Sense Care

 

I am in an Ayurvedic training where I am learning about the the ancient system of Indian health and healing. Right now I am steeped in an area Ayurveda calls “sense care.” This includes a paradigm, practices, and ways of being that recognize the essential role that our five senses play in physical health and psychological well-being. It is an understanding and a deep respect for the powerful impressions that get made on us based on what we take in from our environments through our senses.

Think about it like food for the mind and the body that comes in through the five doorways of hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. With the information that comes in possessing the power to either nourish or starve. Uplift or degrade. Bring balance or chaos. Calm or unrest. Healing or disease.

With this as a recent and welcomed back drop to how I am experiencing the world, I cannot stop thinking about the children. The ones who are coming up now in The Age of Technology. The ones whose senses, particularly sight and hearing, are literally being assaulted, obliterated, violated and distorted. Innocence stolen. Minds overrun with harmful images and messages. Insidious impressions weaseling their way into our children’s minds and bodies. With all of what they are taking in setting the standard for what it means to be fed.

Maybe you think I am overdoing it?

Well, how about the statistic that recently made its way to me that says that two thirds of our 7 year-olds have already seen porn? Need I say more? Once a child has taken in that level of sense impression, and at such a young and tender age, where does it go? What does it do to them? How does that not foul a once open, curious and pristine mind? How does that one ever get undone?

I’ll tell you how. It doesn’t. It does not get undone.

One has to begin to wonder what this is doing to their vision. And I mean this in the broadest sense; as in what their life and the life of the world looks like to them looking through the images they are receiving across a screen. And what of their precious hearing? What is all of this training them to listen to? And for. Could this be part of the reason that the generations coming up now are so riddled with so much anxiety? For the truth is, the words and images that our children take in matter. A lot. Far more than is currently being recognized and addressed.

And while I am rolling out the big guns here with the porn, there are countless and daily examples of how our children’s senses are being overwhelmed. Examples large and small, seen and unseen, idiotic and damaging. Don’t take my word for it. Just pick up your own head and look around.

When a human being is young, the predominant brain wave states that they are in are highly suggestible. Makes sense, right? We want the young of our species to be moved by, informed by and molded by the environment that they find themselves in. We want them to learn based on what they are ingesting via the experiences of the world around them.

And for a very long time this made sense. It made perfect sense when we were being shaped by a natural world. But now that the predominant experience of our young is coming more and more from something man-made, and by something that is far too often a very disturbed representation of what man can make, our children are in trouble. For they do not yet possess the essential defense mechanisms, cognitive maturity, nor coping skills to sort through and make sense of what is coming in. Instead, it all just goes in.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine all of the images and the words that our little ones are ingesting now that have absolutely nothing to do with health or beauty or truth or love? Everything, literally everything, that they take in is shaping and forming them. What if we really, really knew this? And what if we acted on their behalf as the gatekeepers who kept  out what is not fit for the innocent eyes and open ears of a child?

Common sense around the senses would dictate that we would never want to expose our children to what is harsh, frightening, overwhelming, or just overall beyond their ability to digest. To come back to our food connection, would we give a steak, alcohol, cocaine or soda to a newborn? We would not because we understand that it is beyond their capacity to handle, and with certain inputs, even dangerous. That any of these things would only harm them, even if they were not inherently problematic to a more mature being. But too often, we are assuming that something is fine for our children based on looking at it through the eyes of an adult with a developed brain. But this has got nothing to do with what children actually need.

Look through their eyes. Listen through their ears. Sense through the heart. Then decide.

 

 

Taking & Leaving

 

“Take what works for you, and leave the rest.” I find myself saying this to my college class as we begin to cover some more weighty and challenging topics. Just saying this goes a long way to bringing a sense of relief into the room. And permission. Permission to choose on behalf of what works. Permission to choose differently than what is currently being offered.

Have you noticed that despite all of the choices, and all of the information available to us, we often live as if we do not have the right to opt out? To choose to say “No?” To give ourselves the permission to say this is all that I can do? All that I want. All that I can handle. Leaving us far too often suffering under the weight that we need to be doing it all. Need to know it all. Need to be up to date on it all. And always, and in all ways, needing to be doing more. Ever-more.

In a time where we are consuming more information and content than we can healthfully make use of, can you imagine what your life would be like if you only took what you really needed or wanted, and left the rest? Can you imagine deciding for yourself when you had had enough?

It puts me in mind of an old Saturday Night Live skit where the scene opens invitingly to diners enjoying themselves at an “all you can eat” buffet. People are laughing, chatting and happily eating what they have chosen for food. The opening scene ends as the people naturally and easily let the wait staff know when they have had enough, and would like the check.

The next scene is cast in semi-darkness, where diners are bound to chairs while the wait staff forces enormous and unworkable amounts of food into their mouths. People are screaming, crying and trying to get away from the force feeding. But to no avail. Between the bondage, the screaming, and the mess being created, it presents as a kind of modern day hell made complete by the booming and ominous voice saying, “Not all you want to eat, all you can eat.”

I find parallels in this dark humor to what we are up against in The Age of Technology. That being, a kind of boundary-less imposition of something that in the right quantities, and under the right set of circumstances, would nourish. But that under the current conditions, creates suffering and overwhelm.

What would your life look like to take what you need, and leave the rest when it came to the use of the screen technologies, or anything else for that matter? What if your criteria became, “I will ingest only that which feeds and nourishes my mind, body and soul?” Only that which offers contentment and fulfillment. What then, would change around how you use what these times have to offer, if you actually started with how you felt and what you needed, in any given moment?

The “Urgent Care” Of Our Lives

I am driving down the road when I notice a new billboard. Taking up a whole half of the advertisement is an image of a happy kid hanging on a tree limb. Covering the other half are the big, bold words: Urgent Care Now Open.

How have we gotten to the place where we now advertise, using fear-based tactics, the health support and healing we all need? How have we allowed marketers to use powerful and emotional imagery to sell us something that should have nothing whatsoever to do with how slick the ad campaign is to get us in the door? How have we allowed the use of terrifying young parents about the potential, and often unlikely, harms that can happen to their child, twisting that fear into a vehicle to sell them health care? And how have we taken the sacred trust between healer and patient and turned it into the sacrilege of a commodity sold based on generating fear?

It cannot be overstated how both egregious and sadly representative of our world that this one message depicts. I believe the injustice of it all is hitting me particularly hard because I have just finished reading over 40 self-reflection papers from my college students where the most dominant theme or sub-theme is their level of fear, anxiety, stress and insecurity. And while I recognize that there are lots and lots of factors into why this is so for the generations now, one salient contributing factor, that cannot be denied, is all of the cultural messages they have received over their lives around how dangerous life is.

This is represented so “exquisitely” in the use of an image of an innocent, unsuspecting kid having fun, while right next to it alluding to the tragedy that is just around the corner. This is powerfully depicted with how the billboard is set up; giving the message that even in the most seemingly care-free moments of childhood, something bad could happen. At any moment. Oh, but don’t worry, because now there is a new urgent care location just around the corner.

We are unnecessarily terrifying parents who go on to pass that terror onto their children; training them to be stuck regularly in a kind of warped fight-flight response. Our current ways of disproportionately focusing on what is unsafe, our worse case scenarios focus, our hyper-attention to the extremes and the unlikely outcomes, along with the self-generated fears that result, are taking their toll.

The tragic results? Our children are terrified of strangers. They believe something bad is about to happen at any moment which is why they must always have a cell phone on them. They do not sleep well. They do not let down. Unless of course, it is with the help of drugs; prescribed and otherwise. They cannot focus. And who could under these circumstances? Their poor little nervous systems have been conditioned to believe that the head must be on a swivel at all times to locate and identify all the ever-present sources of threat.

Instead of living, they ruminate. They isolate. They get sleep disorders, panic attacks and G.I. problems. They are so hopped up all the time on fear and anxiety that they need far too much alcohol, faceless sex, and far too many Netflix episodes to try and talk themselves off the ledge they live on. They have taken what they have gotten from us and gone on to up the ante by seeing danger everywhere. The level of self-generated fears they have created in their own lives is both maddening and suffocating.

Are there dangerous realities to the world? Certainly. As parents do we want to protect our children at all costs? Definitely. But what has been conjured up, whipped up, and force fed to both us and our children is not keeping us safe, it is making us sick and unhappy. What if for their sake we all worked together to get a handle around what is true and untrue when it comes to the fears we hold? Want a place to start? Do a news fast for a week. Stop entertaining yourself on violence or subjecting your kids to content and conversations that are beyond their level of maturity to handle. Quit violent gaming. Stop watching the same horrific news story over and over again. Isn’t once enough?

Imitation

 

I recently read that imitation is the basis of all social intelligence. That we are wired, right from the very beginning of life, to mimic the human beings around us. Particularly our primary caregivers; those we spend the most amount of time with. Those that we depend upon for our very survival and well-being. Those that we want to be like more than anyone else in the world.

I remember it so well with my son Jack when he was young. For a time we dubbed him “The Worker,” not only because he loved to use brooms and hammers but because this was what he told someone he wanted to be when he grew up. He was emulating my husband, his father. He took great pride and joy using his hands and busying himself with building, cleaning and fixing things. I could make the argument here that being “a worker” was less about any role or job, and much more about him trying to be just like someone he loved and looked up to.

If we take this simple example and extrapolate it out into the world at large, it calls for us, as the the adults, to be clear about what we are modeling. This is not limited to just your children, or even whether or not you have children. What matters only is what we are offering to the younger generations by way of what we are showing them is possible, necessary and desirable.

Nowhere is our lack of understanding around being a role model more in evidence then with the way we use the technologies. What it is that we are demonstrating and offering up as something to be imitated. And while many of us have marveled, or been distressed by, how quickly the children take to the screens, or how absorbed they are by it to the exclusion of other more important things, is there anywhere else to look but at ourselves? This is not easy to do. As a matter of fact, it is far easier to shake our heads in either awe or distress at what the younger generations are doing, than it is to take a hard look at what we are doing.

When we characterize our children’s preoccupation with all things screen as some new extraordinary, or scary, adaptation to the species, something only the younger generations possess, is it not folly to miss the most salient point of all? That being, that it is we who have showed them the way. We who have demonstrated to them how important the devices are. We who have acted as a model for what to want and how to be with all of this.

Because we do not have a lot of time with this one as far too many children are missing out on something worthy of their precious life to imitate, I ask you now, “Are you proud of what you are showing the children around the role that the technologies play in your life?” And while it may sting in the moment to stand in the presence of such a pointed question, this is what our children need. Now. Right now. Grown-ups who are proud of how they handle the devices. Grown-ups who recognize the central and powerful position they hold in the life of a child, and who carry that charge with respect and vision.

If we are going to elevate anything in life to the exclusive and lofty position that the technologies have achieved in such a short amount of time, should it not be of the highest caliber? Should it not be worthy of the very best in our children? For the truth is, the children are watching us. All of the time. They want to be like us. They want what we want. If this makes any sense to you whatsoever, then the only question is, “How and where can I do right by the children, and where is it that I am letting them down?”

 

What Women Want

 

For 8 weeks this past semester, I taught a yoga class for women sponsored by The Counseling Center at the college where I teach. The aim of the series has been to empower women as a basis for preventing sexual abuse and exploitation. We have covered areas like self-care, stress, self-esteem, boundary setting and more. Last week’s topic was sex.

At first, I could not for the life of me figure out how I was going to blend sex into a yoga class. And while I know there are those practicing a kind of California-germinated-tantric- yoga-sex thing, this is not my understanding of Yoga. On the surface then, it seemed that maybe they did not go together in a way that I could make sense of and teach to. And yet, upon further exploration, I found that they actually do. Quite well as a matter of fact.

For if we begin with the premise that any valuable and satisfying sexual experience with another begins with our own ability to be present to ourselves, what it is that we are feeling and wanting, then the connection becomes a no-brainer. Yoga offers a deep and meaningful opportunity, through practice and various techniques that are fundamentally built to bring us into relationship with ourselves, to connect to who we are and what we are experiencing. And from this place, we will know exactly what we want in a sexual encounter with another. Along with what we do not want. Nor ever want to tolerate.

Best of all, this approach to sexual intimacy is based in the body and born of the moment. This as opposed to being pressured by misguided internal and external perceptions and expectations about what we as women are supposed to want, and do, and look like. You know the drill.

This approach with the young women struck gold. For when we were done, they spoke openly of what they are up against in The Age of Technology; all of the images and expectations that they feel they must match up to in order to be desired. Hot. Wanted. The sense that it is more important how they look during sex, then how they actually feel. More important to present as something then actually enjoy the experience.

They spoke of yearning for connection but finding that dismally lacking in the “hook-up” culture where all too often their male partners were expecting them to act like they were in a porn film. Or, at the very least, that both they and their partners had skewed expectations around how their bodies were supposed to look, along with how it was all supposed to feel. A kind of sex based on all of the images and conditioning they have seen across the screens in their very short lives.

And so, here we are again. One more example around how the unchecked and unconscious uses of the screens are distorting our children’s childhood. Insinuating its ugly messages right in between our children and their most intimate of experiences with another.

When will we learn? When will we as a culture begin to make some difficult and long overdo protective changes to what it is that we are allowing our kids to be exposed to? When will we say enough? When will we understand what it is that we all actually want, and then work our hearts out to get it and give it to one another?

Keeping Up

 

Recently, I was in Florida visiting my mother for a few days. The bedroom that I stay in has a TV. No matter how many times I go through this, I have the experience of initially feeling excited at the prospect.of having such a guilty pleasure at my finger tips. I imagine how entertaining and how amazing it will be to lie in bed and have access to what 500 channels has to offer. Some old and misty feeling that comes up promising I will get a chance to have something I am otherwise “missing out” on.

And yet, what I forget each and every time is how gross I feel on some level when I am done. It’s like the equivalent of being a kid, and getting to eat candy corn morning, noon and night after Halloween. At first it feels like such an awesome decadence, only to find in the end how desperate you are for your mother to take it all away from you and cook you something real. Something of value. Something you can sink your teeth into.

I think I especially felt this way this time because this time I ran head first into “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” Sure, I had heard the references. I had even seen Kim splashed all over the tabloid-type magazines at the check-out counter. I thought I had a sense of what this was all about. Not even close.

In the episode I had the great and good fortune to tune into, Kim, her entourage and her family had traveled to Thailand. Thailand for goodness sake. If you know anything about these people, you know they would not be able to make it 5 minutes outside of Beverly Hills. And yet, there they were, in a Beverly Hills equivalent in Thailand.

So, while it took me some time to catch up to the setting, that would soon be completely eclipsed by the incessant self-involvement, self-centered, self-absorbed, did I say narcissistic drive to this “reality” show? I want to spare myself and you from elucidating on any more details, other than to say, how is it that we have elevated this to the status that it possesses in our culture? And while likely many of us would deny ever tuning in, someone is. As a matter of fact, millions and millions of us someone’s are.

I do not know whether to be more concerned for us and what we are being subjected to and led to believe. Or for the Kardashians, who although may look like the rich and famous heroes in their own stage performance, may wind up being the ones more harmed than any of the spectators to this distorted depiction of human life.

What I am especially concerned about here is the message that this and its enormous cultural influence is having on our children. Messages of self-centered-ness that run contrary to our best, biggest and brightest virtues, ideals, and values of being part of something more than yourself. Messages our children are receiving from a “reality” show and are “following” to the detriment of an actual and real life; one that is based on meaning, purpose, worthwhile expression and real connection.

Beyond any of the specifics around how our children engage with the screen technologies, when you strip it all down, what we are really talking about here is nothing less than who they are, and who they are to become. Nothing less than how they are to live their precious lives; what it is they will make most important, and what it is that we are teaching them about what they should expect from life.

It stands to reason then, given the enormity of this, that we need to be asking ourselves some very big questions around whether or not the “selfie” life, as brought to us by The Kardashians et al, is in alignment with the most noteworthy of our values and ideals. Whether or not this type of “entertainment” is what will make for a great human being, and what it is that our world most needs right now from all of us.

And while some may say that it’s no big deal, it’s just entertainment. Fun. A harmless distraction. Is it? Not according to the multitude of girls looking up to and hoping to build lives based on keeping up with Kim Kardashian. Those young ones learning to believe that your ability to look and come off as “perfect” all the time is the royal road to success, happiness, and admiration.

Is it any wonder they are believing such things? We, the adults in their lives, have too often vacated the role of determining for them what is of value, and what is not, leaving a giant void for the likes of the Kardashians to fill. We, as the adults, have so lost track of the essential biological, psychological, social and emotional necessities of childhood that we have forgotten one of its central truths. That being, that our children model themselves after the examples they are given in life. That includes what they are watching on a screen. And that includes what they see us doing.

Couldn’t we do better? What about Keeping Up With The Dalai Lama? Or, Keeping Up With The Woman Who Found A Way To Give Shelter To Dozens Of Homeless People During A Dangerous Cold Snap? Or, Keeping Up With New Zealand’s Ban On Assault Weapons? Or, how about this one, Keeping Up With A Parent Who Has Gotten Clear On What Kids Really Need Beyond The Demands And The Seductions of Screen Life?

We have some very, very important things to figure out here as a culture. Real things. Valuable things. Things that our children absolutely require to sink their teeth into as the basis for a good and nourishing life.

What’s Left To Say?

 

“It’s the only thing that never lets us down.”

This is spoken out loud in my college class as heads around the room nod in agreement. “It” are the cell phones. “Us” represents the generations of children, teens, and young adults coming up now.

What is most alarmingly absent in this statement is another “us.” As in the grown-ups of this generation.

Need more be said?

Yes, as a matter of fact there is.

What could each one of us do, in our own way, to never, ever give the impression to another human being that a machine could be counted on more than us?

The Real Culprit

 

(This post was co-written with Joanna Silverman, a good friend and a long-term educator who specializes in children’s social and emotional development.)

It seems like almost every other week the ante around our children and the screen technologies gets raised. The most recent incident involved an Internet hoax known as “The Momo Suicide Challenge;” an outrageous and fictionalized viral legend purported to be encouraging young children to kill themselves via a maniacal-looking doll face that supposedly popped up unbidden in the middle of children’s shows.

As women who have been critically looking at the ways that screen use impacts the emotional, social, mental and physical development of children for years, there is a sad irony being played out here. Worried parents are posting all over social media about the dangers of this made-up scourge. The news has covered it. Schools and pediatrician offices have made public service announcements to encourage parents to monitor their children online; warning them of the possible dangers.The irony begins to reveal itself here when we are willing to notice that all of this frenzied activity goes on while we often miss the most obvious of all the culprits around our children and the hazards of being online.

While we both appreciate the fear that this has raised in so many families, we are left wondering why there is not such an outpouring around the very real dangers our children face each and every day. Dangers, by the way, which we willingly allow them to be exposed to. But because they do not initially or obviously present as menacing, or because we have come to rely so heavily on the screens as entertainers, friends and babysitters for our children, we do not notice. More to the point, we do not want to notice. For to do so would require work; a kind of work that far exceeds posting a warning to other parents via social media. A kind of work that might go unnoticed, and would certainly garners no “likes.”

For starters, what about the daily erosions to our children’s innocence as they watch content that is far too mature for their age. Examples of this abound and are most noticeably played out in the hyper-sexualization of our girls at younger and younger ages.  And because we are a culture that has become perilously accustomed to the use of violence as entertainment, our boys are daily killing, maiming and torturing others in their “games.” Even when we say it is disturbing and that we do not like it, we merely shake our heads. But we don’t stop it.

Because the “dangers” to low self-esteem and poor body image do not have a gruesome face that can be easily posted in a way to make a parent’s blood boil, we let that one go. Even though how our children feel about themselves will inform every single thing that they do for the rest of their lives; their relationships, work satisfaction, health, happiness, and more. And what about their precious little bodies that require movement for them to be healthy in body and mind, but that we have somehow decided must not be that important as we put them in front of screens where they sit hunched and motionless. Literally frozen within themselves.

And even with the bigger issues like the link between anxiety (the leading mental health issue among our children) and the introduction of cell phones and social media with our kids, who is posting to start a movement on this one? Who is starting a campaign around the rise in self-harming behaviors among our children linked to screen use? Who is demanding public service announcements around eating disorders that are fueled by sites supporting and encouraging this behavior? And who’s post about the losses in childhood due to sleep deprivation, academic and behavior problems linked to screen use has gone viral?

If we were being honest, and if we were willing to look more closely, we would come to see that what we are saying yes to every day is far more likely to damage our children than any disfigured face.

Truly, the baddest boogey man of all can be found in the very things we are saying yes to on a regular basis. The very things that our children spend hours and hours each day doing with a screen. And yet, we do nothing. Why is this? Why are we so quick to push the panic button on a hoax, while we sit by watching the demise of childhood? Unfortunately, this says everything about us, and nothing about the ones who perpetrate such hoaxes. You see, we are ripe for the picking here. For in these rare and exaggerated moments we get to rise up, indignant, against the injustices being inflicted upon our children. Simultaneously, we get to keep doing what we are doing. No change required. No discomfort called for. And we get to give ourselves the congratulatory luxury of feeling as though we have really done something because we have posted something.

So the ante has certainly been raised. Again. And while it would be easy to make extreme occurrences the focus, what if we made the focus us? What if we got real with ourselves around why it is that we keep turning our children over to something that is not good, safe, or worthy of their childhood? What if the real culprit here is all that we are ignoring?

 

 

Boredom

 

I am sitting in meditation in a yoga class. The teacher is giving her opening spiel around settling in and being with the troubling ways of the mind. At one point she says, “It has to get boring as hell for us to be able to notice, that it is actually, not.” Yes, I think. I know this to be true for myself, and for what I saw with my own children when they were growing up. The way that suddenly the inertia of the boring-ness will bust out into something truly vital and engaging if given half a chance; turning into something both mesmerizing and alive. Exactly the opposite of boring.

And then I think, What is to become of the ones who will never experience boredom? The ones who will never have the chance to bust through to the other side. The ones who are growing up now terrified and avoidant of ever getting anywhere near this experience. And the myriad of parents training their children to believe that boredom is akin to subjecting their kids to the plague; leaving them to run their children ragged with too many things to do, and too many ways to fill their minds.

And then of course, there are the screens, and their glowing  promise to keep any of us from ever having to experience such a difficult and noxious state. But what if this is all wrong? What if boredom holds something truly precious for each and every one of us in the most quintessential of human ways?

What if boredom was exactly the state that would bring us back to noticing The Great Mystery? The truly precious nature of human existence? That which is beyond the busyness and the drive to be entertained 24/7. Would we accept boredom then?

Boredom is defined as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Maybe this is exactly what it takes. A kind of weariness and restlessness that arises out of the absence in our lives of anything that truly grabs our attention, that we may then go on to find what it is that is actually worthy of that very same precious attention. But in order for us to make use of this valuable and necessary information we would actually have to leave some space in our lives; making a commitment to not fill it up with something. For armed with this kind of knowing we are primed to build and build and build in our discomfort until it finally reaches a critical mass that serves to propel us forward into something more life-affirming.

But now, because there is always something in the form of a screen to fill that void, immediately and continuously, that fertile space of boredom never gets a chance to pull us in, and then to sling shot us back out into that which captivates and motivates.

And herein lies one of our biggest problems in The Age of Technology; how can we notice the lack of something not happening? How are we to notice that because there is no space, there is no boredom, and therefore no compelling experience towards what we did not even know we are missing out on? This is the trade-off now that we are up against.

It sounds kind of crazy to even suggest what I am about to suggest. To even be living in a time and place where we actually have to create space to be bored, but here we are. Could you imagine it? Could you imagine making a point in your life to be bored? Could you imagine not filling the gap when the urge arises with a screen? Could you imagine when your children came to you and said, “I’m bored,” you said, “Great,” and then left them to their own devices (and not the electronic ones)? Could you imagine not filling the space for them out of guilt or some preconceived idea that they must always be entertained?

Taking on boredom willingly just might be one of the most revolutionary things any one of us could do not only for our own lives, but for the greater good of all. A kind of antidote and balm to all of the incessant doing and filling of the paltry empty space any of us even has.

Ironically enough, even with all that we have to occupy ourselves, look around and notice how many of us appear “weary and restless” despite our most obvious lack of boredom.

Things Worth Keeping

 

While there are so many benefits to and efficiencies brought through the use of our screen technologies, I am often struck by the things that are being lost. Sometimes what’s going missing comes in the form of the really big and more readily identifiable as important things in our lives; obvious losses that are more easily apparent. Ones that we would want to be on the lookout for. At other times, though, it comes in the form of seemingly insignificant things and ways of being, that while subtle, actually add up to much greater losses than what we might initially imagine.

Lately for me, this reveals itself in the simple and dependable form of a dictionary.

Because I write every week, I run into my dictionary on a regular basis, along with its invaluable counterpart, the thesaurus. I know I could do all of this online. I know I could save myself “the trouble” of getting up; choosing instead to sit un-moving in front of a screen. I know that it might appear to someone else as inconvenient, too effortful or old- fashioned to do something by hand that the computer could take care of. That perhaps my choice would appear as unnecessary from a modern technological standpoint.

But in the nitty-gritty of what it feels like to be me in my life, I find that I actually do not care about any of the rational reasons around this. Why? Because I know something else to be true. And that something else is that the use of these two amazing books gives back and feeds me in ways that no device ever could.

I love the fact that I have to get up to go get either or both of these two inspiring writing companions. I love opening the door to the cabinet where they live. It feels as if I am going to visit wise and trusted friends who sit patiently waiting to offer their help as I need it. And while the distance to the cabinet is a mere few feet from where I sit, I love the chance to stand up, stretch, and move my way over to what I need; getting back into my body by getting upright, bending over, getting upright again, and then remaining standing while I look something up.

I love the way that my mind needs to change gears as I sort through the letters and their particular order to get to the specific word that I am looking for. And then once finding the word, slowing down in my thoughts and movements as I pause and ponder over what I am looking at. All of those possibilities there for the choosing. All of those definitions and interpretations that will assist me in clarifying and enriching what it is that I really want to say. While I am doing all of this, it is not lost on me that as I wonder and integrate what it is that I am reading I just feel differently than I do when I read off of a screen. Better somehow, in all ways. (Not to mention the side benefit to my eyes which naturally soften and relax back as I switch from the screen with all of its light and intensity, to the soft and powerful written word on a page.)

And then there is the love for the feel, and especially the weight, of each of the books; a kind of intimacy brought through the physical holding of the content at hand. A satisfying experience of turning pages, and a visceral reminder for me of being in a body. A shared encounter between me and this body of work. An experience of being with, as opposed to sitting in front of. An experience of a deep and quiet exchange as opposed to the feeling of being in the midst of a loud and unruly crowd.

This experience always serves to remind me that I am, in fact, embodied; immediately changing me from the one who is hunched over and robotically pecking away, to the one who stands in herself and holds something vast and significant in her hands. Weirdly enough, I even love the old book smell. I love knowing that these texts have been around for a very long time, and that other people that I am connected with have held and used these books in the past. Just as I am doing now.

Most of all, I always feel more myself when I am done. More in my body. More slowed down. More me. And sometimes I even get the added benefit of being taken on a ride, a flight of fancy, into unknown places as my eye catches other words along the way that teach, inspire, connect, inform, and sometimes even offer the most astonishing of synchronicities.

Truly, I cannot imagine writing without these books. I cannot imagine risking the loss of not only all that they give me in any given moment, but also all that they represent. As in, a most exquisite and quintessentially human experience of being alive.

Isn’t this all exactly the point here? To find ways, in our own way, to stay human in the midst of all of this? To be the ones who decide what gets to stay and what gets to go? To be the ones who get to choose what things are worth keeping? Not because they make sense through the lens of modern day ease, convenience or progress, but because they just feel good, right somehow, and are therefore, worth keeping.

And so I say, in the spirit of preserving what is truly worth keeping, isn’t being in the daily weight and feel of our own lives one of the most important things we all need to be holding onto?