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Perhaps this TEDtalk gets at the heart of the matter. In the second half of our upcoming show with Jon Kabat-Zinn (first available in podcast on Thursday morning), he argues, to some degree, that the accelerated pace of technology and its significance in our lives doesn’t allow us to be mindful, to live in the present. All this communication and digital connectedness actually creates an inner dissonance — a disconnectedness with our own selves.

One memorable moment in Krista’s interview: Kabat-Zinn describes a person viewing a sunset. Instead of simply taking it in, he says, we either are thinking about how we might write about it (or perhaps tweet or blog it), or, that certain somebody standing next to you actually has to gab away and tell you how gorgeous it is — which completely removes you from the moment of recognition and contemplation. In other words, we have this compulsion to do something with the moment in order to make it meaningful. We are not being mindful.

In the video above, the presenter includes a couple images that capture something that Kabat-Zinn is getting at. In one photo, a girl is actually extending her arm with her camera while kissing her boyfriend. But, it looks awkward, inauthentic, dispassionate because you can tell her real interest is in telling the later story. Her body, her eyes, her lips are oriented more toward the iris of the lens than the irises of the boy. And, in another intimate setting of a public nature, a crowd of onlookers are almost all holding up their devices capturing the moment while the Obamas stand on stage in celebration.

I’m guilty of both, and then some. You?

Renny Gleeson wraps it up quite succinctly in his post-event blog post:

With all this connection comes the danger that in our mad rush to be everywhere, we end up nowhere. That the technology we use to connect, actually separates and isolates.

Kabat-Zinn isn’t necessarily gloomy about the technology onslaught though. He notes that the steep learning curve in learning how to deal with and incorporate this availability into our lives will be achieved. We, as individuals and as a society, just may have to bottom out first in order to create the balance within.

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6 Comments

I too am guilty as charged. It is something that I daily ponder but to which I have yet to find a solution that works for me. I thus eagerly await the podcast in hope that it contains wisdom that I do not.

I can only mention two examples about this topic. The one was an article a BBC journalist wrote about five years ago. She said that in the mid-90s she received a job promotion. In negotiating her new contract percs, she stipulated that she wanted her own cell phone. At that time there was only a collective phone in the journalists' office and she wanted a number of her own and a phone she could call from any time she wished. Ten years later, while negotiating her next job promotion contract, she negotiated that she had no cell phone. The movement of availability made unavailability a luxury.

Secondly, I used to sail a lot and often in waters where there were dolphins and whales and huge sea turtles. Seeing any of these creatures is like being visited by something divine; when "being present" is essential to feeling the magic. It always surprised me how often peoples' reaction was to go below and get their cameras, risking missing the sighting, or spending the flighting encounter behind a camera lens, instead of looking eye-to-eye with these creatures of beauty.

Technology is a very disturbing two edge sword. I am very wary of it. It is very useful for ease of communication in business and personal scenarios (my family plan with my out of state sons' is my life line with them), research etc. . . .but so mesmerizing and thus subtlely controlling that we donot need (or remember how) to be here now. . . . and if we are young-donot know how to be here now and personally relate to one another. I believe it is part of the greater control of media to entertain, influence to consume, and control. A pablum.(sp)-I've been meaning to read Marshall McLuhans book. Perhaps as each young generation bottoms out, they will then find their balance-(NO- I don't want to be available all the time for whatever is so trivial . . .)but the challenge is the ever increasing new technologies-the ease of the cell phone imbedded in out heads, instead of clipped on out ear.

Technology does seem to speed along faster than we can get a grasp on how to deal with it. The cell phone is great - but not so much when your dinner or walking partner is constantly on the phone with someone other than you. The camera is a wonderful way to capture a moment, allowing you to replay and remember - but not so much when nearly every interaction with your child is a photo op.

This is perfect. It's an interesting dynamic of social pressure to maintain one's online communications. I'm guilty on both email-sending and being available to others rather than myself. I'm pretty good about not letting technology intrude when I'm with people, but otherwise it's a struggle. I'm holding the line by not texting / being on Facebook / twitter (but conceded to join Buzz). People are shocked by the idea of not having text-messaging or not being on Facebook (except the other people who aren't on Facebook). For a while I didn't have a cell phone, but I'm told people don't talk on the phone now, anyway--they just use them for texting and such. (I'm fighting that by actually calling people). I like this bit about declaring email bankruptcy, though.

I do think the internet makes it easier for NPR people to connect--that's one aspect of radio that's tough--it's hard to meet others interested in it. Unless you go to, say, a really pricey Wait Wait show (which was fantastic! Go, Mo Rocca!)

Being aware of ourselves in the context, especially with others, in Relational Presence (RP), keeps us real, there, aware of our Natural Connectedness. We forget this all the time, as Kabat-Zinn speaks of, and need to keep coming back - live, real time - to be Most Effective, Most Present. RP, the transformational capacity
of waking mindfulness with another in real time, can be developed and expanded in Speaking Circles.
Life changing. Subtle and profound. Thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn for inspiration, insight, and meditative suggestions; THANKS to Lee Glickstein for bringing RP into the world's vocabulary and practice.