A Lost Art

date on cellphone

“With life as short as a half-taken breath, don’t plant anything but love”.  Rumi

A gift we often overlook in life is the gift of presence.  Being fully present with our own soul, our body, and our thoughts is hard to achieve in a society of abundant distractions. With skyrocketing technology, we scatter our life moments like seeds on un-fertile ground, never staying with any one moment to cultivate, nourish and add to the soil of our lives, enhance our relationships or till the rich ground of our hearts. Without being fully present in our lives, nothing we do fully grows and flourishes.  Without love and without great attention, true intimacy is not possible.

Enter the cell phone, the iPad, texting, and instant accessibility.

What has happened to us?  Why are we so seduced by the incessant buzz of cyberspace, the interruptive three sentence texts that take us out of one conversation into another disembodied one?  Could it be that the availability and desirability of every kind of impersonal communication from email, cell phone, text, chat and dating online really in the end serves to protect us….from intimacy?

And more truthfully can these endless illusions of connection be a new addiction? What is it about having several conversations at once that even suggests anything of substance?  Once drugs and alcohol were the favorite barriers to being fully present but now…. it is far more powerful to have the best iPhone and the newest way to say very little and never have to look a single soul in the eyes.

Dis-embodied relationship is simply easier, less risky, less exposing, safer, and far more superficial. And it is delusional.  We imagine what others look like, are feeling, the intonation of their words…we just imagine it.

I wonder sometimes if I am the only one who finds my heart sink or my blood boil when someone asks me how I am and I venture out into an answer, weighing how honest or vulnerable to be and then leap, say something, only to look up from my courage to see the person who asked the question in the first place, staring down at their lap, clicking away a text to some unknown and uninvited person, as they smile over a private moment?  In that instant I feel thrown overboard and floating in an ocean of relationship entirely alone. Unvalued, disrespected.  The person then looks up and scrambles to remember what we were talking about and I sink back into my chair, accepting defeat and making small talk.

Am I the only one who wants to walk out of a restaurant when my children answer the phone in the middle of an intense conversation, or interrupts my train of thought to text a friend.  Has anyone noticed that conversations are now far more short bursts of thinking than long lingering conversations that lead to creative and passionate connection?   Am I the only one who in that instant feels a twinge of being utterly unimportant an that I am loosing out on something precious?   I doubt I am the only one.  But our culture is making this not only acceptable, but the norm.

The newest generation if adolescents who have grown up with a phone at their ear and a computer to spell check their term papers thinks that they know what relationship is but in reality they are totally unable to be fully present and intimate with other human beings. Because they are never really fully present with their own thoughts and feelings for more than an instant.  We are growing a culture of separation and alienation with all of our connectivity of technology.  We are forgetting about basic human interaction on a physical plane and we are getting used to it.

Today I had a business meeting with a colleague.  I took time to schedule it in my busy day, to put important time into making sure we covered the necessary agenda and looked forward to being productive and creative with someone who is very important to me.  First my colleague was 15 min late, and then there were six unrelated beeps and texts that stalled out our conversation each time.  I slowly became angry and finally got the courage and said something about how unacceptable the interruptions were.  I was met with anger and sarcasm.  In the end my desire to have my colleague be fully present with me was met with criticism.  I went home feeling very sad.

What was I sad about?  I was sad that to want full presence and attention from my colleague and require respect and presence when I am speaking with him was met with disapproval, anger and belittlement.  How did I come to be the one who is in the wrong?  When did being fully present become a “problem” for so many people and why does my wanting it make me the odd person out?

I confess.  My kids might say it is my age.  But, I think maybe not.  Old fashioned is not always un-evolved.  There are some basic tenants that follow through life as true generation after generation.  They are the tenants of being human, and in the end technology is making us forget how to be human with ourselves first and with others by way of not being present with self.

Tenant #1      Our five senses are required for true intimacy and connection.  Eyes meeting eyes, the tone of ones voice, the touch of a hand, body language, the smell of someone, appearance and the all-important smile.  These are the bedrock of intimacy, of truly knowing someone and they are necessary ingredients for the chemistry of love that cements a bond to even have a chance to exist.  Without the sensory connection to another, we cannot thrive but only live a relationship of the mind.

Tenant #2      Dis-embodied words have little impact without tenant #1

Tenant #3      The language of love and connection must be physical.  The physical is the soil that relationship roots itself. To be physical one must be fully present with tenant numbers one and two:  Fully present in our bodies and our mind as well as fully present with our words.

The incredible movie “Her” took the theme of intimacy and relationship and posed the question: “what is essential to have a vibrant and loving, fulfilling relationship.”  Was a relationship with a computer operating system somehow better than the ups and downs of living with someone and being fully present?  This movie explored some of the most basic themes of being human and being in love.  Of being vulnerable and having meaningful connection.  Yet, our culture is creating every opportunity to make sure that we never cultivate true connection and that we loose the art of being present fully with another person.

So, I left my experience today remembering what is truly important to me:  I want eyes meeting eyes, I want full attention so trust is created, I want the body language, the engagement, the energy mounting and creativity spiraling into new ideas and smiles being abundant without the beeps and clicks and eyes darting to the phone in anticipation of…what…what will be missed?  What is missed is the moment. What is missed is being fully engaged with self and at least one other human being who is sitting right there.  I don’t want to look at my watch ever again wondering when my friend, my colleague, a date or my children will take the time to be fully present with me and will turn off their phone and scoot the chair in and simply be there.

Today I didn’t even bring my phone with me.

In the end, I am probably going to piss a whole lot of friends off.  So be it.

 “Life is available only in the present moment.  If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply”.  Thich Nhat Hanh

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One comment on “A Lost Art

  1. Antje says:

    I can so identify! I am with you Maya. I am not addicted to the phone and texting- I do not text (I know, very old fashion….) but, the computer gets me. I have to shut it to pay attention to a conversation directed at me. What a strange world this has become.

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