The Mindful Use of Technology for Authentic Human Connection: Wisdom 2.0 Conference Reflections

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A really important conversation began this weekend.

It's a conversation that we all, on some level, know has to happen. It's one that's happening in many of our hearts and minds as well as in our families, marriages, within our friendships – maybe even with work colleagues. Those personal conversations have been intense, conflicted, and even frustrating for many of us… because the answers and next steps aren't really clear.

I'm talking about How to stay connected spiritually, in a heart and soul-centered way, as human beings while taking bold and brilliant advantage of the exciting technological advances in communication that we have available to us today.

The Question is:

How do we make mindful use of technology that has the power to bring us meaningfully closer to more people than ever before, while maintaining a real connection both inside ourselves and in our face-to-face interactions?

For those of us who love the different kinds of connection that technology facilitates, it can be tricky to find the best ways to keep that virtual connection strong and useful… and give ourselves the “unplugged” time required to be truly present in heart, mind and spirit in our face-to-face connections as well. After the Wisdom 2.0 Conference this weekend, I understand even more fully why this struggle is so real for me and others like me. I'll tell you more about that later but let me just say for now, it's not entirely our lack of willpower (whew!)

A zillion little sound bites were shared that caused spikes in my brain, heart and gut energy.

I'll share just the few that sit with me today, as I re-enter into my work life two days post-Wisdom 2.0:

Possibly the most striking discussion I heard the whole weekend happened in the second half of the first day when Tami Simon, founder and owner of Sounds True (multi-media publisher of many best-selling soulful audiobooks and videos), described her experience of checking email. She talked about that rush that happens sometimes when she checks email and watches that long list of emails flood her inbox. The incongruency between the overwhelm that email so often causes for our “to-do” list and that strange attraction (compulsion…? ….addiction?) to receiving new emails. Tami's not alone. Knowing laughs and head-nodding filled the room immediately (my own laugh & head-bobbing included.) This happened even as we were all mid-stride in a conversation about how overwhelming email can be and that it also plays an unwanted negative role in so many of our days. Tami cited brain research on the rush of dopamine that floods just the right part of our brain as those emails fill our inbox and I felt suddenly vindicated somehow… like my own attraction to checking email at least wasn't just about a lack of willpower on my part.

The brilliance in conversation that came from the stage was really staggering. We heard about how one of the founders of Twitter – Greg Pass – Tweets to push the edges of his own creativity and exploration (my words.)

Philippe Goldin, a hard-core brain researcher/neuroscientist from Stanford showed us in graphics and enthusiastic narrative the ways in which research indicates that meditation is better for our mind, body and spirit than just about anything we could possibly do, period (including exercise.) High-ups from Google in a number of departments told us about how they integrate mindfulness practices like yoga, Qi Gong and meditation into their daily lives – and the programs they bring to Google employees in an effort to help their employees stay healthy in all aspects of their lives as much as possible, even in the midst of a truly uber-connected work world.

The description that Linda Stone gave of how to know if you have email apnea (a shortage of breathing while using email) felt  like she had been secretly looking into my office window and watching me: sitting at computer, shoulders slumped forward, hands turned inward on keyboard, staring blurry-eyed at the screen, shallowly breathing (and sometimes even holding my breath, when I think about it!) As Linda requested that we practice this familiar position in our chairs, she asked us to take a deep breath in – an almost impossible task from that position. Point made. Not a lot of deep breathing going on from this position. We simply can't get in an optimum amount of air in this body configuration.

The speakers were really fabulous: brilliant, interesting, and truly mindful human beings (far as I could tell.) But really, the major coup of the whole weekend for me, was getting to hang out in a room full of my kin. The energy in the room was palpable – people were clearly very very excited to have this conversation. We were excited for ourselves and we were excited for what this means for humanity and technology. The possibilities for mindful, conscious, beautifully human business felt greater than most of us had experienced before. All that and it felt like we didn't have to turn in our smartphones and computers to make it happen. There's a middle way, it feels – and it's awesome to be in a roomful of really smart, mindful people searching for that middle way with us.

For me – and I have struggled both with being “too connected” and with not feeling like I know how to virtually connect “well enough” – this conversation was totally riveting, enlightening and thought-provoking. If you check out the Twitter stream (#wisdom2conf) you'll see that I am most definitely not alone in those feelings. You won't find the answers there, necessarily, but you will find a lot of people committed to that goal.

People are already doing very cool things to help make the online experience more human, transparent and soulful. More businesses are being Visioned and launched right now by people in that Wisdom 2.0 conference toward that end. It's exciting.  We absolutely cannot ever replace human touch, eye-to-eye contact, the energetic exchange that happens when two or more people sit together in a room in conversation, in meditation, or in solidarity on an issue. I don't think any of us want to replace those lovely human experiences. It's about expansion… opening… growth… different kinds of connection that enrich our lives in new and unexpected ways. I don't think we've found the perfect way to use technology to enhance our human connections (doubt we ever will) but I am optimistic that we are having the right conversations to help us get closer to that goal. Go check out the #wisdom2conf Twitter stream – and read the blog posts being shared about the experience – and you'll see.

This was just the beginning. You are invited to join the conversation right now. I'd certainly LOVE to hear your thoughts & ideas on how we can mindfully take advantage of the technologies available to us and use them in service of a more authentically connected world.