Unplugging, Feeling, and Reflecting Through Yoga

Written by Andrea Marcum

I set out to count how many times in a day I said “Have a nice day.” By lunchtime I’d lost count. I’d scattered a double digit number of “nice days” at the bank, the market, the dentist, to friends on the phone. I’m pretty sure I even said “have a nice day” to a robo-call from Southern California Edison offering me some kind of energy savings rebate.

In my defense, I’m not the only one out there doing it. Let’s be honest—we bounce the phrase around like a verbal volleyball game in which no one really cares about the outcome. The perfunctory “Have a nice day” is the cousin of “How are you?”—another offhanded, stale interaction we use without actually expecting a true answer.

“How’re you?” (Internal monologue: What color should I paint the den?)

“Good. And how are you?” (Internal monologue: I hope that guy in aisle 3 looks at me.)

“Good. Have a nice day.” (Internal monologue: I think I’ll pick “Seafoam.”)

Talk about robo-calls! I’m not sure anymore if we know what we are saying, let alone if we mean what we are saying.

What happens when the same carelessness infiltrates our concept of “friend?” In the spirit of full disclosure, let me be the first to admit to my nearly 5000 Facebook friends: In the cyber world we are buddies, but I probably wouldn’t recognize many of you if we passed each other on the street. There are so many contacts in our Blackberries and Facebook accounts that I think we may be misleading ourselves when it comes to true intimate relationships. Aren’t friends more than a news feed of what’s on your mind and endless borrowed quotes? Are we mistaking “contact” for “connection?” Perhaps the global recession is not limited to finance. True connection with others is another currency in jeopardy, and I fear we may be starting to devalue it beyond recognition.

Our interactions with each other are an essential part of being human. Love and intimacy are necessary ingredients to a fulfilling life. Have we been wooed into thinking flippant conversation, messaging and posting links to adorable panda cubs are akin to real expression and actual loving friendship? How can our souls be fed if all we ever give them is spiritual junk food? Feeling things deeply and carefully choosing the way to express those feelings is what inspires great art, music and writing. What kind of a social and creative landscape are we constructing for ourselves?

Where r we @?

Yoga insists that we deal bravely and honestly with ourselves. Just sit still with your tight hips in a Pigeon Pose for a few minutes and you are painfully aware of who and where you really are. There is the pain of stretching our body, but there is also the intensity of staying still, focused and doing this one thing. It is the counter pose to documenting every meal we have with photos on Facebook and tweeting our every passing thought. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) is a central component of yoga. It’s an inward, not outward turn—the practice of not being distracted. Listening to our breath instead of the sound of an incoming text message. Clearing our minds of the “chitta vritti” (whirlpools of thought) that keep us looking frantically outside for answers that lie within.

Only when we get quiet do we get close to our true nature. In this disingenuous turbulence where we are more concerned about how we appear to our “friends” than we are about truth, we run the risk of losing sight of ourselves and of each other. The immediacy of social networking has us under its spell. If we start to believe our own hype, and enjoy the sound of our own voice too much, we do so at the expense of substance and meaning.

There is no substitute for real human contact, and the human experience is richer than mere chatter. I have felt over the last few years a new thirst for meaning. The face to face of the classroom and the actual vs. virtual community it reflects is critical to harmonizing our new way of living. Similarly, setting aside time to feel and reflect moves us back towards what really matters. We need to unplug so that we can honestly connect. These new distractions aren’t going anywhere. If anything there will only be more of them in the future, so I believe we are going to have to be more vigilant about keeping depth and meaning in our lives. I believe that we can both “Like” and love one another as we find our way.

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