This week, millions of people are making radical adjustments to their way of life. Suddenly all of our relationships, personal and professional, are fully mediated by technology. How can you live like this and still live your best life?
I’ve been tele-commuting for 10 years now and I’ve learned to meet my physical and spiritual needs largely at home. So I thought I’d share some advice on how to maintain sanity and perhaps even growth while living in a small space.
The Intentional Mindset
Living a life of solitude involves fewer built-in routines and boundaries intensifies the need for discipline, intentionality and mindfulness.
Left to our own “devices,” most humans will become absorbed in their devices, tapping on notifications and reading each little tidbit of news, as their brains turn to static.
Don’t let this become your default state.
If this happens to you, notice it and say out loud: “I’m staring at my phone”. Then look up from your device, sit back, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Your default state shouldn’t be staring at your phone, it should be doing nothing. Doing nothing, being still, is a healthy state to fall back to.
A dead fish rolls down the stream and bounces off of every rock. A living fish creates its path through the water. Reaction is a cousin of fear and death. Intention is a cousin of creativity and life.
It’s important to cut out the constant possibility of interruption, and create a safe space for your mind. Employ airplane mode if you’re having trouble ignoring notifications.
Keep saying things out loud to bring them into your conscious mind. For example, If you want to look at your phone, say it out loud, “I’m going to look at my phone and see if there’s any news about coronavirus.” Do that, and then put down your phone.
Plan out your days and be specific. Generalizations like “I want to cook more,” aren’t going to work. Try instead, “I’m going to cook rice and beans and squash tonight.”
Honor your commitments to yourself as you would honor a commitment with a friend. After all, you are a friend to yourself.
Once you get better at this, you can start repeating commitments to build a routine.
A morning routine could look something like this:
“In the morning I’m going to wake up, take a shower, make tea, and sit and look out the window while I write in my journal. Then I’ll meditate for 10 minutes. Then I’ll make breakfast and sit down at the computer.”
A conscious routine leads to good habits. Habits are how we grow and become better over time. For example, if part of your routine is to play piano for an hour, expect to look up in a year and notice that you are a much better piano player.
Through the internet I have met teachers and mentors who have made a profound impact on my life.
I took an online class on Buddhism and Psychology from Robert Wright, a professor at Princeton University. It changed my life. I used MasterClass to learn about creativity from David Lynch and cooking from Gordon Ramsay.
I do Kia Miller’s Everyday Glow class every day. In it, she paraphrases a quote from Albert Einstein, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” I find that Kundalini helps to shift my energy and to see the world from a wider perspective. This not only helps me solve problems creatively, it is a way of getting out of the stagnant space that is my head.
I recently helped to build and launch The Digital Studio, an online version of the Katonah studio The Studio in downtown Manhattan. The Studio offers amazing yoga that has been deeply transformational for more than one of my friends.
That said, doing yoga at home requires an investment into your space and mental preparation.
Build your Fortress of Solitude
Like all animals, we’re a product of our environment. Without being too neurotic, invite a lot of care and attention into your home space, and you will become a product of that care and attention in turn.
Choose a spot in your home which will become a special space. In this space, you will invest in exercising your body and cultivating your mind. You may have to choose between this space and a coffee table or something. I’d recommend choosing this space.
Declutter the space, and put nice things in it–flowers, crystals and incense and soft rugs, pictures of your family, any objects that make you feel good. There should enough floor space for a yoga mat and room to swing your arms. You may need special gear for the class that you’re taking, the Digital Studio has an online shop with terrific gear and books.
At the front of your space, the center-piece, in the seat of guru (and I know it sounds ridiculous) is your laptop.
Take your time and become friends with your special space gradually. Start just by sitting in it. Sit in it for a long time and do nothing, and be still. It may take a long time of doing this until you feel ready to seek guidance of a teacher. Be patient.
When you are ready to do a class, start by decluttering, perhaps turning on some ambient music, turning your phone off, and simply sitting in your space for a while. You can use the insight mediation timer to time box. When you are ready, make a commitment to do the class and treat the commitment as if you had made it with a friend. In this way, you will build a rapport of friendship and trust with your own self.
The Attitude of Gratitude
I’m helping an 90 year-old friend of mine download Zoom today so that she can continue to host meditations. It’s important right now to think about the people who have it worse than us, i.e. the elderly and those with compromised immunity. Don’t just sit around feeling sad for yourself, feel grateful for the air that you breathe, and continue to ask yourself how you can help others.
Humans are the most adaptive species on earth. This new technology-mediated landscape will undoubtedly give rise to new ways of living, new wonders and horrors. These will emerge with all the beauty and its ugliness of their predecessors. Stay open to the possibility that this could be a great time of reflection, creativity, and personal growth, and set an intention to cultivate patience, calm and open-mindedness during these strange times.
P.S. I don’t make any money off of any of the products or services I recommend here, including the Digital Studio. 100% of the profits from the Digital Studio are divided among the teachers.