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Mindful : August 2013
IA: These are the technologies we use to run our world these days. There is not much point, in my view, in going Luddite a round your home. You miss an opportunity to model for your children good hab- its of using technology in ways that enrich our lives. AB: Whatever I’ve lea rned about being a parent generally, I try to apply when it comes to technology. Children and teenagers are not going to ma ke a big dividing line between social interaction digitally and in person, as some of their parents might. Part of their life is being played out in a digital realm. For us to understand and support them, we need to em- brace that and try to see from their perspective. Just because something seems unnatural to us, it doesn’t mean it’s unnatural to our kids. Norms change. Based on that attitude, we can apply our values and guidelines as we would in any other sphere. You tell your children not to talk to strangers. When you have a digital device that makes communication with strangers possible, the rule still stands. Don’t make friends with people to whom you haven’t been properly introduced by someone you know and trust. IA: My children, who are 8 and 11, approach tech- nology with a sense of moderation. That’s partly because I have set limits for them ever since they started going online. They’re allowed no more than 30 minutes a day on the computer, with extra time if they’re doing something educational. Another thing we’ve done is to put the computer the kids use in a space that’s shared with the rest of the family. We want to be able to glance over and see what they’re seeing, and some cool things have happened as a result. If we’re videoconferencing with my nephew, we all gather a round. If there’s a n interesting video that my husband has seen, we’ll all enjoy it together. It’s become a social device—a way to bring everybody together rather than to alienate people from each other. AB: We need to be mindful of the problems that can occur online, but the solution isn’t to ban the tech- nology that kids use to connect with each other. Bul- lying online ca n have the same dynamics as bullying in person. We need to help our children understand how not to be hurtful, even unintentionally, and how to deal with it when other people are doing the hurting. We can help our children understand that disag reements don’t get resolved easily at a distance. It helps to see and hear each other, so don’t try to do it by texting. The mechanisms we use in the world at large need to be mirrored in the online world. Pa rents have always needed to take a strong interest in what their children are doing, and the same applies here. If their digital world is a strange black box to you, you can’t be very helpful. RF: Both of you put a premium on staying present in whatever you’re doing. What about multitask- ing versus serial processing? Can we effectively multitask f rom your perspective, or a re we better doing just one thing at a time, fully present and fully engaged? AB: For myself, I’ve noticed a big shift when I pay at tention to being present for whatever it is I’m doing. I seem to see things more clea rly. I’m better able to envision what needs to be done and how to do it, support the people I work with, a nd create something meaningful. It can be hard sometimes to introduce formal mindfulness practices, but I think people sta rt to access mindfulness when they understa nd how good they feel when they’re fully engaged, without distraction. It starts there. IA: Before I started practicing yoga and mind- fulness, my life was unsustainable. So it’s been transformational for me. The core mindfulness practices that emerge in our daily life are inten- tion—knowing what you’re trying to achieve and what kind of relationship you’re trying to have with those around you—and presence—attending to what needs to be done, now. That includes watching your own reaction if something feels threatening, taking a moment to understand where that’s coming from, and noticing what’s going on in your body. That’s really bringing yoga practice off the mat and into what we’re doing wherever we are. My daughter said they did a mindfulness practice at school for five minutes the other day, and she could see a difference in herself and in how the other children behaved. I think the importance of paying attention to where we are is seeping into our culture, and it’s going to change how we do things. ● We need to get up from our desks and move. There is a strong correlation between cognition and movement. We’re more creative when we move. Irene Au August 2013 mindful 41