iphone vs sky- What a difference your chin can make

Comments Off on iphone vs sky- What a difference your chin can make Written on January 15th, 2014 by
Categories: General

Our language often hints at how we really see the world in relationship to our body. It’s borderline cheesy. We tell people if they are “down” to keep their “chin up”. Or if things are going better than they have been, “they are looking up”.   Even the word “depression” conjures up a sinkhole which we descend into. And for the most obvious metaphor, heaven is up and hell is down. Okay, so what?
We use this language because as humans we universally feel certain emotions when our body is in certain positions, we associate certain postures both in observing other people and ourselves with specific states of being. We know what sadness and depression looks and feels like in our bodies on an intuitive level. And yet when we try to find happiness, we do exactly that… “try to find it” as if it were out there somewhere instead of starting in the most obvious place. That place is within ourselves and how our own bodies interact with the world.
My job, as weird as it seems sometimes, is really one of body mechanic. I help people tune up their necks and backs which have become clunky and inefficient (sometimes even noisy). I try to grease the wheels. I teach ergonomic ways of sitting and walking and physically performing whatever a person does better and pain-free, whether it be golf or writing or standing on one’s hands. And while having no physical pain is a great starting place on the way to feeling good, there is so much more to our postural habits than just mechanics. Our bodies are information feedback mechanisms. We feel good and we open and lift our chests, but also when we open and lift our chests, we feel good.
I was on vacation for two weeks recently in a place with little or no wifi (don’t hate me). So for two weeks, I did not stare at a screen in the direction of my own navel. I didn’t sit and look down a foot away at strings of disembodied words. I spent most of my mornings and evenings watching the sun rise and watching it set again. Then I watched the stars. Or I watched birds teasing the ocean. If we passed through a city, we went to a museum and looked at art or walked through plazas and admired architecture. My head tilted up a lot more than normal and my sensory action was one of absorbing, letting details come to me rather than hunting them down (ah, that direction again).  What I realized was that this simple action of looking up and out rather than down and in, affected my whole being in real, subtle, and profound ways.

Here are some effects I noticed:
-Looking up instead of down made my upper back feel better. I sometimes get a knot under my right shoulder blade, and that cleared up.
-I needed my glasses less. While I still won’t drive without them, the world out there was not as fuzzy. My eyes felt less darty.
-My thoughts were less rapid. I feel almost like my brain waves slowed. Gaps of time were not awkward holes to be filled with whatever I could get my hands on.
-My brain was less self-involved. My thoughts that are all about me became a little exhausting to listen to, so I naturally switched to thinking a little bigger and broader (some of the time at least).
-My senses felt more receptive. I could see more, smell more, notice more.
-I was more in touch with the things that truly make me happy.
-I felt less rushed and anxious.
-I could focus more. Didn’t feel like I should constantly be doing something else.

I am lucky because my life in NYC happens to be more physical than the average person. I train myself every day in addition to running around the city and teaching others about their bodies. However, I still have a constant relationship to my iPhone. In between every client, I always check email and messages, then Facebook, then Words with friends, or I play a numbers game called Drop 7 or a stupid game that involves virtual fish (that’s the most embarrassing one, really?! You feed and breed fish that don’t exist in your few spare moments?! It’s vaguely like Farmville which makes it even more uncool.) When I get home, I take care of things on the computer I can’t do on my phone. Basically, my lifestyle makes little difference as I reflexively stare at a screen as much as anyone.
I fully realize that life is not a vacation. In NYC, I couldn’t really see the sunset if I wanted to. I am not about to walk to the east river every or any morning to see the sun rise especially if it is five degrees out. What is available at any moment? My phone. The problem is that smartphones, with their constant availability and never-ending sources of edutainment, make looking down hard to avoid. Your phone or iPad create the illusion that we are connected to the world, and we get a little anxious when we are away from them too long as we might be missing something. The reality is that you’re actually missing something by the constant iPhone usage. You quite literally aren’t seeing the larger picture around you.
I believe that looking in the directions of our own navels makes us become a little deflated. It’s not just the position of our necks which is bad on a physical level, but the short-sighted seeing. We are also feeding our nervous systems with the idea that our lives are small. We put our bodies into a position with shoulders forward, head down, eyes looking rapidly. If you saw an animal doing this, you would think it is scared or depressed. Enough times in a day and eventually our bodies convince us we are indeed anxious and depressed.
Too simple? Maybe. We are complex beings and again we have a chicken and egg problem. But you will never see a truly content person, one who has cultivated real happiness regardless of outer circumstances crouching all day long. We may not be able to convince our brains we are happy through positive thought alone, but need to integrate how we actually physically look at the world in the everyday.
So now if you’ll excuse me, I have been looking down for two hours. Time to look up.

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