Inside Yoga 285 (18/11/2019)
Would you walk down a busy street with your head down reading a book? For most of us, the first thought would be “of course not, I would trip or bump into something”! So why do so many of us do this with our phones?
I spend much of my time outside offices, waiting to go in to teach staff yoga and periodically I pass the time with an exercise where I count how many people are walking with their eyes glued to their phones and not looking where they are going. Invariably, I reach a ratio of 4 out of 5 people are walking while looking at the screen – that’s 80 per cent of us are not looking where we are going!
I have seen so many have close calls, with the most common being stepping in front of a car whilst crossing a junction. Thankfully in the city centre the cars are crawling through the traffic jams, so rarely dangerous to the pedestrian but this does not make it a safe to walk around our busy streets.
I have also noticed that so many people have their faces in phones at office entrances: the majority being those leaving the building. We have become so impatient, in such a rush that we will walk out of a building while looking something at our screens, instead of checking the phone in the lobby before walking on. I suppose we can say we are so good at multi-tasking but I dispute this idea, because I have watched so many near misses and at times people walking into each other. We are never going to be fully aware of things around us if we have our heads buried in a screen.
Why have I mentioned this? What has this got to do with yoga? Well, yoga teaches us to pay attention to what we are doing and at the same time it teaches us to simplify what we do. Walking while face down in a phone is good example where a person is not paying attention to everything they are doing and making the action of walking harder than it need be, plus it begs the question do we need to multitask in this way?
It does not take long to leave our office and check our messages while standing in the lobby or outside the entrance, before walking on? When mobile phones were first introduced it was seen as status symbol so people wanted to be seen on their phones; and for many, they liked to be seen using their phone because it showed they were so important, or popular, that they had to be on their phone while rushing around. Being in a rush and busy has become the normal way of being for many of us, which is not so healthy for our stress levels and also carries the risk of being run over while crossing a road because we were looking at a screen! Just because many of us do this does not make it right and beneficial to our way of being.
Pre-mobile technology people managed to walk away from an office building without being too concerned that they were not at that very moment in contact with someone else at the other end of the phone, or that they didn’t know what was on the news or social media, or that their friends could not reach them. Life was fine, and crossing the road not such a danger!
This mobile multi-tasking is not exclusive to office workers, because you can see this happening all around our streets. For example, in a busy area like Bristol’s Broadmead/Cabot Circus shopping area, or any shopping area, watch the people for a few minutes and see how many are walking while looking at their phone, or talking on it. We so hooked to our gadgets we will use them any time regardless whether it is a good idea; a multi-tasking habit which means we are not fully engaged in anything we are doing, not the walking nor the phone usage. There is a meditation saying: “When walking, I walk, when standing, I stand…” Why make life harder?
Part of a meditational practice like yoga is to be mindful of what we do and think, and this is an example of where we might just need to pause and notice what we do, see what habits we now have, and change them for the better.
Try this: before leaving a building, check your phone (if you have to) and then leave with it tucked away in your pocket or bag. Do this in other scenarios: leave your phone in pocket or bag as often as possible – see what the world looks and feels like now: it might be a refreshing revelation.
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