Curbing Your Techno-Addiction
Let's start a club for those who have some ambivalence, discomfort, confusion, love-hate relationship, or perpetual guilt regarding the internet. Are you in? Possible criteria: We spend too much time on it. We worry about, even agonize over, our relationships with people over social media: who's still waiting for a response, who hasn't gotten enough of our attention, who hasn't gotten back to us—and why not? We connect to the internet often, and maybe first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We feel uncomfortable if we've been off for a while. We suspect this is one of those dysfunctional, love-hate, on-off relationship where the rules keep changing, we're really not happy, but we can't get out. We catch ourselves reaching for the smartphone or gravitating back to the computer at random, even obviously inopportune times (wasn't the kid's bath about to run over?). It feels like an addiction—compelling whether it's creating joy or stress, not quite in our control, a force that tugs at us in small, ongoing ways or sucks us in for hours we meant (needed!) to spend elsewhere. We hear ourselves think or say that we want a different relationship with technology, but we don't stop to truly take stock, make conscious choices, do it differently. There's always a good reason why, right now, I really do need to log back in, check something, finish just this one little ... (But who's counting? Because while I'm at it, I just—real quick—need to ...).
Do I even need to state that my self-observations have contributed to my keen assessment of this phenomenon in culture at large? And do I need to mention there's not a client who's brought this up without the same echoing issues—the frustration, the unease, the not-so-subtle hint of addiction?
Let me offer a metaphor that for some readers will serve double duty. I have a client who was frustrated with her relationship with food. We talked about how she might meet food as consciousness and really connect to consciousness—to herself—while eating or even thinking about eating. She could get curious and connect to what she wanted when she was mentally planning her next snack; connect to what she was feeling and whether she was actually hungry or just going with her default to input food when something was stirring inside her—especially some discomfort. As follow-up, she spoke with a nutritionist and decided to drop snacking (her day, she realized, involved a continuous series of little snacks) and just feed herself consciously at three reliable mealtimes. The results for her have been striking: she eats much more carefully chosen foods those three times—foods chosen to truly nourish her—and she now notices all the different feelings that come up for her in the course of a day that she's now learning to meet and be with in a kinder, more present way. And she feels better, lighter, more energized, no longer overfull. Big difference.
Is this the perfect metaphor for what most of us are doing with our techno-gadget of choice? I find it to be so for many reasons, including that it illustrates how we don't need to go off the whole thing cold turkey but we could benefit hugely from consciously choosing when we want to give ourselves the right kind and amount of internet activity. Do you want to reach for a techno-snack anytime something stirs inside you? Or might you thrive in setting times to take care care of business there, allowing yourself some treats, and moving on to tend the rest of your balanced life?
I have a client who takes a lot of time checking for emails from a romantic figure in her life. Aren't those the best? Well, they're probably the best distracters. When she and I were looking together at the things she most loves to do, I asked her what, from that list, is most missing from her life. She had no hesitation in her answer: doing nothing; allowing for that time to just be and allow her creative spirit to rise up within that spaciousness. Not too hard to see how the email relationship robs her of that possibility; it compulsively takes up every little margin of time in which that just being has any prayer of visiting, never mind settling in. What do you rob yourself of through your addictive techno-habits?
If you've had the thought that you'd like to change your relationship with your computer (or iPhone, or techno-gadget of your choice), have you done anything toward that change? The thought I should change this doesn't do much: it's a statement of doing it wrong, of being wrong; it's an imperative to do something in a more virtuous way, which mostly alerts the inner teen mutant ninja rebel who says, “Well, f*#! that.” (The teen mutant ninja rebel likes video games, and Facebook stalking, and zoning out while surfing.) There's should, and then there's intention. Go ahead and let the inner teen talk back to should--but don't stop there. Be a grown-up in charge of your life and step consciously into intention.
Sometimes change happens through drastic action. One client wrote me: I have a routine that I am ready to give up. I keep my iPod by my bed and read news stories, email and FB every morning and evening in bed. I scan news stories as though they were mind candy. For what purpose? I feel like I need to use that time more intentionally. A good book is so much more satisfying.
As part of a whole rethinking and redesigning of her relationship with technology, another client began by deleting her Facebook account, despite her initial belief that she had to be on Facebook because certain people in her life expected it (and complained, cajoled, and otherwise applied pressure to get her to play). Her report: Phase one of the technology control initiative has been successful. Although FB wasn't a very regular part of my life, it feels good to me not to even have the option. I haven't missed it yet, and it feels good to regain my privacy and feel in control. When I interacted with FB, I noticed that I often felt insecure, exposed, and voyeuristic. I found it both energetically draining and fueling to my judgmental tendencies.
Wow. There's a whole essay or ten in all the issues she brought up right there. She went on to say that she's aware of others who just don't feel this way but—let me interrupt to say they just might. My (limited) experience is that nearly everyone feels this way, perhaps to varying degrees. And let's just take a moment to honor the holdouts (especially those under fifty!) who never signed on in the first place for all the reasons above and then some.
Sometimes it helps to decree a rule. Then there's no decision to keep making on a day-to-day or moment-to-moment basis: the rule holds you to certain prescribed behaviors. To stay with the food metaphor, I never sit around choosing among sweet treats or desserts or exercising portion control on such tempters because I just don't eat sugar. (It throws me off, and I don't want to be thrown off.) Decision made before it comes up. A client who's a gifted artist in various realms found she was all thrown off by an imbalance in her computer time versus creative time. She was prioritizing email and other internet tasks and found that it was so hard to unhook from one-thing-leads-to-another that she was giving short shrift to her creative work. Her whole life felt drab. She declared a policy and, letting that guide her, has reclaimed her creative self and the fulfillment she'd lost track of: "I don't even step into the computer's swirling vortex till I do my writing."
Email now figures prominently in many people's work lives; it's important; it's essential. But does that make it your boss? Who decides how you spend your time and prioritize your tasks—you or your inbox? Do you have specific times you visit the inbox? Is First Thing one of those times—and does it have to be? If you let the inbox direct you (perhaps much of the day most days), when are you flowing appropriately with the moment or when are you abdicating choice? When I told the client who deleted Facebook about zero inbox, she got very excited about this as part of a plan to shift her obsessive relationship with email. Later I got good laugh when she wrote me, “The zero inbox has been fun, but I am a little addicted/obsessed with keeping it empty.”
Email may be a compulsory part of your professional (and arguably, personal) world, but that doesn't mean there's no choice in it. Choose where you can. Notice that some of your internet activity isn't merely poorly chosen—you don't choose it at all. With regard to all topics, I love to tell people to cultivate a consciousness of choice. It's the antidote to living as a victim. Who wants to be a victim of the internet, of social media, of an email inbox?
If you know the internet seems to take over with a force of its own—that swirling vortex my artist client referred to—and you know that, like an addict, you're powerless over (or only partially in charge of) this force, then put some structures in place that will guide and support you to do what actually works for you; what feels supportive of what you're consciously up to in life; what actually gets you what you're trying to get.
That's a good one to contemplate. What are you after when you reach for the gadget or sit down yet again in front of the screen? What's behind your computer/techno-gadget addiction? One client tells me she's looking for connection, then wonders how much she actually achieves that through her hours on Facebook—or does it in fact contribute to her long-held identity as the one on the outside looking in? Even when you seek connection with a specific person who connects back, who's happy to play this game with you, are you sure you're developing intimacy in this way? How does it affect your intimacy with yourself?
Another client sees that she drives herself nonstop in her work then fritters away time watching movie trailers—which doesn't actually get her the fun, rest, and rejuvenation she craves. (Stop working and go to the movies!) Can you tune in to what you need when you go to your internet default? Could you find how to give yourself exactly what you need in a more direct, more effective, and ultimately more satisfying way? Then you won't seek it mindlessly through some time-killing internet distraction.
And isn't time at least half the issue? People are notoriously low on time these days—or so they insist. So do you really have time for this? (You know which techno-this applies to you.) Apparently so. But do you want to abdicate choice and let this rob your time from you as you sit staring at a screen? Or would you like to choose your time well, making sure that choice moves you toward your vision?
A step of any size toward an intention means you're truly launched. Would you like to change your relationship with the techno-world? Would you like to start today?
Your co-conspirator in conscious change, Jaya
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May 5, 9:30 - 3:30: Rochester, NY, at the Purple Door.
I'll be giving this again on May 12 in Binghamton, but this one is closed.
I'm probably having more fun than should be allowed in my Visioning 123 workshops. These are creative, push-back-your-sleeves workshops for women in which I offer concrete tools and right- and left-brain activities for you to
1) create a clear vision and move toward that vision,
2) clear out any thoughts that get in your way, and
3) connect to all that supports you. I had a participant write to me about her experience with the manifesto that I teach people to write (and use daily) during this workshop.
"My daily manifesto is without a doubt bringing things to fruition! It still amazes me, the power of our intention. For example, I got real specific about paying down my credit card and, lo and behold, I came into just enough money to clear my credit debt. That really astounded me, actually! It's as if, because I reflect on the manifesto every day, it now lives inside my heart and every moment I effortlessly move toward realizing it completely. It feels inevitable." You canregister online or write email@example.com.
This workshop travels! If you'd like me to bring it to you, contact me at (607) 339-9714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm looking for the right place to take my Supreme Self-Honoring Retreat--a profoundly rejuvenating weekend for women. If you'd like me to bring this program to you, wherever you are, please start a dialogue with me. The women who came to the one in March called it "seamless," "powerful," "perhaps my all-time favorite," and "filling, warming, inspiring, and sweet." For me, it's a deep and delicious privilege to hold together a group of women committed to their own growth and healing and to guide them through inner and group processes, through stillness and movement, witnessing and assisting as they land in new levels of self-awareness and self-honoring.
Watch for Fall Retreats!
Stay tuned for news of my 2012 fall weekend retreats, one at Nurture Through Nature eco-retreat center in Denmark, Maine (October 12-14) and one at Light on the Hill in Van Etten, NY, November 2-4.
Free Exploration Sessions in their current evolution
I'm now offering free 60-minute sessions to people curious about coaching if and only if they fulfill a simple assignment before scheduling it, or between scheduling and meeting. You can see what that entails right here. I'm completely in love with this aspect of my work and still enjoy--in fact, enjoy more and more--the precious opportunity to sit with another human being, possibly for one time only, and offer something that truly has the potential to change his or her life. Because there's a limit to how many I can offer, I'm setting it up so I'm showing up fully for those who are also truly showing up.
My Ongoing (Conscious) Love Affair with Facebook
My Facebook page is a business page--which means you can check it out whether or not you have a FB account, and without signing in if you do. Every day, I offer daily tidbits to anyone who wants inspiration, encouragement, and (potentially) those uncanny timely reminders. I get my posts out of current content in sessions with clients or whatever I'm dealing with personally. Topics include coming back to presence (as opposed to merely getting present), clearing negative self-talk, meeting every face as the face of God, tuning in to magic and synchronicities, self-trust and more trust, and . . . the fun never ends. Come visit anytime!