I Am Not This Phone

 

Now that the information superhighway is such a ubiquitous part of our lives, repercussions must be reckoned with. In this time of smartphones and big data, the ancient yogic practice of questioning our identifications needs to include the technologies that have become appendages to our minds and bodies.

I'm just going to say it: I have a screen addiction. I often check my phone needlessly, even compulsively. I know that there is no real need for me to be on my phone while I am doing it and, yet, I still do it despite myself. I know that I am not the only one who is finding easy escape in the black rectangles that we hold in the palms of our hands. At the same time, these words with which I hope to delve and share are also being captured from my imagination and soul by the very same means.

I owe my livelihood to the internet but my heart wishes for more.

I embrace the worldwide web and could never be doing what I’m doing without it. Previously, I may have been able to carve out a little niche for myself, but the success of my small local business has largely depended on the reputation I garner from my online voice. When someone moves to the neighborhood they don’t walk around to see where the closest yoga center is and stop in to talk to the owner. They do a google search, check out the website, and read the yelp reviews. While my friend and follower lists are not particularly extensive, I have offered original content and been consistent about the sort of things I post, so that the impression people have of what I do is largely accurate.

When it comes to being ahead of the curve and utilizing the new technologies, I got in early and have done well enough to survive. But it is a lot of work. And it has very little to do with my real passion for connecting with people through teaching yoga. Furthermore, the time I spend in the virtual world has an impact on the experience of my life and the relationships I have to others. Not just because more of my time is occupied by many different-sized screens but because of the subtle implications it has on my person and the way I interact with the world.

There is no predictive value to magic.

I got into yoga because the world felt disempowering. As a young man just trying to figure out who I was, I was utterly dismayed by the seeming lack of humanity at work in our modern societies. In yoga practice, I found a way to discover and identify myself with the wonderment and beauty of nature as it is in my own system, which is generally undervalued and had been missing from my perspective. After developing some skills in this regard for myself, I began sharing my process as a way to facilitate others doing the same.

Thus, yoga became my profession and my business. In order to make that viable over time, I have had to develop a range of web and marketing skills. As I have become more educated about e-business, some disturbing things have become clear. Mostly, it’s all about capturing data generated by users and mining it for predictive value. The problem is that, when it comes to yoga, the value of what I am offering can not be predicted. In fact, attempting to do so easily undermines the means by which we would bring it about.

The power of my imagination and will is critical.

If what some economists predict proves true about the “postcapitalism” we are entering into, then yoga is going to become more valuable than ever. For where our educational system was developed to teach us the skills of being good factory or office workers, yoga teaches us the skills of harnessing our inherent talents from which we can forge new possibilities. The skills of yoga were less important to an industrial economy. But in the information or “sharing” economy, my ability to think out-of-the-box and create of my own resources is worth everything.

Long-held models of how we are meant to live and work are beginning to crumble. That is scary. It means greater uncertainty. But the pendulum needs to swing back some. Our ability to access information has gotten ahead of us and we have sacrificed important aspects of our existing. We are all going to need to get a handle on the new place that technology holds in our lives. Let us not be in denial. There is no doubt that it is affecting how we interact.

Most importantly, the role that my phone plays in my life must be considered and determined by me. I need to ensure that I am utilizing the technology in a way that reinforces the person I want to be and the life I want to have. The internet can’t have the best of me. My inbox and feeds may be vital to my work but can never fulfill my spiritual needs. What is most cherished in me requires nourishment that can’t be found online. Only through the non-digital world may I know the truth of myself.

 

4 Comments

J. Brown

J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer, and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, New York. A teacher for 15 years, he is known for his pragmatic approach to teaching personal, breath-centered therapeutic yoga that adapt to individual needs. His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Elephant Journal and Yogadork.