Are You Addicted to the Digital Drug?
Most of us spend several hours on the day relative to a computer, tablet or smart phone. Though often necessary for our work, it creates tension, depletes the mind and can even dull the senses, if we don’t know how to compensate for its influence.
On top of this we may be wired up to music for hours, which we particularly notice among the youth. The result is that most of the day we are being bombarded by electrical impulses, fabricated sounds and media images. These electrical impulses stimulate but also irritate our nervous systems, senses and minds. They wire us up and prevent us from finding inner calm and peace.
The media is full of advertising, with political and cultural statements that are often little more than propaganda, meant to capture our minds. Most news stories are one-sided and do not consist of objective reporting but of trying to get us to follow a particular point of view uncritically. The amount of electronic information we are taking in has increased exponentially in recent years and is bound to grow further in the future. Yet we are no more clear as to who we are and what we are doing in life, either at individual or collective levels.
The crucial question arises as to how the new information technology affects our nervous systems even beyond any message it may have. To put it simply this digital stimulation is like a drug, what I would call the “digital drug”. Yet on top of these digital stimulations many of us are also taking recreational or medicinal drugs, which are similarly becoming much more popular and accessible, as well as our increasingly artificial or premade foods.
Our attention is preoccupied externally in quickly changing artificial sensory inputs. One could say that there is little in our minds or in our blood streams that is authentically ours. We have little time for being in nature, or to look within and connect with our own inner being and the greater universe of consciousness within us. We may have a few minutes a day for a Yoga routine, meditation or mantra, but this is usually just a sidelight to the ongoing flow of our increasingly electronic existence, extending to an electronic self-image that has become more real for us than our actual state of body and mind.
Obviously, the human being was not meant to be wired all the time. It is not part of our evolutionary development in which we emerged from the world of nature and developed civilization through agriculture. Yet curiously we human beings can easily and quickly adapt to machines, become dependent upon them, or even begin to operate like them and emulate them. The new seeking to develop Artificial Intelligence not only to help us but to guide us is part of this phenomenon. We face an uncertain future in which the machine defines our environment, culture, transportation and even self-identity.
As electronic influences move much faster than our actual nervous system and senses, we are losing our sensory acuity and capacity for observation and contemplation. Our minds are becoming ungrounded, volatile and hyper reactive. We crave rapid diverse stimulation, which in turn renders us weakened or depressed when these strong stimuli are withdrawn. Many of us have overstimulated and worn out our nervous systems leaving us depleted, unable to cope or handle stress, opinionated and angry.
Psychological, mental, emotional and nervous system problems are increasing, starting with young children. An entire new set of designer drugs has been created to deal with these issues. Yet these drugs are often unable to solve the problems and instead cause more addictions and dependencies. The future of public health, including social health and societal psychological well-being seems problematical. We are becoming more unhealthy, unhappy and disturbed on both personal and collective levels, and our longevity may be declining.
How to Balance our Minds and Nervous Systems
So how should we handle this disturbing digital age in which we live and work? Shutting everything off is not an option, though we should shut everything off every day periodically as well as take vacations away from the media for periods of time. Countering these electrical impulses is essential and is the main consideration. Taking regular time for our own direct interaction with life and our own inner spiritual practice or sadhana is the key. Without a sadhana to ground us, it is unlikely that we can achieve any real happiness, understanding or higher consciousness, regardless of all the new information and communication. We are likely to remain driven by our equipment and trapped in a world of artificial sensation and information progressively divorced from the organic roots of life and the greater space of the universe.
Personally, I spend a fair amount of time in front of computer. This is mainly for creative writing and for communication with students and friends. I do examine the news, mainly headlines and try to keep up with what is going on in the world from several different perspectives. However, I rarely listen to or watch any program or news item. I check our social media a few times a day and try to post some items of interest but rarely respond personally to anyone (apologies here for that).
I make sure to periodically go outside into the world of nature every day, work with the plants, take a walk or a hike, look at the sky or the stars and clear my mind and senses. This is easy from my mountain home but hard when we are engaged in our frequent travels in urban environments like Delhi. I take regular Ayurvedic herbs for the mind like brahmi, manduka parni and shankha pushpi in different formulas or preparations, or use special Ayurvedic oils to the head and back. I practice regular pranayama, mantra and meditation. Notably I take a special time for meditation in the early morning and before sleep, and in the afternoon as week. I will not jump onto the computer or into media first thing in the morning, and I shut it off well before sleep, including doing a special meditation to clear and calm the mind and move within, so that sleep provides access to higher levels of consciousness. I make sure that my flow of awareness and power of attention has its own sacred time and space apart from any external influences. We maintain a meditative environment with murtis, rituals, ghee lamps, incense and honoring special sacred dates.
In any case, you should consider how to counter the effects of the electronic world and digital drugs that bombard us and develop a spiritual and healing strategy according to your own wisdom and inspiration
Keys to Coping with a Digital Life
- Make sure every day to move your physical body, as in Yoga asanas, walking or hiking nature or gardens. Swimming is also good. Inverted postures are great to clear the mind, but stillness is the ultimate goal in a sitting pose.
- Go out in nature if you can first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, opening up to the sky and letting your mind expand and let go. Contact the cosmic spaces and touch and ground yourself with the Earth, breathe in the cosmic life.
- Do daily pranayama preferably morning and evening, notably alternate nostril breathing to balance the hemispheres of the brain. Keep the prana flowing in the left nostril and left side of the body if you are overstimulated, on the right side if you are feeling full or depressed.
- Do daily mantra and meditation at least twice a day, including introspection of examining your own thoughts (like the practice of Self-inquiry), as well as periods of silence of mind. The bija mantra AIM aids in concentration, relating to Ma Sarasvati, Goddess of knowledge and creativity. The mantra SHREEM to Ma Lakshmi, Goddess of devotion and happiness, brings positive energy into the mind. Uma’s mantra HREEM opens up the Yoga Shakti.
- Take herbal teas to clear the mind like tulsi, brahmi, calamus or shankha pushpi instead of the regular tea and coffee. Apply aromatic oils like sandalwood to the forehead, or Ayurvedic oils like Chandanadi or Kshirabala to the head. Brahmi ghee is also great taken in warm milk. Take Ayurvedic foods for the mind and ojas like Chyavan Prash, Brahma Rasayan, Ashwagandha Lehyam, Bilva Prash.
- Above all, remember to sustain your cosmic connection and attunement with the eternal and infinite that constitutes your true immortal Self or Atman. Learn to connect to the Cosmic Mind (Mahat Tattva) and its storehouse of higher knowledge in the higher Akasha.
- Get adequate sleep and time away from any digital devices. Learn how to turn them off both outwardly and in your mind. Try to return to your inner Self in sleep with the mind put to rest as well. This means sleeping early and waking early if possible.
Of course much more can be done and you may have your own useful prescriptions, but make sure to follow them regularly, in a concerted rhythm. The long term effect of excessive electrical stimulation can be insidious and can erode the pranic energy field within and around us. Make sure to bring more of a sattvic or spiritual prana into your life through nature, sadhana and honoring the great gurus and cosmic powers.
Unless we compensate for the ongoing electrical and information bombardment in our lives, it may only disturb us further and disrupt our energy field, even shutting it down at times. Yet if we learn to turn the media on or off as needed, and for subjects of real learning, not just entertainment, it can increase our range of communication, understanding and positive interaction with the world. That is perhaps our main hope at this point in history, but it requires continual conscious effort on our part. It cannot occur while we passively allow someone else to operate our minds and nervous systems.
Never give over your attention to anything that does not uplift you. That is a good rule to always go back to. Otherwise, of course, it will diminish you.
Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)