Technologies are the tools we human beings create to make our lives easier. Other animals do the same: Otters use stones to break open shellfish, dolphins use sponges to uncover their prey and crows fashion twigs into tools that catch insects.
The advances in communication technology over the past decades mean that we can now communicate with other connected people all around the world. The internet gives us access to vast amounts of information from the past and present. How we choose to use all this connectivity and information determines whether it makes our lives easier or much more difficult.
We are still finding our way.
Our sense of inner peace has been weakened as technology has come into our lives. We're still very much in the novelty phase. Just like we stuff ourselves on Christmas day, we are filling every spare moment with the sounds or images of our devices. It is easy to become addicted to the sound of the radio or TV in the background or checking status updates on social media, to the point where silence and calm feel odd and uncomfortable.
Every time we distract ourselves from what is actually happening right now, the ability to feel our feet on the ground, our sense of stability, and our inner guidance, is gone. We become mind-less as we lose mind-full-ness.
Being perpetually distracted is not sustainable. As processes speed up faster and faster we remain these soft organic living beings forced to meet the ever growing demands upon us. It is essential that we learn how to make peace with these advances.
The first step to make peace with technology is to establish perspective.
As amazing as technology is, the natural living world to which we belong is infinitely more so. There are more connections in a child's brain than the whole internet. We know less about the inner workings of our own bodies, the depths of the oceans, or outer space, than we do about human-made technologies.
We become what we focus upon. If we only focus on what is limited we too will become limited. If we focus on what is infinite we will experience the vastness of life itself. There is a big difference between five minutes contemplating a mobile device and five minutes contemplating a bird gathering twigs to make a nest in spring.
The second step is to strengthen awareness whilst using the device.
Awareness illuminates how we really feel. We may experience a mixture of feelings: some pleasant some unpleasant and some neutral. If we can stay aware and let the feelings flow through us rather than using the device as a distraction from them, we will find that technology does not necessitate the loss of a sense of choice. It is a tool, not a master.
Discipline is an unfavourable word in our culture because many experience a bully-type discipline growing up. However, it is possible to have kind and caring discipline. This caring discipline gives us back a sense of choice and harmony with technology. We can use the tool, then set it aside.
The third step is to consciously have some time off from technology each week. Many people have technology-free hours from 8 at night to 8 in the morning, and some choose to have Saturday and/or Sunday technology-free. We can choose to do as little or as much as works for us individually or as a family.
By making a decision and following through on it, we grow a sense of integrity. We like and trust ourselves better. This, in turn, leads to less need for distractions from how we really feel, because we feel good.
Within this technology-free time we can reconnect with our own body/mind in stillness, movement, with nature, with friends, in silence or solitude. We can let ourselves refresh and reboot so that when we go back to the wonderful tool that technology can be, there is perspective. We may even decide to download a guided meditation app or listen to online health & wellness radio.
The more mindful we are the more we can use our devices to make life easier, and we will get the best of all that life has to offer.
Aoife Valley runs Wee Owl Soul Care mindfulness meditation courses, retreats and individual support in Donegal. See www.aoifevalley.com and Soul Care with Aoife Valley on Facebook.