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Virtual Om: How to Balance Technology with Inner Peace
With hundreds of emails, tweets, Facebook messages, IMs and texts constantly bombarding you, how can you stay stress-free and centered while still engaging in today’s technology? Soren Gordhamer, author of Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected and founder and host of the Wisdom 2.0 conference, shares his expertise in the following interview with Gaiam.
Q. How did you decide to explore this idea of consciously using technology?
A. I was coming to a place in my life where I had done a lot of yoga and meditation, but I found myself getting more and more engaged in technology. And I found that there was somewhat of a bifurcation between these two aspects of my life: the part that was sitting on the meditation cushion and the part that was on the computer reading e-mails. The part that was e-mailing and on social networks was taking over more and more.
I realized for me to live sanely and balanced in this world, these two couldn’t be separated any longer. I had to find a way to merge the two. I began to explore, what does it mean in this day and age to be consciously connected, not just constantly connected? Being constantly connected means that our full attention is on the gadgets and the information coming through. Living consciously connected means we’re attentive to that, but our primary attention is actually inward, in the state of our mind and the quality of our consciousness.
I wanted to look at how to engage in all these amazing technologies in our age with mindfulness and wisdom.
Can you talk more about the Wisdom 2.0 conference coming up at the end of April?
I looked at this idea of using technology consciously in my book Wisdom 2.0. But it’s such a large issue for our culture, I felt we needed more than this book. That’s when the Wisdom 2.0 conference came to my mind.
It was important to me that the conference include those who were actually creating the technology, people from Twitter, Google, Facebook and other places like these. But I also wanted to include people from the more contemplative and wisdom traditions, including Zen teachers, the editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal and others. It’s a two-day conference featuring these speakers, followed by an “un-conference day,” where people can get together and self-organize around their interests.
If we can begin to foster this conversation on what it means to live consciously, that will have repercussions throughout the culture, and more people will ask this question.
Do you think technology distracts us from our inner selves?
I think that some of these technologies can actually be used in a way of inviting a spiritual dimension. For example, there are some videos and CDs from Gaiam and other places that are actually using the technology to invite people back to that place of inner focus.
But, the vast majority of technology is not. More people are waking up to the fact that as wonderful as the technologies are, as long as their inner world is unbalanced, it’s going to be an unsatisfying relationship.
There have always been ways to distract ourselves, to keep us from some inner looking and investigation. No external thing is ever going to satisfy us completely. Inner looking is where the shift happens.
Has practicing meditation and yoga helped you approach using technology from a different perspective?
Practicing yoga and meditation has helped me recognize those moments in my life when my mind was open and there’s a sense of ease and peace. I had these feelings to compare with the stress and addiction I felt when I was overusing technology.
People who have very rare experiences of peace or ease can easily get lost in their minds, and the technology is just one more tool to keep them away from themselves.
How can you find this place of wisdom, inner peace and mindfulness?
I think it can be very helpful to have some practice time where you’re not focusing externally, but you’re focused internally — whether that’s t’ai chi, yoga, meditation, walking, singing or whatever is best for you.
Besides yoga and meditation, how else have you reached mindfulness?
I like to be outdoors, and I love connecting with people.
Now, my focus is, “To what extent can I really surrender to this moment?” That’s my practice: just be here with what I’m doing.
How do you know once you’ve reached mindfulness?
There’s something that we feel within our system, that life force that comes out in a person. There’s no way to force it or demand that it show up, but I think we can invite it. When we realize there is this inner life that we all have — and when we’re in touch with that — life has a different quality to it.
Soren Gordhamer is the author of
Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Teachings for the Creative and Constantly Connected and founder and host of the Wisdom 2.0 conference. He blogs for the Huffington Post and is a regular contributor to the Social Media blog Mashable. He has led mindfulness programs in a wide range of settings, including to youth in New York City juvenile halls, trauma workers in Rwanda, teachers in Nigeria and U.S. technology companies. As the former project director for Richard Gere's public charity, Healing the Divide, he organized the Healing through Great Difficulty Conference with his Holiness the Dalai Lama.