effortlessly as I check my email. I am aware of myself being on the computer. I am aware of my breath and bodily sensations in this moment." In this affirmation, you substitute social media, cell phone, driving, even washing the dishes. You can use any activity to practice mindfulness and to raise your consciousness. Pay attention. By simply noticing, you become aware.
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