January 16, 2011

Cell Phones, Technology and Yoga.

As I stepped out of my car at the transit station this morning, on my way to day 2 at the Yoga Journal Conference  in San Francisco, I realized I’d forgotten my cell phone, which was odd, because I distinctly remember holding it in my hand on the way to the car this morning. 

Not usually the big deal, I rarely use a cell phone at all, except when I travel, in which case I find it very handy (today I needed to be able to connect with my teacher at the conference to exchange house-keys and make sure I could get into her apartment where I was staying). 

So imagine me, in a dark parking lot in Oakland, tearing apart my car, my bag, my yoga mat bag, looking for the wretched cell phone.  But despite my best attempts, and profuse cursing chanting, there was no cell phone to be found. Afraid of missing my train and being late to my first class of the day, I had to resolve that I would find my teacher somehow  and that the cell phone could wait until later.

Later, after overcoming my own self pity, I began to look around and notice how many people were plugged in to well, anything. Computers, phones, music devices. Most had headphones on, and no one was talking to each other, not even the people who were travelling together (like the married couple sitting across from me).  Oblivious to the outside world, my fellow commuters were absorbed in the brightly lit virtual world of their choosings.

I decided to make it a challenge to myself, to notice what these other people weren’t. I noticed the sound of the squeals and scrapes of the train on the tracks. I noticed the dirty, dingy  industrial parks flashing by the windows outside and the half-closed eyes of sleepy faces on the passengers inside. I even noticed the pressure change in my ears as we headed through the tunnel to San Francisco.

As I got off the train and headed out into the city, I noticed the pungent smells: coffee, sewer, food, cigarrettes. Smells that are not exactly pleasant when mixed all together.   But it occurred to me that this is the practice of being present. It’s easy to be present with something that is beautiful, isn’t it? It’s not so easy to be present with the unpleasant.

Even in the conference, yogis are very respectful,  during class, but as I looked around I noticed how many people, again, where plugged into their phones and i-pods. I’m not judging, mind you, but just noticing some commonality here in our technological world. What is it that makes us want to call a person two hundred miles away during lunch, instead of making a new friend and having lunch with that person face to face? I’m just wondering…out loud.

As for my cell phone, well I found it, of course—when it went off in the middle of my first class. Where was it? A pocket of my bag that I never knew I had. Go figure. Still, I can’t help but be thankful for the lesson and the opportunity to be a little more present this morning.

Then I called my husband, two hundred miles away, over lunch.

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