Mile marker 273. That’s when the shift happens. It’s so overwhelming that I have to look for markers to designate where I am. I know it is mile marker 273 because that sign is now one of my touchstones. I turn the curve in the road, and the mountain range opens up before me. This is my destination. This is when my breath deepens and my heart feels wide open. These are the North Carolina mountains. This range is approximately 1.1 billion years old, second oldest in the world. I’m a native of this state and this particular region is my favorite. I’m lucky enough to visit often and it always feels like home.
One of the joys of this magical place is an opportunity to disconnect from the digital world and soak up nature. On Average, Americans spend 1.7 hours a day on social media and check their phones some 46 times a day.
“We’re inherently social organisms,” says Paul Atchley, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Kansas. There’s almost nothing more compelling than social information, he says, which activates part of your brain’s reward system. Your noodle is also hardwired to respond to normal sights and sounds. (For most of human history, a sudden noise might’ve signaled the presence of a predator.) “So something like a buzz or beep or flashing light is tapping into that threat detection system,” he explains.
We are being asked more and more in this society to multitask, and we think we are pulling it off when we really aren’t. “Every time you switch your focus from one thing to another, there’s something called a switch cost,” says Earl Miller, professor of neuroscience at MIT. “Your brain stumbles a bit, and it requires time to get back to where it was before it was distracted.”
“You’re not able to think as deeply on something when you’re being distracted every few minutes,” Miller notes. “And thinking deeply is where real insights come from.”
Ironically, it seems technology is bringing us together when the opposite is true. While we may be liking each other’s photographs or sharing our political views, we are missing the opportunity for a face-to-face conversation. We are missing the connection of eye contact and interaction through body language as well as the words we speak.
The translation of the word yoga from Sanskrit to English is to yoke or join. It’s a great opportunity for us to feel a connection of our body, mind, and spirit. When we choose a class setting for our practice, it gives the opportunity to share some mat space with like-minded beings.
Do you take the time to be sure you’re guarding the sacred space and awareness of connection?
Does a yoga handstand sound more accessible than releasing a device from your hand for an entire day?
Maybe it’s time for a digital diet, an opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with others and with nature.
The Art of Healing Retreat Center offers a sacred space for reconnection to yourself and those who share this beautiful planet.
What will be your mile marker this year?
What is your touchstone?
Works cited in this article:
Mindfulness, The New Science of Health and Happiness, Time, Special Edition:
Ellen Seidman, So Give Yourself a Break! pg 38
Markham Held, Devices Mess With Your Brain. pgs 34–37)