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Digitization – Friend or Foe?

We have an ongoing debate in our house about how digital our world is becoming and whether our increasing digitization is a benefit or a curse. You’ve also likely seen studies about how use of mobile devices is causing us to become disengaged from one-on-one interactions, how 66 percent of people suffer from nomophobia (fear of being without a cell phone), or how “face time” is now better known as an iPhone app than a tangible experience.

As a high school English literature teacher, my husband is very much in the camp of those who are concerned about the potential detriments of digitization. It’s often hard enough to get students to put down their cell phones during one class, much less to get them to read an entire book. And, these trends don’t just start in high school—there are three and four year olds out there who could teach me a few things about iPhones and iPads! While there is no wrong or right answer, this trend has caused many to question the impact that this world of instant gratification and constant connectedness will have on the attention spans of future generations.

As a member of the publishing industry—and a company that is currently forging its way into the digital frontier by way of ebooks, apps, and downloadable everything—and a wife who always loves a good debate, I can’t help but think of all of the benefits that digitization has afforded us. I’m not saying that I disagree with the negative aspects of technology addiction, mind you, but I do believe that the digital world has afforded some profound and unparalleled opportunities that simply cannot be ignored.

For instance, many organizations, such as Now Clinic, allow people to connect with physicians and other medical professionals through the internet and outside of traditional business hours. The National Voices Project has similarly been exploring ways to provide mental health services via Skype to those who would otherwise be unable to access such resources. On a personal level, we’ve been able to remain in constant contact with family and friends all over the world—and we’ve seen their children grow between visits. We’ve partaken in talks and concerts and festivals from across the globe. We’ve accessed mindfulness practices and meditation bells directly from our iPhone apps. We’ve engaged with the teachings of spiritual teachers far and wide (try it for yourself and watch our free Refreshing Our Hearts live stream with Thich Nhat Hanh on 10/26).

Finally, as someone who is currently learning to speak Portuguese, technology has unlocked an invaluable world of tools and resources. I take lessons via Skype from a woman in Lisbon, have an iPhone app that acts as a deck of flashcards (complete with proper pronunciation!), I stream Portuguese radio throughout the day, and there are online communities like The Mixxer designed specifically for people who want to practice speaking new languages with one another via the internet—none of which would exist without the digital world.

The bottom line is that things are always evolving. In fact, change is one of the only constants in our lives, so why not embrace this new frontier with an open heart?  It comes to this: Can we be grateful for it as well as cautious of it?

So, what is your opinion? And, how does technology act as a benefit or a burden in your own life?


Short on Time? Try Mindfulness

A new study suggests that just 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation changes our experience of time. A great way to learn the practice of mindfulness, requiring no previous experience, is through the groundbreaking new book from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners, and also through the new online course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

From our friends at the Greater Good Science Center

Short on Time? Try Mindfulness

Bogged down with responsibilities at work and at home? Many of us wish we had more time to get it all done—and still steal time to relax.

While adding more hours to our day may not be possible, a recent study suggests a little mindfulness meditation can help us at leastfeel like we have more time in our lives.

Researcher Robin Kramer and his colleagues trained students at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom to link different shapes to either a short and a long period of time. Shapes shown on a computer screen for 400 milliseconds represented a short duration, while shapes shown for 1600 milliseconds represented a long duration. Next, all of the participants were presented with shapes held on the screen for a variety of durations and had to determine whether the duration was more similar to the short or the long period of time.

Half of the participants then listened to a 10-minute mindfulness meditation exercise, which guided them to concentrate on the movement of their breath throughout their body. The other half listened to the audiobook version of The Hobbit for 10 minutes. Immediately afterward, the researchers again presented them with varying durations of time.

The results, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, show that the meditators were more likely to report that durations of time were “long” after they had meditated. In contrast, participants didn’t report any difference in time duration if they had listened to theHobbit recording. The researchers conclude that mindfulness meditation made participants experience time as passing more slowly. Remarkably, they saw this effect after just a single 10-minute meditation, among participants who had no prior meditation experience.

Though more study is needed to explain this finding, the researchers suspect that the mindfulness meditation altered time perception because it induced people to shift their attention inward. In the paper, the authors write that when people are distracted by a task in the world around them, they have less capacity to pay attention to time passing, and so experience time as moving more quickly. Because the mindfulness meditation exercise cued participants to focus on internal processes such as their breath, that attentional shift may have sharpened their capacity to notice time passing.

Kramer thinks that this finding could be used in everyday situations, to help people gain control over their experience when they feel short on time. “If things feel like they’re running away,” he says, “slowing things down might help you deal with them more easily.”

Kramer also speculates that while a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to internal events extends one’s experience of time, a mindfulness exercise that shifts attention to an external event could potentially make time feel like it’s passing more quickly. If this were true, mindfulness could have clinical applications for people who feel like time is moving too slowly, such as those experiencing depression, who tend to overestimate the duration of negative events.

Though Greater Good has previously reported on many positive effects of mindfulness, as well as on how experiencing awe can alter how we perceive time, this study is one of the first to investigate the relationship between mindfulness and time perception. In the future, the researchers aim to uncover how long mindfulness meditation’s effects on time perception last, and to explore further the precise causes of this shift in time perception.


Washed out by grace…

We can be so hard on ourselves in so many ways: why did I choose the same kind of partner yet again, why am I not able to find more meaningful work, why am I acting just like my mother/ father, why have I not become awakened yet, why am I not truly loveable by another. Recent research and clinical reports in the fields of attachment and interpersonal neurobiology have shown us that the way we’ve come to see ourselves, others, and relationships was formed in the extended nervous system prior to the acquisition of language. As little ones, we lived in a non-verbal world, shaping our models of self and other according to our deeply wired need to survive, to receive love, and to be mirrored empathically.

Fortunately, the realities of neuroplasticity have shown that it is possible to reorganize the way we see ourselves, conceive of this sacred reality, and interact in close relationships. By some unknown grace, it seems that we are wired for love; somehow we are supported by the unseen world to allow love to restructure our lives. While this journey is simple, we know it is not easy. We sense that it demands everything – and this can be scary. But through compassionate self-inquiry, authentic contemplative practice, somatically-alive psychotherapy, and especially through that ever-fiery crucible that is attuned, intimate relationship, the opportunity is there to give ourselves fully to this life and to receive the fruits of a wide open heart, a body and senses that are an offering of love, and an the clear wisdom of an intuitively-guided mind.

It does seem that one thing is required though, and that is tremendous kindness to ourselves – an unconditional friendliness to who and what we are, and a deep respect for the journey from fear to love, for it requires everything we have – and more. Let us nurture and hold ourselves in kindness today, and to appreciate the difficulties and challenges in living a life beyond belief. Let us set aside the spiritual superego, our desperate need to be something other than what we are, and to allow the grace that is always and already here to wash down throughout this sacred body, pouring through these precious senses. And let us behold the miracle of this life as it is, seeing how lucky most of us truly are, and how we could only ever be in the exact right place, to take the perfectly-designed next step into love.


Doing Well by Doing Good

Tami Simon speaks with Jeff Klein, CEO of Cause Alliance Marketing and author of the new Sounds True book Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living. He currently serves as president of the Conscious Capitalism Alliance and Conscious Capitalism, Inc., cofounded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market. Jeff discusses many of the tensions that exist in the workplace between our ideals, our heart ideals, and the gritty realities of business. (53 minutes)

Life Visioning

Nobody else possesses your unprecedented blend of gifts, experiences, and perspectives. So why have you been given this singular treasure, and what will you do with it? This is the focus of Michael Bernard Beckwith’s new book Life Visioning: A Transformative Process for Activating Your Unique Gifts and Highest Potential. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Beckwith about the four evolutionary stages of the development of consciousness and how the Life Visioning Process works in each stage. Tami and Michael also discuss some of the biggest obstacles people experience with Life Visioning, and the importance of unconditional love as the atmosphere for the Life Visioning Process. (63 minutes)

Holding mother in our heart

Let us keep all mothers in our hearts today, creating for them the most luminous holding environment of love, in which they can rest and be nourished. Through the unknown – and through the most sacred womb – they have offered the gift of life, a rare, blessed opportunity to make this human journey, to allow this precious heart to be polished into eternity. No matter what our relationship with our mother in the physical world presently, we can exchange one moment of love with her – for the bond we have with her is beyond time and beyond space.

As the Tibetans believe, each being we encounter in this world has at one time been our mother, and has shown us the most precious kindness, care, and compassion; and has been willing to give her life so that we may come into being. May all mother-beings everywhere receive an outpouring of blessings on this day, may their hearts and their bodies be bathed in love, and may they come to know directly, even for a moment, the true preciousness of this life.


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