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Mindful : August 2013
technology Rich Fernandez: Digital technology has made many good things possible. Skype is connect- ing families over long dista nces, social media is creating widely distributed communities of interest, and the information flow is freer a nd more empow- ering, as we witnessed during the Arab Spring. At the same time, digital technology can disconnect us from ourselves a nd each other, as we spend time experiencing our world through screens. So how do we use this technology to maximize its benefits and minimize its negative effects? Irene Au: Technolog y is here—in multiple forms—and it’s not going away. It has contributed to our quality of life tremendously, but like anything new we need to incorporate it in a way that doesn’t disrupt our quality of life. This requires our mindful at tention a nd making conscious choices about when, where, and how to use our devices. For me, there are times that are sacred, so to speak. In yoga class, I don’t expect anyone to be texting or answering the phone. When my family is having dinner together, there are no phones or video games or iPads at the table. If you stop and think about it, it’s just a matter of applying to the new technology the same basic prin- ciples about how people should spend time together. For example, if fa mily dinner is a sacred time, a time for interaction, it’s not appropriate for the children to bring a book or toys to the table, or for me to be reading a newspaper. It’s about more than the new technology. It’s about understa nding our intention in that moment and respecting that intention. Arturo Bejar: We need to make it a practice to continually be aware of our relationship to technol- ogy and the place it holds in our lives. Then we can use it consciously, rather tha n automatically. This has always been true when a new communication technology emerges. We go through a process of learning how it can connect us to our loved ones and help us manage our lives, and how it can distract us. No one exerts overall control over how technolog y is used and what habits people will develop. There’s a big element of personal responsibility. Being aware of how you use the technology will allow you to make conscious choices so your relationship with your devices is what you would like it to be. RF: In some ways, it’s seems like these tools are in- tentionally desig ned to capture our attention, more than technologies prior to the digital explosion. Our devices reward us and set off our brain chemistry in ways that keep us coming back. IA: I’m not sure I completely buy that. TV shows have always been designed to keep our at tention riveted. Novels are written to keep you absorbed. With the internet, though, you’re more in control of what → If my attention is fully focused on the morning rituals—getting dressed, having breakfast—that grounds me and recharges me. If I wake up and check my email right away, my attention is divided and the day gets started on the wrong foot. Arturo Bejar Digital technology is woven into nearly every aspect of our lives—how we work, how we play, how we raise and educate our children. It brings great opportunities for us to communicate and connect with each other, and it also raises challenges. Technology is something that we must learn to master, rather than letting it master us. By applying mindfulness, care, and attention in how we work with our devices and screens, we can avoid a state of “continuous partial attention” and disconnection from our own lived experience, our bodies, and the people around us. For a few years now, a number of people in the tech world have been in- corporating mindfulness into both their personal and professional lives. Irene Au and Arturo Bejar are two leaders in the field with whom I’ve had the plea- sure to work and practice mindfulness. We talk about getting the best from our technologies while remaining mindful in the midst of busy lives. — Rich Fernandez 36 mindful August 2013