In The Age of Technology, we often hear of people and institutions using the phrase “early adapter” to describe those who embrace the newest technologies before anyone else. In the culture, there seems to be a cache attached to this; as if those first in are somehow more advanced, savvy, visionary even. It would be easy to believe this, until and unless that is, you pay attention at what has already been happening to those first in. Those whom we might more accurately describe as, “the canaries in the coal mine.”
In her book, Disconnected, Devra Davis cites research demonstrating that those teens shown to be heavy users, those in early and using a lot, are the same group that are 4-5 times more likely to develop brain cancer in their late twenties. And in South Korea, who as a country embraced technology about a decade ahead of us, is the same nation that can now boast Internet Addiction Camps, where their young spend weeks in technology rehab. And then there are the teachers, the really seasoned ones, the ones who had a “before”; who standing on the front lines will describe today’s habitually plugged in students as having tremendous difficulty focusing, attending and concentrating. All skills, by the way, that are the most essential building blocks for learning. This is the short list on the canary hit list. Likely, we all have our examples.
Would we ever send our young down into a coal mine to determine if the air would sustain life? Not likely. But, in effect, that is what we are doing when we plug them in with no awareness of the long-term consequences to their physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual health. And once that “air” has been breathed, is there a way to take it back? To negate its impact? To undo the damage done? What would it be like if we took a more cautious and skeptical approach to our children and their use of the technologies? It would look like more work for us for sure. It takes effort to notice and to make choices that go against the cultural grain. But should that be the criteria? You decide.
What is true for you right now? In this moment. Beyond what they told you, and beyond what they continue to tell you. Beyond “right” and beyond “wrong”. Beyond living up to your own ideas about who you think you should be and what you should believe. What is real? Do you even know? Would you know it if you felt it? Do you know how to get there? If not, begin. Just begin. Start by asking yourself, each and every day: “What is true for me right now?” And then, say “Yes” to whatever shows up.
Several years ago, I had a firsthand experience of Occupy Wallstreet. My husband, myself and my two children went to New York City for a day to see for ourselves what was happening. At that point I had intentionally read no news accounts of the events unfolding as I wanted to see without prejudice. When we arrived I was immediately overwhelmed and terrified. It looked like we had walked into a desperate, and potentially dangerous,1930’s shanty town. I felt frozen. What was I thinking? Why had I brought my children to this place?
Gathering myself, I walked into the heart of what initially looked to me like a homeless hangout; people were lying on the cold ground in the middle of the day. Some people were scrounging for food. It looked like a mess. The only thing that kept me walking further into this place was the fact that we had brought things to donate and because I was trying desperately to stay open. Even though I had avoided the news station’s versions so as not to be influenced, I was up against a wall of my own heretofore unexamined prejudice.
But here is what I found: A well planned layout with a walkway that snaked its way through and past everything a growing community would need. There were areas for basic survival needs; food, clothes, and shelter items. There were medical, legal and technology stations. There were times for spiritual practice in community. There was a library and a newspaper. There were people trained in non-violent communication who wandered around and made themselves available when disputes arose. And there were 30 “working groups” who daily came together to solve the issues the community faced. Had I gotten my information from typical news sources, I would have received a different picture. As a matter of fact, I had picked up Newsweek on the way in and when I read their account, their portrayal in no way reflected my experience. IN NO WAY.
We are living in a time where we consume seemingly endless amounts of information and images from sources too vast to keep track of and too far removed to properly vet. This leaves us vulnerable to interpretations that may or may not be true, exposing us to things that at best may not serve and at worst do harm. The technologies regularly offer and create ways to alter our perception of what is real. How will we ever know what is true? How will we stay connected to what is real?
Out on a bike ride, I caught myself wondering how many miles I had gone and for how many hours I had biked. The underlying message being that there was some external measurement that would let me know if I had done well or poorly. If my efforts were something I could be proud of, or were reason for feeling less than because I had not done enough.
Only…as the fates would have it, I was right in the middle of “the pink forest;” one of my favorite stretches along the road. That’s not its official name. It’s the nickname I have for it because in this particular stretch of small and medium pines, when the light comes through just so, it seems to glow pink. And it was the pink that caught me and pulled me back in. It was the pink that said “This is it, this is the reason you are out here today.”
To back up a bit, I had gone out riding with an intention: I wanted to go further than I could running or walking and I wanted to travel somewhere I had never been before. This was my attempt to use the movement of my body, along with exploration, to create a new pattern in my body/mind. I had woken that morning with the realization that an old pattern of mind and body was getting in the way of how I actually want to be living. And there is nothing so powerful as a clear intention for change coupled with moving the body.
Everything that we have ever thought, and everything that we have ever experienced is housed in the body. Think about it. The body has been there for everything you have ever gone through; real or imagined. Ancient yogis identified the body as being a potential doorway to the realization of who we really are. Move the body into different positions and patterns emerge. As those patterns are worked with, energies become available to us. And that energy, known as the life force, is what animates us and propels us to our greatest potentials.
So you can see that based on what my intention for riding was, distance and time had nothing to do with my reason for being out there. As a matter of fact, an orientation around worrying about the wrong thing and using cruel external standards was exactly what had gotten me into my current pattern. So often we are so caught up in imagining how we are doing based on some external measurement, real or imagined, that we forget to be who we are. We forget to remember what it is we are going for. We forget to live a life that makes sense to us. So I ask you, “Do you remember to notice the pink forest? Do you have a pink forest?”