The Challenge of Being Human in a Digital World

 “Practicing Mindfulness enables us to become a real person. When we are a real person, we see all real people around us, and life is present in all its richness.”

–Thich Nat Hahn

I look in front of me and behind me at the shrouded shoulders and eyes intently moving across their tiny hand-held screens. Bodies hunched forward with arms bent and fingers flailing like a tyrannosaurus rex scavenging for food, they pour their attention into the vacuum of a digital world. At the grocery store, in line at the bank, or at any given empty moment where one must stand still and wait, we nestle into the safety of space where there is always something to think about. Something to keep our minds busy.

dinosaurs on cell phones

As I observe the collective furrowed brows concentrating and clicking in a spacious coffee shop downtown, I wonder what they are creating. Their gaze focuses so intensely that they must be working to solve some sort of problem. But when I look outside the window, I think about what they’re missing. The leaves of the trees move like honey through the humid air while cars race to their next destination. Clouds collect into shades of gray and blue softly clustered together, watching our every move. We are always on our way, but when we will feel like we’ve finally arrived? 

I certainly feel the pressure to do more, learn more, work faster and harder. With so much information at my fingertips at all times, my human capacity feels stretched beyond the limits of space and time, as if I am expected to meet the same standards I now expect of my search engine–as if my wifi access were powering the electrical system of my heart. Reflecting on the natural world, watching as it grows, flowers and withers away, I long for a greater connection to the earth. I long to hold the hands busy methodically producing solutions to show them what is already there… to show them the beauty of a world that already exists.

Well, folks, we have arrived. This is this present moment. This is it. And it is beautiful. While we are faced with even more distractions that hinder us from connecting with one another and the natural world, it is even more important to practice engaging with each circumstance as it comes and goes, recognizing the rhythm of a universe that gives and takes, presenting us with options and obstacles. And even though you are receiving text messages and emails, within the same moment there is space for you to converse with your neighbor, listening and sharing experiences.

Take a break…

From your mechanical movement…

From absorbing information…

From watching others in comparison…

Surrender to your body.

Just as you may feel that sense of satisfaction in the prime of your workflow, you can rest in the flow of energy through your body as you sit still and breathe. Use your breath to guide your movement as you walk, observing the activity around you. Use your breath to move you as you practice shapes in yoga class, running or lifting weights. Embrace the limits of the skin and bones encapsulating you. Embrace the limits of a 24-hour day. Learn to recognize how much is enough.

You are human. 

You deserve to feel the wind through your hair.

You were meant to navigate the earth with curiosity and wonder. 

You were designed to care for the earth.

You were made to love and connect with human hands and feet. 

Give yourself a break.

Every day is sacred. Every day is a mystery. Do what it takes to be in this moment, and if it comes with emotions, let them come. They will only last for seconds. And they will change like the sky. If the moment comes with expectations, ask where they’re coming from. Have the courage to set boundaries between what you “should” do and what you are able to do. Set your cell phone down and look around you. There is much to be seen. And as you give yourself this empty space, you may reconnect with the familiar, real person in front and behind you. You may finally connect with the truth inside of you.

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