Finding a balance with technology

Technology is interfering with my reflection and meditation.

Better put, I am allowing it to interfere because my will power is weak when it comes to ignoring email, social media and television. So weak. So very, very weak. Even though I am not a ‘Millennial’ by definition, I am starting to exhibit some of the technological dependencies commonly associated with this demographic.

And it frightens me.

First, I have an insatiable need to remain plugged into my community back home in Chicago (and the one here in India) by way of my smartphone. Second, I have an even more insatiable need to document my world in words and pictures, which both my smartphone and iPad have allowed me to do quite effectively. Third, when I am at my Mysore apartment and “should” be reading and journaling, I instead get sucked into Internet surfing and movie marathons on cable television. In the past three weeks, I have pretty much left untouched a fresh copy of The Bhagavad Gita and a borrowed copy of The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain. I have watched The Blue Lagoon 2.5 times.

Oh, Discipline, where are you? Especially when Awareness has stuck around, and is revealing these shortcomings?

I might have some powerful asanas in my repertoire. But when it comes to being 100-percent “productive” with my time in India, according to self-prescribed rules established for myself before getting here … well, let’s just say it would be awesome if I had a yoga teacher to specifically challenge and encourage me on this stuff. Instead, this bit is all up to me.

I am beginning to regret bringing my smartphone and iPad. They appear to me now as mocking devices that tempt and seduce, like a beautiful Abercrombie & Fitch model giving a warm smile while flexing his muscles. It’s difficult to say no to that sort of invitation. I’m not regretful enough to turn back the clock and not pack these pieces of technology, mind you. Hell, no. It just frustrates me to recognize that I have turned into a digital addict in a place I thought would give me space from it. It wasn’t such a vice last month in Nepal, especially in the mountains where my phone didn’t even work and it was way too cold to be tap-tap-tapping on my iPad at night. But things are different in low-lying, 80-degree India.

Like so many other westerners in Mysore with smartphones seemingly superglued to their hands, I clamor for Wi-Fi passwords upon arriving at the local cafés. In fact, it is something I request before ordering my meal. This ritual didn’t bother me at first because everyone was doing it. Everyone. This includes locals and foreign yogis alike. It’s ironic, given most in the Mysore yogi community aspire to stay present and enjoy having impromptu discussions of the yamas, niyamas and chakra deficiencies. It just comes with being in the yogic path. So I had expected most local cafés to be filled meditators and people in deep conversation about life and mystical things. But most of the time, there are technological devices at the table that hinder this — computers, smartphones, iPods. Plugging into technology can be a huge asset with svadhyaya, especially when you’re alone, but it doesn’t necessarily foster conscious-raising internal and external dialogue. It’s a diversion away from it. Not to mention, it creates walls amidst the living-breathing community of people.

Nevertheless, if you walk into any Mysore restaurant or cafe popular with foreigners, you’ll find the majority of people on their phones or computers — scrolling through Facebook feeds, taking pictures, uploading pictures, sending emails, checking travel options, listening to music. They are doing anything to help pass the time and subsequently avoid making conversation with the people sitting around them. Sometimes it’s with the people sitting directly across the table from them.

I have always found this annoying to witness in Chicago. But in India, I have actually turned into that person.

No! No! No!

But yes, yes, yes … it’s true. I caught myself in a moment yesterday, where I was that tech-hungry person I so despise in Chicago.

I know that I need to nip this in the bud. Or more appropriately, in the iBud. It will be a test of my will power. My very, very weak will power when it comes to this.

Must. Send. Email.

Must. Update. Facebook status.

Must. Send. Another. Email.

I. Can. Listen. And. Type. Simultaneously.

This obsessive, internal dialogue will be eradicated. It must be similar to how my friends who are trying to quit cigarettes feel: The urge is just so strong, and the thing to satiate the urge is easily available, that is becomes easier to give in. “Just one cigarette, and I will quit tomorrow,” many of my friends who smoke have said. Only, tomorrow never comes.

Tomorrow will come for me. I just need to find a better balance. I am not looking to eliminate these technological tools from my life. I want to transform them into allies that don’t dominate. So I am going to set some parameters for this next week and see if I can stick to them:

1) When eating out, turn off the smartphone. And ask others with me to put them away as well, as a courtesy.

2) When at the apartment, read or write for an hour before flipping on the television. Don’t immediately go for the remote, aka mindless diversion.

3) Check email only after morning yoga practice and in the evening after dinner. (This might be tougher since I receive smartphone notifications anytime I get a new email.  I will have to resist the urge to look and respond. or find a way to turn the notification feature off.)

4) Discuss the issue with others and see if I can inspire a collective rally, or at least leverage the discussion to conjure up new ideas to help me.

I am going to start with these basic guidelines (rules that could be transferred to Chicago) and observe what happens. It is mind over matter with a dash of patience. Yoga off the mat!

Wish me luck.

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