The end game of yoga is to have the strength, flexibility and balance to be here in the moment. We need yoga now more than ever. There are so many distractions - distractions that didn't exist 50 years ago thanks to technology exploding so many devices, apps and "things" that make life more convenient. Convenience comes at a cost - more than the price of a visit to the Apple store.
I'm a child of the 60's. I still remember when only a few people had color tv. Growing up in a small town in Vermont, party lines were common (ha ha not the party lines you are thinking). I still remember when HBO launched. It had limited hours of programming and in the off times it was footage of a bicycle riding through Central Park from the rider's perspective (primitive GoPro). We had under 12 channels on the tv. We had one tv, one phone and one bathroom for our family of five. Waiting and patience were part of our everyday existence. Needless to say, most of my childhood was spent outside playing and roaming around town on foot or bike. Before this becomes the 'old geyser chronicles' I will suffice it to say it was a blessing to grow up when I did. I remember what it was like to have most of my days in the direct experience of the moments of my childhood.
Books and records were my escape, my portal into a world outside of my tiny town. I dreamed of far off India, Italy, Peru, and Greece. I yearned to go to Prince Edward Island, the prairies of the midwest and big cities like Chicago and New York. If I wanted more books, I went to the town library. If I wanted more music, I dug deeper in my parent's album collection. Each find at the library or on the music rack were jewels and precious because they were in limited supply.
That changed when I got my hands on a transistor radio. More music and newer than was in my parents' collection. Soon I had a subscription to the Columbia Record and Tape club and was stacking up cassettes. Technology was booming and making things more accessible to everyone - even kids from small towns in Vermont. Eventually, books were online and plentiful too. While music and books still have a stronghold on my heart, with it being so plentiful, it got lost in the fascination of the distractions of the world becoming more and more convenient. By the time the 80's and 90's were in full force, we were already conditioned by MTV's speed of changing pictures. We wanted life to be faster, more colorful and we wanted the things we saw - we wanted to be what we saw. It pulled us far away from inner selves.
I am the old geyser here to say, slow down and see where your attention is these days. How much of your day is in direct experience with something other than technology? Do you have more text conversations with people on text or in person? What do you do when you receive an actual letter from someone in the mail, in your actual mailbox outside your home? Is your life so convenient that you can tune out feelings by turning on the TV, scrolling endlessly through social media and letting things automate your life?
I was an early resister. When remote controls gained widespread use, I refused and insisted on walking 4 -5 feet to the tv to change the channels and adjust the volume. I never got call waiting - standing firm that it was rude to the person i was talking too first. Then I had no choice. I am hard pressed to do manual on/off and channel changing on the tvs I have owned in the last two decades. I let go of a landline once my kids got their cell phones and the only calls we got were from telemarketers (back then they didn't call your cell phones). Little by little the conveniences were not so optional. Little by little we were drawn into the world wide web.
Now I have to state for the record that I love technology. I LOVE having music at my fingertips (I guess you can predict that I will not succumb to Apple Music and will OWN my digital downloads when 'they' take over the internet <insert nervous laughter here>.
I am a yoga yeoman and have to do a lot of things on my many computers and devices to run my studio and stay connected to students. The convenience makes it possible for me to be a modern day jack of all trades (still waiting for an app that cleans bathrooms and takes out the trash).
I have lost the balance of spending most of my day in direct experience with the world. I'm going to have to work and practice to bring that balance back. For me, a long time meditator, it means getting on my meditation cushion the old fashioned way - butt to the cushion in observance with what is here right now. Feelings and all. My teacher teaches shamatha meditation - sitting upright and still with eyes open. The eyes open thing is what is keeping me connected. With my eyes closed I can easily slip away to distant places like the eves in my grandmother's house where I read books in the light of a bare light bulb, surrounded by small built in bookshelves that held my mother and aunt's books (Little House on the Prairie, Cherry Ames and of course the Bobbsie Twins) - there, see how easy it is to slip back there and get lost in the sense memories of past experiences like that time you listened to Sergei Rachmaninoff like it contained the secret to your soul? See? There I go again. It's that easy to get lost. Eyes open, my friends. See what is here. Be in it.
When we practice just being here and seeing what is here without condemning ourselves for not being busy in this moment or lost in the current of current trends, we start to know who we are without all that distraction. When we can do that sitting on a cushion consistently, we develop the 'muscles' and the fortitude to do it off the cushion like when we are driving (yes, please!) and when we are sitting in the company of those we love. How many times have we been with those we love and we are all looking at devices, scattering our energy to things that don't matter as much as these sentient beings?
Be here now. Start practicing today. Start small and stay consistent. Increase your time and notice how it lingers with you when you get off the cushion if you stay interested in the moment. Feeling the temp of the water in the shower, hearing the sound of dog toenails running down the hall, having a ride to work without the radio so you can take in the sounds of driving. Start spending more time in patient, direct conversation with others. Gradually, you will notice the quality of your day improving.
Find some token that will help you remember to be present with the preciousness of life as it is. A student was recently sharing that her grandfather had passed away. She was wearing a stone necklace that he crafted for her. It held personal worth to her. She thought being on her yoga mat would be the best way to honor the feelings she was feeling. She set the necklace at the top of her mat. Honestly, as a teacher, I was honored to be holding space for her. Her direct experience touched my heart in a direct way. She graciously let me photograph what I was seeing (see above photo). Her direct experience token became one for me.
Direct Moment. Be here now! Take back your attention span! Be an early resister to complete and total robotic control of our lives!!! (maybe that's too much, but you get the idea).
I look forward to our next direct experience. Now get off this device and have a direct moment out there!