Presence in THe age of technology

Freshly back from 4 days at a cabin in the woods with no internet or wi-fi, I’m amazed at just how quickly I was sucked back into my phone and social media.

Before I knew it, I was checking texts and emails and social media, all vying for my attention to take me away from the real reality I had been enjoying all weekend. This now has me seriously questioning my relationship to how I use these technologies and how much screen time I want to invest in.

It’s interesting because this weekend I had initially intended to record music, bringing my laptop, microphone and recording gear, which would have had me staring at a computer screen for a good chunk of time, but as luck would have it, my power adapter decided to stop working leaving my laptop dead. I took it as a sign.

To be honest, there was a moment where I thought, oh God, what am I going to do all weekend now? My lyrics and writings are on my laptop, how am I going to spend the rest of my time alone? But after that subsided, I simply adapted. I started working on new music, I went outside and wandered around nature, I meditated, I got lost watching the flames dance in the wood stove, I began hand-writing the beginnings of a new project on a notepad I brought… I reveled in the peace and quiet and simplicity of how Life could be, slowing down enough to give my nervous system a break, which is exactly why I went in the first place.

It’s becoming more obvious to me that these technologies and screens keep us locked into the thinking mind, disconnected from our bodies so that our nervous systems don’t have a chance to settle and disengage. We’re supposedly the most “connected” we’ve ever been, and yet real Life and real Human connections move past us without our noticing. This morning I woke up to go watch the sunrise and when I made my way back to the car, the man beside me was glued to his phone, completely unaware (or uninterested) in the natural beauty that was unfolding in front of him. And this is what I’m increasingly noticing – the investing of more time into the false, online reality at the expense of our actual Life in front of us. It has become more about consuming data rather than actively engaging in moments, which has me asking myself, where is my attention going and is it the most valuable use of my time? What kind of Life do I want to live and is what I’m doing now going to get me there?

As more people seem to be diving deeper into the online world, updating to the newest smart-whatever, mindlessly scrolling on their phones, I cant help but think about where this road is going and the effect it will have on our well-being. We’re already seeing glimpses of it, which is more loneliness, disconnection, anxiety, depression and unhappiness. Ironically, the more “connected” we’ve become, the more disconnected we begin to feel because the connection we’re biologically wired for, can’t be found through technology, but rather in authentic, Human relationships, along with a deeper connection to Nature, a connection to our true Self and a connection to something greater. Connection is a somatically felt experience, so by our screens keeping us rooted in the thinking mind, we lose connection to our bodies which is where we can fully experience Life, in every sense of the word. That is what we’re all looking for. Technology isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it is devoid of emotion and feeling, which only gives us the illusion of connection. This has the potential to leave us empty if we aren’t mindful of how we use it or have other methods of filling up our emotional wells.

So this is what I’m going to pay more attention to now. Setting boundaries with how I use my phone, disengage more often, break habits and instead try to root myself more deeply into the Life that’s happening in front of me. To take a more active role in creating the Life that I want rather than passively consuming information from others. Presence requires attention, so it’s time to be more mindful of where I’m focusing it and whether that is the best use of my energy. In a culture that’s become obsessed with mindless consumption and distractions, I want to learn how to focus my attention since that is the most precious commodity I have access to, which will actually lead to real life changes and experiences.

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