Constantly Connected?

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Can you be present in a world that’s constantly connected?

I have an iPhone, more than that, I love my iPhone. It lets me bring my music everywhere. My schedule is always in my pocket and when I was in Aruba I could Skype with my fiance for free. What other show was that actor in? – I’ll google it right now. The entire world is only a swipe away, and now with Siri all I have to do is ask.

It’s great that all of this information is available to us but more and more we are expected to always be connected. If I have my phone you could call, text, email, facebook me and within seconds I can reply. On a morning when I wake up feeling sick and can’t teach my 9am class, I can get it covered without even getting out of bed. Those mornings I’m grateful, it’s the mornings that I check facebook before rolling over that I wonder what my priorities are.

Where’s the balance? When we’re all so connected how can we present in our own life?

Being present is talked about a lot during yoga. Letting go of what’s happened or what might happen and being in the moment on that mat is one of the goals of a yoga practice. Hopefully on your mat the phone is put away, but in life we can’t always put away our phone. There are times when we need to be reachable, or when it’s nice to have the phone without having to immediately pick it up when it buzzes. Does that text need a response right now? Can the call wait? Do you really need to tweet about your awesome Crow pose?

I found myself needing to set boundaries. I realized I was bringing my phone everywhere, and putting the people I was with on the back burner to reply to a text about next weekend. I decided to start consciously choosing to be in the moment, to experience dinner with my friends and leave my phone at home, or in my purse, ignoring the buzz. The world didn’t explode, nothing changed, but I wasn’t being pulled in multiple directions and that felt good. So, like sustained yoga practice, bigger changes started to happen.

Recently I realized that texts were waking me up in the middle of the night. Even when my phone was on silent it would vibrate and I would reach to check who had contacted me. Most of the time it was a friend who had something funny to tell me, or someone wondering if I could cover a shift. It was never urgent, never something that couldn’t wait until morning. So I programmed the “do not disturb” function on my phone, so now every day from 10pm to 6am it stays silent (unless someone calls me twice and really needs me). This was a way for me to stay present (asleep) during the night. I use my phone for my alarm so I need it to be close, but I’m considering going back to an alarm clock and putting my phone in the other room. There’s something relaxing about not being needed, and if there’s ever a time to be relaxed it’s when you’re sleeping.

Another time when the phone can invade relaxing time is on the weekends. Even more than just the phone, the computer and TV were pulling me inside when my body so wanted to be outside enjoying the fresh air. Ironically it was on a blog that I read about taking an unplugged weekend. A whole weekend without going online, without facebook, without watching TV or reading blogs. My fiance and I decided to do it together and we set our own rules. Email was allowed to be checked but only at certain times and you could only reply to urgent messages. I didn’t even delete messages, just ignored them. We allowed texts and phone calls, but Skype was not okay and definitely no Pinterest. We put our laptops in a cabinet and left them there all weekend. It was so nice, to reconnect with each other, and to be present.

I still had the urge to check my phone, but I resisted and as the weekend went on I got better at being present I forgot about my phone. There was so much else to do. I was able to read without being interrupted by emails, we made meals together and enjoyed the silence of each other without watching TV. Even wedding planning was on hold that weekend, it was a time just for us.

Now I’m not saying everyone needs to turn off their laptops in order to be present, but we all need to find the balance. For me it helped to take a whole weekend to unplug and reconnect with the people in my life. If you’re feeling pulled in a lot of directions, an unplugged weekend might help you too. Maybe you’ll find balance a different way but know that you can choose where your attention and focus is. Just because your phone is in your hand doesn’t mean it needs to grab your attention. Like on the yoga mat, take small steps to be more present. Watch how your practice grows and your steps get bigger.

–Gretchen

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