Friday, January 24, 2014

Mindfully minding my mindless technology with mindful tools.

In this week's installment of the Amanda show I want to share with you a lecture series I attended concerning "digital distractions." In this panel discussion was Alex Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction, Neema Moraveji, from Stanford University and the Director of the Stanford Calming Technology Lab, and Lisa Freinkel, an Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon whose current work explores the connections between the digital age, the human body, and Zen.

Firstly, let me say how West coast/new agey/hippie/kumbaya/let's all hold hands and chant it out this panel was. Not that I didn't fully appreciate everything they had to say and thought their work was exceptional on myriad levels, but as a former Midwest/kinda East coaster, I must maintain some sort of cynicism or I lose all my street cred, ya dig?

To begin, Lisa led us through a breakdown of what exactly this buzzword "mindful" means. We hear it everywhere and even this morning as I was thinking about putting this post together, in my little burnt out hole of a hometown Youngstown, Ohio, TEDxYoungstown had our beloved Congressman Tim Ryan discussing teaching mindfulness in schools. BUT WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN?! Well, Lisa goes on to explain that it isn't YOLO (whatever the fuck that is) or the "be here now" idea of some long ago decade of acid induced transcendental experiences. Mindfulness is actually a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

You man be thinking, "what the hell does this have to do with technology?" Well, as Alex Pang discussed in his presentation about our increasingly tech-dependent society and escalated distractibility, that we must and can be more mindful about how we engage with ourselves and our communities even with all this technology. I haven't read his book (yet) but it will definitely be on my reading list as I am wildly interested in increased real engagement through technology.

Finally, Neema Moraveji presented his research concerning stress, breathing, and technology. There is no doubt that technology stresses us out in many ways, either through the bazillion emails we each receive and have to deal with, to the panic that sets in when Facebook takes too long to load (don't judge me, you know you get agro too). Apparently, he and a team of other nerdy researcher types have been up in the lab creating apps to help people better connect...some of them were really cool, some were sort of creepy. At the Stanford University Calming Technology Lab  you can read about new tools to positively reinforce your email dealings as well as daily Mad-lib type prompts that help set your intention for the day.

If you would like to learn more about everyday mindfulness practices the internet is a smorgasbord of resources. Some tips I found were:
  •  Practicing mindfulness during everyday activities that you would normally do on autopilot. (brushing teeth, showering...etc.)
  • Practice right when you wake up because it sets the "tone" for your entire day.
  • Keep it short as our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness rather than lengthy sessions. About 20 minutes at a time should do ya right.
  • Practice while you wait. This is where the tech part comes in....while waiting for something to download or before writing that next email...take a few minutes that are only for you.
I also found this list of articles about technology and mindfulness on The Huffington Post. Oh how they make my life easier and less stressful...

AND NOW FOR YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED TMI UPDATE: You will find that moving forward, many of these will surround the topic of cats, my cats in particular. I am a graduate student and don't have much of a life so mostly I just contemplate the lives of my cats and worry about their mental health. One of my many cat obsessions is catching them in the litter box. I find it hilarious because they always seems so embarrassed and stop whatever they are doing. I like to laugh and point and judge them...I'm lucky they still use the damn thing. I also enjoy this so much because I get no private bathroom time which is demonstrated in this photo:

This is a photo of one of my three, Orangello McFluffbutt, mid private time. What sweet sweet revenge!

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