One City

There were many more good sessions at the Wisdom 2.0 conference this weekend. The intention of the organizers is to post videos. I’ll let you know when. Here are some of my notes from a second panel.

How do we use modern, social media technologies — such as this blog — to both further our own practice as well as share those experiences with others?

One panel discussion at Wisdom 2.0 on that topic included Tami Simon of Sounds True, Kaitlin Quistgaard of Yoga Journal, plus two technology insiders Gopi Kallayil of Google and the recent yoga convert Leah Pearlman at Facebook.

Kaitlin felt her yoga crowd often eschews technology as anti-spiritual or at least as just a distraction. Facebook just takes us away from serious practice, one could imagine hearing.

I’ve experienced that sentiment often. A friend even once asked me why I blog. “Didn’t that just reinforce ego?” she asked.

Kaitlin, as I understood her, found value both in retreating from the hyper-connectivity of modern technology — sometimes going on retreat in India for a month — and also she found value in mixing one’s external and internal connections in daily life. And that included the technology. And she specifically noted an opportunity to look at one’s motivations as we engage in these various forms of connection, as a momentary practice.

Similarly for Tami, a Blackberry user usually connected via email, each time she reaches for her device it’s an opportunity for her to investigate what’s going on internally and how she’s feeling. Especially when there was no real reason to check her email again. And what she’s found is that it’s most often a habit of confirming and stimulating herself. And she believed that was a fear of open space, of the unknown infinite, of the rawness of primary experience. And out of not wanting to handle that experience, she would reach for the Blackberry. It’s a great way to recoil from space. Before we had Blackberries, we could always recoil from space into our internal dialogue. But now these devices allow us to recoil by hyper-thinking in concert with others, via email or twitter.

One of Soren’s comments struck me, that we can have 1000 friends on facebook and still feel lonely. And I wondered, with all the connection is it really possible to integrate one’s path into the increasing speed of conversation? It seems a really important question, because these technologies are not going away but only become more prominent.

Back on the topic of working with the technology fueled speed, Leah suggested being creative in integrating spiritual work into daily life. She does things like formatting email on Fridays as haiku’s, both to keep their length down and also to inspire others to be brief; announcing growth intentions to friends to keep oneself honest; and seeing how much battery life she can end each day with on her smartphone. The more battery, the less she has repeatedly checked it. She swaps text messages three times a day with a friend, noting things she is grateful for.

And Gopi has also increasingly integrated his spiritual practice with his work life, going so far as to invite team members to Google’s meditation room (they have a meditation room?) for 10 minutes before a difficult meeting. He took some fellow Googlers to get hugs from Ama. And he makes sure that each day he spends at least one minute in meditation, one minute in exercise such as yoga, and tries to get to sleep early enough each day such that he doesn’t need an alarm clock to wake him in the morning. I really got the sense that he has slowly cultivated more and more of an integration and practical discipline into his routine.

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