Is it even possible to disconnect in our insanely connected world? Working in the digital space, I live and breath social media and content; however, I know that I have to shut down, or more so, learn how to shut down. I’m not alone in my quest for digital balance and recently learned more about how to shut it off from Nancy Collier, a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, mindfulness teacher, relationship coach, and author of The Power of Off. Next week, Nancy will be leading a fascinating class at the New York Open Center about finding presence in a digital world. Read on to learn more about Nancy and how to sign up for this powerful course:
The Power of Off Interview with Nancy Collier
Nancy Colier: At the NY Open Center this November 11th I am sharing a look at how do we find freedom, not from technology but in technology. How do we get grounded, be present and live a meaningful life in a digitally addicted world. How we still stay connected to a sense of purpose and wellbeing when the way we are living is taking us away from a deeper sense of what matters with us.
I help people use technology for our own purposes rather than having it use us. Our greatest resources are time and attention and where we are placing them now is serving pleasure and entertainment, but not serving us in a deeper, spiritual capacity. I want to support people in living what human beings actually feel is a good life and what actions actually nourish us – meaning, purpose, engagement, connection to others and ourselves and being of service.
We don’t know how to be with ourselves anymore. We don’t know how to be with direct experiences anymore – we take a country walk and use it to share on social media rather than enjoying it. We talk about mindfulness, but what we are doing most often is sharing aspects of things that we are doing for “our brand” rather than being with ourselves and fully in the present moment.
Rather than external stressors and danger like tigers, we are most terrified of being with ourselves. On technology we get a pleasure hormone and then right after that a fight or flight chemical being released in the body. We are what needs to be outrun. Our typical level of stimulation is so high that we experience when it is taken away. We have reset the bar in terms of what we need for stimulation. Who is there if you take away all the external stimulation?
Anxiety – being available 24 hours a day is really stressing our bodies. We don’t know how to engage ourselves unless we have a game in front of ourselves.
We wait for an external mirror of what a meaningful event in our lives means. We’ve forgotten that we can know things just from our own experience. It’s not what do I think if me, but what do I think about what you think of me.
Weekend Jaunts: What will someone learn who attends?
Nancy Colier: Our addiction to technology creates depression, anxiety and our vacuums out our sense of self-esteem. We will also look at how we can live and take advantage of this incredible tool and gift that is technology in a way that is mindful and we get the benefits. We want to learn how to build awareness and bring mindfulness skills to our relationship with technology. We learn how to break our addition to using mindlessly and get back to the feeling of control and empowerment in our lives.
Right now the rat has got the scientist in the cage. Our phones and devices set off the dopamine, cortisol loop. Not answering the phone or email raises our cortisol. The only way we really know how to calm that is to use technology to try to get more.
Technology companies, just like casinos, hire addiction specialists to help get us further addicted. They study our response loops to figure out how they can get us more addicted to keep our eyes on their screens. Dissimilar to drug or gambling addictions, our addiction to technology is supported by society – it makes us an “insider.”
The average person has their eyes on a screen 10-11 hours a day. 50% of people check their phone if they wake up in the middle of the night. 56% of people check while they are driving. 1 in 3 people would give up sex before giving up their phone, and 1 in 5 people have used their phone during sex. 53% of people would give up their sense of smell before their phone.
Weekend Jaunts: Is it possible to disconnect in such a digital world?
Nancy Colier: Yes, it is definitely possible and it is possible starting right now.
We need to tap into our own experience of this virtual world. First we need to get real about the anxiety, depression, comparison epidemic, feeling of missing out, loneliness, lack of self-esteem and “not-enoughness” that we feel when we are living in an externally driven relationship with technology all the time.
For those of us in GenX we want to tap into what we remember about meaningful connections and moments from earlier times – taking a walk with a friend, having a coffee without a phone between you, sitting at a restaurant with phones put away, not so overwhelmed with information, entertainment and stimulation.
There was a time when we didn’t expect our friends to be always as entertaining as our smart phones. Relationships are viewed as something that should be fun, easy and fast – as a result people are dropping out of relationships in their lives because of this expectation and not willing to hang in there for awkward or difficult moments. The result of this is an immense sense of loneliness for all of the things that human relationships inherently give us. As a therapist I get to hear what is actually true for people – which is that people are feeling very lonely, alienated and meaningless.
For teens it is really about presencing them to the negative feelings associated with lack of connection, and the positive feelings associated with the aspects of real connection listening, empathy and quality time. My teens can acknowledge that it feels really crummy to be at an event or with a friend and everyone is in conversations with people who aren’t there. It also feels terrible when you are in a conversation with someone and they are checking their phone constantly instead of listening – young people take this to mean “I don’t matter.” We are creating a generation of “not-enoughness” and it gives them a feeling of not being worthy of time and attention unless they are fabulous and fascinating.
The full presence of another human being in nourishing beyond any food.
Weekend Jaunts: Tell us more about your background? How did you find yourself interested in talking about the power of off?
Nancy Colier: My background is multi-layered – an athlete and equestrian for 25 years, and in the process of that I became a psychotherapist. I’ve been a practitioner of non-duality for over 20 years. I then became an interfaith minister.
My purpose is to help people wake up to a deeper sense of presence and awareness with themselves.
I came to this work by witnessing people coming into my therapy practice with deeper levels of anxiety than I had ever experienced. I named it AOL syndrome – Anxious, Overwhelmed and Lacking. Overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to learn and keep up with and Lacking in connection and real experiences. “Twired” is another helpful – the syndrome of being tired and wired: wired, amped up and also fundamentally exhausted.
I witnessed people not turning off their phones during the one hour of therapy and being terrified of being unavailable to to anyone else, but being perfectly okay with being unavailable for ourselves.
Even for myself I witnessed my own email addiction, as a way of being not where I was.
I asked myself, how can I be a light in the darkness?
It’s about taking ownership of your life – am I living in this moment in a way that is conscious? Can I stop and pause and say “How am I being with my life?” We don’t need a big road map, we need awareness in each moment of life to take this seriously. What do I want my life to stand for.
Weekend Jaunts: What are some mindfulness practices we can all try in our busy lives?
Nancy Colier: 1 – Every time you get the impulse to use technology, pause and ask yourself what is my real need right now? What would I have yo feel right now if I didn’t use? What am I getting away from by using right now? Is it habit, boredom, anxiety? Ask yourself if the need is real and if it is not, put it down.
2 – Turn off your notifications. Practice small 30min steps every day such as not bringing your phone if you take a walk with your family or friends. I also recommend spending the first 30min and the last hour of the day without technology. Once a week or once a month take a tech-free day – and ask yourself, who do I meet inside myself when I am not on technology? Put these breaks from technology into your schedule – take responsibility, it is an addiction and you have to do it.
3 – Ask yourself, if this was the last week of my life, what would I spend time doing. What really matters to me? What nourishes me and how do I make sure those elements are included in my life? Rather than taking away technology, think about “what would I add to my life?”
The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Present (and Sane) in a Virtual World
Saturday, November 11, 2107, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Members $125/ Nonmembers $145
Do you compulsively check your smartphone? Always connected to the Web? When did you last see your child’s face without the glow of a screen on it? Our addiction to technology is real.
“The compulsion to constantly check our devices plays on primal instincts,” teaches Colier. “Even people with strong spiritual practices or those who have never had other addiction issues now find themselves caught in the subtle trap of these miraculous tools we’ve created.” Through The Power of Off, she offers us a path for making use of the virtual world while still feeling good, having healthy relationships, and staying connected with what is genuinely meaningful in life. You’ll explore:
- How and why today’s devices push our buttons so effectively, and what you can do to take back control of your life
- Tips for navigating the increasingly complex ways in which technology is affecting our relationships—with ourselves, others, and our devices themselves
- Self-evaluation tools for bringing greater awareness to your use of technology
- Mindfulness practices for helping you interact with your devices in more conscious ways
With greater awareness, responsibility, and new habits in our digital lives, we can rediscover an inner quiet and stillness, and radically improve the quality of our lives. In this workshop, Nancy Colier will offer empowering strategies to become more mindful and present, to wake up and reclaim a sense of control over our time, attention, and life. And ultimately, to find freedom in tech not from it.