The Art of Stillness - Mindfulness & Technology


One of my private yoga clients recently handed me a book at the end of a session called, “The Art of Stillness” by Pico Iyer. Her timing could not have been better. Life seemed to be moving faster than ever and with so many distractions from emails, whatsapp notifications, instagram feeds, facebook comments and everything else in between, my attention span was diminishing at an alarming rate.

I was particularly moved by the last paragraph of the book, “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could me more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent that sitting still.” (p.66)

Mindfulness & Technology

In Iyer’s book he mentions how one of the greatest surprises he encountered whilst travelling the world, was that the people who seem the wisest about the necessity of placing limits on the newest technologies are, often, precisely the ones who helped develop those technologies. This is because they know how their cleverly made technology can affect the same neurological pathways as gambling and drug use, and are the same circuits that make people seek out food, comfort and sex (read more about this here).

Google is a great example of a company that is generating constant technological innovation while striving to set limits and boundaries around its use. Their highly successful mindfulness programme, "Search Inside Yourself" (backed by world experts in neuroscience, mindfulness and emotional intelligence), teaches employees how to focus and pay attention to the task at hand, and how to clear their minds so they can become more innovative and creative thinkers. According to Iyer, many in Silicon Valley observe an “internet sabbath” every week, during which time they turn off most of their devices from Friday night until Monday morning, to allow themselves time to look inward, get ceneterd and regain some perspective.

It is not just the companies creating the technology that need to protect their employees, but also all of the companies out there that are using this technology. The super successful, $900 million computer software company, Asana, is a brilliant example of how encouraging your employees to become more mindful can not only produce happier employees, but also contribute to the success and growth of the business. Founded by two yoga practitioners, Asana, got its name from the Sanskrit term that refers to any yoga posture and symbolises stability and movement. It is not surprising therefore that they offer free private yoga classes to their employees. 

Yoga has long been recommended as a way of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Yogic asana, breathing and meditation techniques can help us manage the fight of flight response of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The majority of us working in the city are chronically over stimulated and so SNS is constantly activated when we are stressed. By incorporating yoga in our day-to-day lives we are not only improving brain function but also our physical, emotional and mental health. Read more about the science of yoga here.

The teacher in me recognises the teacher in you

According to Justin Rosenstein, one of the co-founders of Asana, everyone is the CEO within his or her own sphere of influence (Source here.) It is refreshing to hear of a company where self awareness trickles down from the top and where it is recognised that we all are learning from each other every day no matter our title. Reading this reminded me of the Buddhist expression, “The teacher in me recognises the teacher in you.”, often said at the end of a yoga class by the teacher. Just as I was teaching my yoga client ways to move the body, she was helping me to find stillness through Pico Iyer’s book. 

This blog is dedicated to my dear friend, student and teacher, Marissa Roth, who is an extraordinary photographer, researcher and writer. Visit her website for more info.