Connect and Disconnect

By Sarah Halweil, August, 2010

I recently heard an interview with author, William Powers, about his new book Hamlet’s Blackberry. He researched historical innovations such as the printing press that disseminated information and connected people but at the same time lessoned the amount of time spent in introspection, reflection and thought. The most recent innovations in this category—the Internet and smart phones.

In response, Powers’ family takes a weekend “electronic Sabbath”: they turn off the house modem (they do not have smart phones). This move was inspired by the “disappearing family phenomenon” that inevitably happened as each member peeled away from the family room ending up in front of a computer. Powers does not eschew new technology but talked about finding a balance. For instance, his family feels that disconnecting for a couple of days actually helps them connect throughout the rest of the week.

It is not uncommon to look around and see almost everyone using some sort of electronic device no matter where they are. My 13 month old and 2+ year old know what texting is (I now try to isolate and decrease my own frequency of use and I do feel a sense of calm which may be from this shift). And, it is astounding how much information or thought one can disseminate and receive without actually processing it. Our email contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, many be extensive but what are the quality of the relationships? How much “junk” is occupying space in our minds and bodies?

As reflective time and meditation time seems harder to come by these days (I have heard at least 5 people say this in the last 24 hours), I have realized that the time I spend on my yoga mat feels like a sabbatical. It can be 10 minutes or an hour and a half. I always feel revived, reset, and clearer. I feel more spacious. I can breathe, move and act better.

Connection cannot exist without disconnection and one inevitably leads to another. But, there is an infinite amount of distraction and clutter that pushes us away from what seems like a clearer, richer existence. Regardless of the technology we use, is what we are doing at any given time disconnecting us from or connecting us to the world around us, the present moment, the completeness of our lives?

Sarah Halweil

Sarah Halweil is a graduate of the 2004 Yoga Shanti Teacher Training Program. She graduated from the University of Colorado in Latin American Studies and Environmental Science, and Georgetown University in Nursing. She is also a graduate of the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) Program, and is the clinical coordinator for the Urban Zen program at Southampton hospital.

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