“To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere” Can You Unplug?

The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. 
 Thich Nhat Hanh

Can you unplug for a day and take a break from email, TV and social media? Taking time to just be is not something that our culture supports.  If you are not always doing and running you are not considered productive.  The saying used to be, “idle hands are the devils workshop” but is the devil in the details? We all see it every day….whether someone is walking, on the train or bus, out to dinner with friends, it doesn’t matter. If it’s not the cell phone or texting, it’s Facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest and the mountain of other sites that can hook you up to the world and distract you from the present moment.  It’s become more than distraction, its obsession.  When you start ignoring people you are with to text someone else, it time to observe your behavior and re-think how that’s making your friends and family feel when they have taken time out of their day to be “with” you.  It’s not only rude but also self centered and narcissistic.   I went to lunch with three friends about a year ago and two of them texted all the way through it. I have never made lunch plans with them since. What’s the point? The people on the other end were obviously more important.
Cell phones are wonderful in an emergency and give you peace of mind, especially if you have children. The internet is a great resource for information and Facebook keeps people connected especially for those who are housebound or disabled.  However there is a down side.   I love the saying from the Roman philosopher Seneca which states, “to be everywhere is to be nowhere.”  It’s how I think of social media and the quest of being plugged in 24/7. I am not a huge Facebook person.  My friends know that they cannot depend on me getting information from them from Facebook.  I rarely go on however I do post my articles (and will also post this one!) and have connected with some old friends yet in no way does it consume me.  I was vocal during the last presidential campaign and realized that I didn’t need to share my views with anyone, yet the intellectual stimulation was very healthy, educational and respectful.  Buddhist philosophy tells us that attachment to things or ideas causes suffering.  Are we suffering from the barrage of information we’re hit with daily?  The ads, pop-ups, alerts, reminders, etc.  Social media is tricky because on one hand the internet is an incredible learning and resource tool.  On the other hand the inability to disconnect has resulted in the loss of personal connection to other human being. This has been proven in many studies to be detrimental to good health and longevity.    In places that are rated the happiest in the world the common thread is, once again, a personal connection to others, but not through a screen. The human touch and face to face interaction is what stimulates our primal sense, releases endorphins and makes us feel good.   We have so much more than our ancestors ever did yet people have become more restless, impatient, unable to sleep, anxious, and unable to be in the moment.  No wonder road rage is on the rise! We know that road rage is not about the person that cut you off….it’s more about the discontent in your life that builds, turns into anger, then explodes. Being constantly bombarded with information and stimulation takes us away from our inner silence which is where we work out problems and experience calm and balance.  Without taking time to create calm and balance, we cannot maintain a healthy mind and/or body.  Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medicine are given out like candy but is it surprising?  How can you teach yourself to relax when you never stop moving? Maybe if you stop you will discover that there are things in your life that need to be addressed. That can be painful, however you can’t run from it.  Sooner or later your body will talk back to you with symptoms of anxiety or some other physical chronic manifestation.

Studies are showing how meditation can improve the lives of children and bring down aggression and violence. The Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa http://www.maharishischooliowa.orgis an example of the power that meditation and silencing the mind can make in one’s life. This ultimately has a dramatic effect on society as a whole.  With more and more children being diagnosed with ADHD it may be an avenue to explore. This could lead to less violence, and more quiet contemplation.
Unplugging accomplishes two things, one, it allows the mind and body to relax, recharge and rejuvenate.  Secondly it forces you to evaluate what’s really important in your life. What effect is it having on your child if you want to post one more quick photo of your dinner on facebook while your child is starving for attention?  What long-term effects is the 21stcentury multi media blitz of gadgets going to have on our families and how we all interact with each other?  Is the next generation losing those precious and ever important people skills that they need to excel?

Right now in history this is where we are in the ever-changing digital age.  Hopefully the tides will turn and people will get tired of looking at screens and want to start looking at people in the eyes and enjoying the art of conversation. Maybe all the noise and chatter will turn to meditation and silence. Maybe communication will once again be stopping over a friend’s house to catch up. Clearly it is not easy to block out the noise around us and disconnect. The key is balance, and recognizing that it only happens when we make the effort to realize that silence can indeed be golden.

Namaste,
Maria

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