“When one of the most important e-mails of his life landed in his inbox Kord Campbell overlooked it, not for just a day or two but for twelve days. A big company wanted to buy his internet start up for 1.3 million dollars. The message just slipped by him amid the flood of multiple computer screens with e-mails, instant messages and on line chats.”
The above opening to The New York Times series about “Your Brain On Computers” left me wondering, In this digital age of multi tasking, smart phones, 140 character messages and auto scrolling flash banners; are we losing our ability to pay attention? Is the constant engagement in activities that rapidly shift our attention between multiple tasks creating a culture of anxious, distracted people emotionally disconnected from one another and unable to disconnect from the digital world? Is there anything we can do about it?
Multitasking is in effect training your brain to pay attention to distractions. Although being able to handle multiple things at once is valuable, Google executive Joe Kraus argues that we are becoming like the “mal-formed weight lifter who trains only their upper body and has tiny little legs. We’re radically over-developing the parts of quick thinking, distractable brain and letting the long-form-thinking, creative, contemplative, solitude-seeking, thought-consolidating pieces of our brain atrophy by not using them”.
My suspicion is that the unquestioned marvel that is the digital age has brought with it a dark side. Our increasing interaction with the digital world in every facet of our life is affecting our ability to really pay attention to any one thing and with this we are losing the facility for profoundly deep, introspective, solitary, sustained mode of attention. This loss has costs beyond busted business deals. At stake is our ability to quiet the mind, be calm, be creative, have insights, and connect to others. Kraus’s recommendation is to take time away from the digital world, literally unplug from it and engage in activities that encourage sustained single pointed attention and mindfulness.
I think Yoga is about paying attention and learning to direct all of our attention towards the activity which we are engaged in. Yoga helps one to slow down and actively train the mind for that type of long form attention so missing in our digital interactions. The time one spends practicing yoga is a way to unplug and take a break from distraction, no cell phones, no interruptions.
Yoga prationers have known since ancient times that the mind is active and dynamic and the various yoga practices have been geared to help us withdraw from everyday activities to revive the the body and mind. Yoga helps us to disengage the senses from the outside world and retreat to an internal world where spiritual resources abound, the very resources that enable us to be more present in every day life and effective in the world, present in every action and every moment.
Please Read full The New York Times Story about Kord Campbell here and view an interactive feature that tests your mental ability to focus.