THREE mobile phones rang out during the course of the digital detox seminar at HOME theatre. Typical. But in a room full of mobile-wielding digital executives, PRs, business-folk and journalists, it was to be expected.
We all blushed with apologetic smiles - it could have happened to any one of us. After all, we make up a generation obsessed with our digital devices. Between all the emailing, Tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming, we’re slowly but surely becoming fully woven into the Matrix. I personally just downloaded an app to switch my television on and off. It’s millennial madness.
Using the process of mindfulness and meditation, you allow your mind to do what it’s designed to do.
Figures provided by the seminar confirm our digital obsessive compulsions: 61% of people admit to being addicted to the internet and their devices, 'over a billion humans are just a few clicks from being friends on Facebook', and we spend up to twelve hours a day transfixed by digital devices and technology. That’s a helluva lot of time.
While continued technological advancements are by no means the enemy, our constant scrolling on electronic devices could be contributing to a decrease in productivity, a disruption in our sleep patterns, and be negatively affecting our relationships (the one’s we have IRL [In Real Life, duh] and not on Whatsapp).
The digital detox would question whether our obsession with smartphones was not only detrimental to our productivity, but also to our health.
“Hands up who goes to bed with their phone at night? Who checks it first thing in the morning?” asks mindfullness guru, Karuna (she's mononymous, naturally), from Hawaii-based wellness group, Hub for the Heart.
Beaming with American enthusiasm, she’s a worldly advocate of mindfulness, and teaches 'real spirituality for the modern world’. On this day, she travelled to Manchester to share her vast and experienced knowledge on self-care and mindfulness to a room full of digital addicts.
Unsurprisingly the majority of hands in the room were raised.
With information overload causing anxiety amongst many of us, Karuna’s mission was to help us clear our ‘mental cache’ and restore some balance in our hectic lives. This would also involve meditation and opening our minds to some new age techniques.
“Using the process of mindfulness and meditation, you allow your mind to do what it’s designed to do,” explains Karuna, addressing the room of now entranced listeners.
“It’s not about being pious. It’s not about being holier-than-thou. It’s completely practical. Why would you not want to take your mind, which is the most powerful flow of energy you’ll ever know, and teach it to be calm. Teach your mind to be happy.
“You’ve got a great mind. Your mind is designed to be a servant. It’s designed to serve. It’s not the master. All you have to do is teach it how to serve.”
So the group meditates together. Many of whom have never considered meditation before. I, for one, find meditation incredibly difficult for my hyperactive, wandering mind. But we all remain still. Allowing deep, shallow breaths to oxygenate our brains. The room relaxes. It’s a tangible feeling.
It’s also a feeling Karuna wants us to practice fifteen minutes before we sleep and fifteen minutes before we start our day, instead of scrolling down Instagram pages (I’m most guilty of this). Considering '95% of people use some type of electronics in the hour before bed', it’ll be hard to break a now ingrained habit, but with the promise of a happier well-being, it’s worth trying out her well-oiled methods.
Interestingly, like many of the people in attendance, Karuna comes from a high pressured career background, so understands the needs of a busy working lifestyle and of course, the need for a smartphone. She gave up the pressured job. But for those of us still gripped by the demands of modern life, how do we power down?
“Do you want to keep scrolling on your phone at night or do you want to be free? Do you want to experience mental freedom or are you going to keep looking at your phone before bed each night?" she asked.
No. Freedom sounds good. Instead, we all agreed we’d meditate.
After professing to have worked with some of the greatest thinkers and yogis - "some weird, some wacky"- Karuna has become proficient in the art of mindfulness; a practice rooted in ancient meditation principles. It's a positive state of mind we'd all like to reach
The digital detox seminar was a very revealing experience. Not only did I recognise that my own incessant digital habits were counterintuitive, I also learnt that most of my anxiety was self-induced. It’ll take a lot to break the bad habits but I'm more willing to try.
On the journey back from the seminar, I peered at a tram full of people with bowed heads, headphones in and eyes fixed upon their glowing devices. It felt exactly like the dystopic near-future depicted in drama-thriller Black Mirror... except we were already living it.
It's not all doom and gloom, of course. Heaven forbid we go back to the days before apps and Netflix. Karuna's message was simply about balance. With a clear, rested mind we don't power down, we power up.
The digital detox was hosted by XYZ Events.