As yogis, part of our path to consciousness is to watch our behaviors, tendencies and actions, and attempt to keep a balance. Many of us take part in seasonal, nutritional detoxes—bringing awareness and change to what we put in our physical body. But how much awareness are we bringing to what we are putting in our mind and mental body?
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
Be honest. When was the last time you switched off your iPhone for more than 24 hours? (by choice). One hour? Twenty minutes? Two minutes?
I’m no stranger to cell phone attachment. Recently at the airport, I looked around the waiting area before boarding. Eight out of ten adults around me were on smart phones. Myself included. Not one human held a book. I found myself wondering—what did we do in waiting rooms before cell phones? I am not sure I can even remember. Play with stones? Actually converse with our families?
This notion of ‘over-civilization’ that Muir presents is a not a new definition of the modern human condition. It is more like a broken record. We have heard the same tune played over and over again, and yet we haven’t lifted the needle off of the record player. To make it stop. At least for a while. Insanity, perhaps?
Digital addiction is no joke. There are now treatment facilities for internet and electronic addiction popping up all over the world. Often “digital-detox” is a very real and difficult thing for people to endure. (Warning sign : ever feel panicky when your phone battery dies and you left your charger at the office? We are amazing creatures.)
As yogis, part of our path to consciousness is to watch our behaviors, tendencies and actions, and attempt to keep a balance. Not always easy, I know.
Many of us take part in seasonal, nutritional detoxes—bringing awareness and change to what we put in our physical body. But how much awareness are we bringing to what we are putting in our mind and mental body?
An article by The Huffington Post reported on heavy technology use being linked to fatigue, stress and depression in young adults. Some of the highlights of the article included:
- Our sleep is affected. The artificial light from the computer screens affects melatonin production. This throws off our circadian rhythms and prevents deep, restorative sleep.
- Individuals constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues
- Frequently using a computer without breaks further increases the risk of stress, sleeping problems and depressive symptoms.
Many researchers provide suggestions such as (1) creating a sleep sanctuary—clearing your bedroom of ALL technology (yes, this includes your TV and replacing the clock on your cell phone—that rests near your bed—with an actual plug-in alarm clock); (2) abstaining from screens completely for at least one to two hours before bed; (3) exercising regularly but not after the late afternoon (sometimes, exercising late at night can increase endorphins and keep you up late).
While all of these suggestions are incredibly useful, perhaps our work extends further. We need to bring consciousness to how our minds are often held hostage by our modern, cultural priorities.
More than abstaining from screens for a few hours before bed, perhaps we can start to actively plan outings, retreats, and trips into nature—leaving all technology behind. We need to plan a full digital detox, that restores our mind to quiet, undisturbed rest. This needs planning and foresight so you can let your friends, family, and colleagues know you will be “offline” for a period of time.
In the meantime, there are smaller, daily practices that may help to restore balance:
- Don’t use the alarm on your phone. I know for me, when I reach for my phone to turn off the alarm, it is very tempting to move straight to checking emails and scrolling through Facebook. Yet, I haven’t even brushed my teeth! Or kissed my partner good morning. (let alone meditated or had some tea/coffee). Give yourself some space when you wake up before jumping on your phone. Your peace of mind will thank you.
- Be present with company. When you are at lunch or dinner, place your cell phone on silent and put it out of view. This will minimize the temptation of instant gratification. One ‘ding’ and we react in seconds—as if God, himself, has just emailed. Sound familiar?
- Be conscious of your own habits. Listing task after task is not going to help without consciousness. In the same way that we know when we are eating healthy or when we have let our discipline go—you know when your technology use is getting out of balance and becoming unhealthy. Watch that. And be honest. (Ever scroll through the same facebook feed that you saw just a few minutes prior?)
An individual who recently deleted her Facebook page did so because she claimed that she had lost her mental ability to think in long, complex sentences. Throughout her entire day, she found herself literally thinking in status updates—short, catchy sentences.
John Muir’s initial quote that opened this article speaks to the notion of “home” and “wildness.”
Recently, on social media, many people were sharing a picture of a log-cabin home in the middle of the forest with glass windows opening to the beauty of the forrest surroundings. The tag-lines were things like, “My ideal home”, “This is where I want to live”, “My dream house”, “How amazing would this be?!” (Side note : there was not one image of a TV, or a computer, or a game room in that house).
That image (of the warm, simple, cozy, open home in the woods) speaks to us because it speaks to what is often missing in our modern lives. We don’t drool over images of a modern home with wires and TVs. We drool over simple cabins that feel beautiful and yet wild, secure and yet open. Because it feels like a relief to the perpetual movement of modern lives.
And yet why have we become so distanced from nature? From simplicity? From quiet? From our inherent wildness?
The slow death of wildness within is creating a further split between man and the natural world.
Reclaiming our wildness is one way to initiate the cure for “over-civilization.” We can begin by bringing awareness to the ways our minds have been hijacked by technology.
From there, we can consciously make adjustments and changes, and begin to tend to the essential, wild part of ourselves. Planning digital detoxes, we choose to nurture the part of ourselves that is at home among the woods and mountains and fields.
And perhaps even breathe a sigh of relief to not be glued, at all hours of the day, to a pretty smart phone stuffed with emails, texts, tweets, hashtags, and Facebook prompts.
“We need the tonic of wildness. . .We can never have enough of nature.”
-Henry David Thoreau