Not long ago, I was in New York City on a glorious spring day. I happened by Washington Square Park, where thankfully, a number of children were enjoying the playground equipment. However, most of the adults all around the park were looking down. Clearly, our addiction to cell phones and electronic devices is growing at an alarming rate. Children are suffering the effects as well; later, at a restaurant, I noticed that the kids at the table next to mine were on electronic game-playing devices while the parents chatted on their cellphones.
Yogi Bhajan (who was extremely prescient and foresighted, as we know) had a name for technology addiction: he called it “ Information Dementia Syndrome.” I learned this recently when I took a course with Mukta Kaur Khalsa, PhD, Director of SuperHealth, the Yogic Science to Break Habits and Addictive Behaviors. “It’s a very unique term,” she observes, “When the psyche gets bombarded with too much information, you basically blow a fuse.” Stress and information overload and being constantly hooked into electronic devices can cause us to “be taxed to such an extent that the nervous system begins to get compromised and weakened,” Mukta adds.
As more and more people tune out of conscious awareness and into computers, cell phones, and other devices, I can’t help but wonder where the next generation will end up. Yes, technology has its advantages, but just like a drug—it can be addictive and affect our lives and relationships in negative ways. Addiction to drugs and alcohol, to nicotine, gambling, shopping, pornography, over eating, to negative or limited thinking, to self-sabotage…and now, to technology. Something we never could have even imagined “back in the day.”
Of course, there are some simple solutions, like insisting that family members turn off their phones at dinner (at home, and out at a restaurant), making time in your day for yoga, meditation, and a walk, or meeting face-to-face and eye-to-eye for a chat with a friend instead of texting or emailing. Technology—when used in a balanced manner–can indeed be a beautiful thing and actually makes our lives flow more easily in many ways (does anyone remember having to drive to the library every time you needed to find an answer to a question?).
But when we lose control—checking our email incessantly, never looking up from our Smartphones, spending pointless hours on Facebook– there’s a big problem. “You have to have some kind of control. When technology becomes your master, then it no longer serves you—you become a slave to it, or addicted,” Mukta says.
Why do we become addicted to substances, habits and self-defeating behaviors? Mukta explains that it boils down to a feeling of separation from the Divine. When we know that God and we are one, and that we are loved, we don’t have to be turning to external sources for validation and gratification. Technology misused can fall into this category—it can be something that takes us away from our connection to our true self and spirit.
Staring at a computer screen all day, sending texts, checking emails, or playing mindless computer games can take a toll on our stress levels, too. And the information just keeps growing; it is not going to stop any time soon.
Here is a meditation from SuperHealth that positively changes habits. Take a break from your computer and try it out:
Benefits: Stimulates the nerve endings in the fingertips balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This positively changes your habits and works through insecurities.
Practice for 11 to 31 minutes
Posture: Sit straight in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Cross forearms below the wrist and hold them in front of the chest with the arms out slightly. Palms are face up and slightly turned toward the chest. Look at the tip of the nose and recite the following words (mantra) aloud:
“SA TA NA MA*” (the a’s sound like “a” in “father.”)
The words SA TA NA MA are component parts of the mantra “Sat Nam,” which means Truth is my identity.
As you recite each syllable, touch the thumbs to each fingertip, starting with the index finger:
“SA” – Index finger
“TA” – Middle finger
“NA” – Ring finger
“MA” – Little finger
Continue repeating the sequence always starting with the index finger. The pace between each movement is approximately 1 second per fingertip.
To end, inhale, hold the breath for a few seconds, focus the eyes upward, exhale and relax.
Mukta also notes that nutritious foods can help with technology addiction. Celery juice is effective because it strengthens the nervous system. Cucumber juice is also great—it calms you down, cools you off, and helps with anxiety. (Organic is best—both are on the dirty dozen list for pesticides.)
Ginger is also very good for stress—make a ginger tea, throw it into a protein drink, or make a stir-fry with sautéed onions, garlic, and ginger, Mukta suggests.
One final tip: Don’t forget to smell the roses! I keep a small vase of fresh flowers next to my computer and every now and then I take a sniff. Sometimes, all it takes is that beautiful aroma to remind me that it’s time to put my Mac to sleep and practice some Kundalini yoga!