Saints, Sages and Ordinary People and Their Encounters with Aromatic Plants

An Invitation to Read: SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination by Dorothy Abram

     SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination is an invitation to enter the lives of individuals who have been transformed through their interaction with sacred fragrant plants.  I examine the historical lives of saints, sages, and ordinary people whose encounter with aromatic plants provided the means and method to heal the crisis of a divided mind.  Just as smell retrieves memories from the distant past, the power of the aromatic imagination constructs reality in the present.

The book begins by studying the origins of the repression of scent as an authentic source of knowing in Western society.  The consequences of that rejection for identity are tremendous: we live with this loss.  Echoing Western philosophy from Plato onwards, Freud claimed that, in fact, the evolutionary repression of the sense of smell was a necessary act that initiated our humanness.  Freud explained that by renouncing a four-footed stance in favor of a two-footed posture (that prioritized vision as the dominant sense for survival), humans repressed the sense of smell.

This profound absence continues to leave its trace in our lives today.  Yet, the sense of smell cannot be rejected in our pursuit of human wholeness. Questioning the emotional costs of such an act for contemporary society, this book proposes that reclaiming an aromatic imagination has the potential to heal this fundamental division in the senses.  Paying particular attention to the socio-economic setting that promotes such divisions within, this book seeks to locate and to elucidate the necessary attributes of an aromatic imagination.  Fragrant plants appear in cultural and historical settings worldwide and at various historical moments whereby we may pay witness to the power of reclaiming scent for contemporary consciousness.

Beyond theory, we must consider the lives and cultures that demonstrate the power of the aromatic imagination for what they may teach us.  In this way, we witness its power to unify and heal.  I examine seven fragrant plants and the people whose lives were transformed through their engagement with these fragrant sources.  These seven plants include:

  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
  • Neem (Azadirahcta indica)
  • Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus)
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
  • Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

The chapter on sandalwood tells the story of a female sage in 19th century India who healed a problematic case of madness through her use of fragrant sandalwood.  We would not have known about this powerful aromatic healer had she not entered the life of the mad priest of Kali, Ramakrishna.  Her healing method reminds us that, in addition to the physical upset, illness is a story—a narrative—that is constructed to make sense of experience.  It is the aromatic imagination at work.  The narrative that this female sage offered Ramakrishna enabled him to reform his identity from mad priest to divinely inspired saint.  Because they lived in a culture that honored spiritual insight and religious experience, they were named great teachers and creative geniuses.

The chapter on lotus (blue water lily) examines a traditional biblical narrative from the perspective of shamanism.  This is an unusual framework with which to analyze the book of Job.  The focus on the lotus opens new approaches to understanding that are not available without taking the plant and its meaning in the narrative into account.  In fact, it enables the reader to recognize Job as a shaman; that is, as a healer of humankind who gains his expertise through his successful underworld journey and the power of magical plants.  Analysis of this scented water plant reveals the emotional significance of Job’s journey.

The study of the pungently scented neem tree offers a fascinating inquiry into ambivalent states of mind brought together through interaction, inhalation, and ingestion of the leaves of this sacred tree.  It offers powerful lessons in healing through states of mind that must accompany the botanical cures for true healing today.  Highlighting the smallpox epidemic in India and the goddess called Sitala Mata who was believed to be in charge, neem demonstrates the power of faith to bring about healing.   The aromatic imagination heals the divided mind.

The passage of Abraham’s recuperation under the fragrant terebinth tree in the biblical book of Genesis sets the stage for a new look at the ancient tale and often studied story of the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac by the command of his God.  That is how we are often told this story: that the sacrifice was a God-given command to test Abraham’s faith.  However, by looking at the cultural context in which the act was nearly accomplished and by examining the Hebrew words used, the reader comes to a very different understanding that makes sense of this cruel request.  This evidence also demonstrates the quality of consciousness that Abraham achieved under the terebinth tree resulted in a compassionate ending to the episode.

Similarly, the chapter on fragrant tulsi narrates the specific qualities of plant, mind, and action that are required to bring about an altered state that expands consciousness.   Examining a maiden rite still held in India today, this chapter reveals the use of scents to describe emotional states of expression and achievement of unified consciousness.

Spikenard is well-known from the New Testament as the fragrant oil that Mary of Bethany used to “anoint” Jesus’ feet in the gospel of John.  By examining the original Greek text, we discover that Mary’s actions were directed toward Jesus, the man, in a profound and intimate gesture of relaxation and aromatic healing.

The chapter on jasmine examines this fragrant flower for use in healing epilepsy in the 19th century and in aromatherapy today.  In both situations and at both times, the scent of jasmine facilitated the physical control of symptoms and management of the disease.

In addition to their fragrant scents, all of these plants have psychoactive potencies that were employed in the healing practices described in this book.  But, it is the story that accompanies the botanical treatment by which healing is truly secured.  That story is different in each context where it appears.  However, in all the cultures and contexts that I examine in SEVEN SCENTS, the story pays witness to the achievement of a spiritual level of awareness.  That achievement is brought about through inhaling the scents of these sacred plants in a narrative cultural context.    Whereas the individuals in these chapters require healing from a conflict and crisis of consciousness—the divided mind—aromatic healing demonstrates a unification that is witnessed across cultures and historical eras.  This is the aromatic imagination.

Clearly, such diverse origins necessitate the location of a common underlying crisis; something that traces back to the origin of our shared humanity. I propose that the repressed sense of smell may finally have achieved its reappearance and vindication in the aromatic imagination.

We are healed with scent.

The Art and Practice of Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: Extract

To celebrate the release of The Art and Practice of Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine by Nigel Ching, we have released an extract from the book.

Click here to read the extract.

This textbook is a complete diagnostic manual for students of Chinese medicine. It covers how to collect and collate the relevant information needed to make a diagnosis and clearly describes the various diagnostic models in Chinese medicine.

Click here to read more about the book or to purchase a copy.

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Other Titles by Nigel Ching

The Fundamentals of Acupuncture 

A fantastically readable guide to Chinese Medicine, this illustrated textbook covers the basic foundations and principles of acupuncture and TCM. Nigel Ching covers everything from the theories of yin and yang to point functions and needling techniques.

Click here to read more about The Fundamentals of Acupuncture.

A Day in the Life of… an Intern at Singing Dragon

by James Safford

James SaffordAs both Emma and Jane have mentioned in previous posts, our work patterns at Singing Dragon/JKP can rarely be neatly packaged into what you might call a normal routine, and over the past few months I would say that routine has featured less for myself than any other member of staff. I have worked as a general intern here since the end of December, and because this entails assisting the full range of departments, I very rarely find myself doing the same work from one day to the next.

The day usually starts with a mug of coffee whilst I check through my e-mails. My e-mail account looks a little different to that of a full-time employee; whilst staff usually spend their time communicating with people outside the company – the freelance copyeditors and proofreaders managed by the production editorial department, the publications and journals who work closely with marketing, the printers who work with the production department, to name a few – I usually receive a steady stream of messages from people within the company. Editors may need a hand with research for a certain side of the list they wish to add to, which they will come to me for; marketing may need blog posts proofread, or copies of our books sent to reviewers; sales may ask for customer account information to be updated; or editorial assistants may ask for advance information materials, which contain blurbs, market information and author biographies, to be composed. After I’ve seen what I will be doing over the course of the day I can begin to set myself timeframes for each task.

I usually work on these tasks as and when they come in, but I also have a range of projects that I keep ticking over in the background. When I am based in the production department, there are always corrections to be made to InDesign files (the software we use to make our books look like actual books); this might include working on improving the quality of images used in the book, correcting text as marked up by proofreaders, or formatting the references. This has been particularly valuable for me, as someone who is interested in learning about editing, as it gives me a front-row seat to see how copyeditors and proofreaders work on books, how our house styles work, and what shape our commissioning editors want these books to take. Otherwise, I’ve been working with our production director, Octavia, to update a programme we use to catalogue our book data, called Biblio, and make it more user friendly. As there is no deadline for this task – the process will continue until the programme is fully tailored to what we do at Singing Dragon/JKP – we try to work on these projects whenever we have the time to spare.

When coming into publishing I had a fairly simple idea in my head as to how it all might work. I had imagined an industry which pined lethargically for its golden past, and what I found was one that is always thinking of new ways to be innovative with print, and that is trying to figure out how best to utilise digital. I enjoy the variety that being able to work across departments has afforded me, and I think that it is precisely because there isn’t, so to speak, a ‘day in the life’ of an intern here, that we are able to do so much interesting stuff. I get to see how our designers are working on the aesthetic of the Singing Dragon and JKP books, I get to see how the acquisitions department are building a diverse and award-winning list of books across the two imprints, I get to see how the company is planning to adapt to digital and how the marketing team are getting our books out.

So I suppose that’s how my day ends at 5.30, having done such a variety of stuff throughout the course of the day I spend the last few minutes summarising what I have done – I try to think, more precisely, about how I might do it better and quicker next time. Before arriving, I had been interested in experiencing the full spectrum of opportunities that this industry can offer, and to try and see what form those opportunities might take in ten years. This internship has given me the freedom to spend my days learning about the industry as a whole, and ensures that two days very rarely resemble one another. There are great opportunities to learn a large amount in a short space of time in publishing – I’m lucky enough to be able to spend my days asking people with big brains lots of questions and not be made to feel silly for it.

 

LESSONS FROM OUR MOTHERS

By Stephen Rath with Marcia Rath, certified Qigong instructors and writers of Qigong for Wellbeing in Dementia and Aging

Rath cover

The author Frank Herbert observed in Dune that when we ponder choices in the future we see doors, perhaps many; but when we peer into the past we see a long corridor. And so it seems with the journey that my wife, Marcia, and I took as we traveled through the corridor that led to the publication of Qigong for Wellbeing in Dementia and Aging. Continue reading

Breathing is the rhythm of life: breathing into Autumn

The following article is adapted from the book Qigong Through the Seasons by Ronald H. Davis.

The practice of Qigong Through the Seasons is designed to harmonize the health of your internal organs with the seasonal energetic changes of nature.
Autumn is the time to give special attention to the Lungs. Breathing is the most important thing you do from moment to moment and yet most of us are unaware of how we breathe and have lost our innate connection to the breath cycle. We, therefore, often fail to completely benefit from the power of correct breathing.

The Source of Qi
Breathing stands out as our quintessential rhythmic interaction with the world; lungs function as a permeable interface between each of us and everything else. The lungs are yin organs that receive air from the outside world, extract its healthy components and send them downward to the lower dan tian, the primary energy center of the abdomen, to be combined with the nutrients of food. That fusion of air’s vitality and food’s energy produces our greatest quantity of qi. In ancient times, the word ‘qi’ primarily had the meaning of ‘vital breath’ emphasizing that our indispensable energy comes from breathing.

Astonishingly, the lungs eliminate seventy percent of the body’s waste products. This makes exhalation a hugely significant detoxifying activity. We must completely exhale so that the respiratory system can flush out toxins and debris; only then can we receive a full complement of fresh air on the next inhalation. Stress, fear, anger, and doubt are the main emotional states that interfere with a healthy exhalation. Many people subconsciously don’t let go of the breath—they feel like they must hold on to that last bit of air, otherwise they may expire. The ability to completely let go of the breath often relates to issues of trust and relaxation.

The correct practice of qigong creates mental tranquility and thus will profoundly enhance healthy breathing by relaxing the lungs and allowing them to freely function. The following exercise, White Healing Mist, is the most important qigong exercise to do during the autumn season. It uses mental intention, body movement, and regulated breathing to purify and strengthen the lungs.

White Healing Mist Exercise
This graceful neigong (internal qigong) exercise fills the lungs with fresh qi while cleansing them of turbid qi. The intent of the mind uses detailed imagery of pure and impure qi. The movement of the hands leads the qi into and out of each lung. The ‘white healing mist’ can be any personal image that conveys a sense of purity, freshness, tranquility and healing. The ‘toxins’ can be not only respiratory debris but also cloudy, unhealthy thoughts. As the interface between internal and external worlds, the lungs command our self-defense system. When doing this practice, you may want to identify those healthy and unhealthy aspects of your life. Then you can nurture the good with the white mist, and purge the bad along with the toxins. Do this exercise slowly with focused concentration on one lung at a time. The unilateral emphasis is unusual since most qigong exercises are done for both lungs simultaneously, but that special concentration on one lung at a time increases the concentration of qi, which makes this a very powerful healing exercise. You can do this for the common chest cold and for all serious diseases of the lungs.
Begin with feet close together, hands crossed and touching the chest over the lungs. The right hand is over the left lung and the left hand is over the right lung.

Take a slow, relaxed breath and think of your lungs there under your hands. Make a mental connection between your hands and your lungs.

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Step to the side with the left foot.

Inhale, shift weight to the left leg so that the left lung is lined up over the left knee. At the same time, open the arms and slowly, swing the hands forward and then laterally out until the arms are extended to the side with fingers up and the palms facing away from the body. Left knee is bent, right knee is straight.

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Think of inhaling a white healing mist into the left lung only.

Exhale, step back to center with the left foot, straighten knees, the hands return to the chest, cross them so that the right hand is touching over the left lung. The left hand touches over the right lung.

Think of exhaling grey smoky toxins from the left lung only. Although both hands are touching your chest, your focused intention goes to the left lung only.

Repeat for the right lung by stepping to the right, etc. Do 8 repetitions, alternating left and right.

The complete set of Autumn Qigong exercises, along with suggested foods and herbs for seasonal health, are fully described and illustrated in chapter 8 of Qigong Through The Seasons.

Ronald H. Davis is an acupuncturist and chiropractor. He has been practicing Qigong since 1986 and is the founder of The Health Movement, a group of classes and educational materials designed to improve a person’s wellbeing through the use of traditional and complementary healthcare methods. Ronald offers classes in Qigong, Taiji and spinal healthcare and lives in Bozeman, Montana, USA.

 

Request a copy of the new US Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Catalog

Our brand new US Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Catalog is about to mail. If you’d like to receive a free copy, please sign-up for our mailing list and we’ll send a copy ASAP.

Take advantage of this opportunity to see Singing Dragon’s ever expanding list of authoritative books and resources. Acupuncture 2015 catalog 2Guohui Liu, M.Med., L.Ac.’s major new translation of the classic Shang Han Lun, Discussion of Cold Damage (Shang Han Lun): Commentaries and Clinical Applications, makes the foundational text fully accessible to English speaking clinicians for the first time. Rainy Hutchinson, an acupuncturist who runs her own clinic in Sheffield, UK, invites students to color and doodle their way through the sequence of images on each channel in her new book, The Acupuncture Points Functions Colouring Book. Longtime Singing Dragon author, Dr. David Twicken DOM, LAc provides a complete exploration of the theories and clinical applications of the Luo Collaterals, and the Shen and the five Shen in his newest book, The Luo Collaterals: A Handbook for Clinical Practice and Treating Emotions and the Shen and The Six Healing Sounds.

Click this link to sign-up to our mailing list and receive a catalog which features the above books and more.

For more information on Singing Dragon or to see our complete list of books and resources, please visit: www.singingdragon.com.

 

A revolution in understanding pain – interview with the author of ‘Pain is Really Strange’

Haines-PainIsReallyStrange

 

 

 

In this interview Steve Haines, author of Pain is Really Strange, discusses the topic of pain, he explains the reasons behind his choice to write a book about it using the graphic medium and tells us what people can do to manage pain.

Read the edited interview here:

Why do a book on pain?

There’s an awful lot of pain around. There was a huge survey done in Europe: 1 in 5 people experience chronic pain. They have persistent or severe pain for more than six months. For many of them, the median time was a number of years.

People manage large amounts of pain. Pain is a universal human experience; everybody knows what pain is.

The really exciting news is that there is a revolution in how we understand pain. The goal of the book is to try and explain that. How pain works is actually a little bit counterintuitive, a little bit strange. Some of the things that people think cause pain actually turn out to be not quite as central as folklore would have it.

Why do a graphic book on pain?

Education is a central tool in changing pain. The goal of using images it to make it light and really accessible. A good image can communicate an argument and idea very quickly. The book emerged from lots of lectures and talks I’ve given over the years. I have been endlessly trying to find creative ways of explaining how pain works to my clients and students.

I was incredibly lucky to meet Sophie Standing. I have really enjoyed how she’s visualized the work. She surprised me sometimes about how she took an idea that I’d been familiar with for a number of years and just showed it in a very different way.

I think that graphic novels can be very powerful tools. Pain Is Really Strange is short and sweet, 36 pages, but there’s an awful lot of information packed into the book. The images try and really crystallize ideas into something simple.

 Who is the book aimed at?

The book is for everybody. Everybody experiences pain, and I think everybody can learn from the new science. The current research can really help us change our idea and experience of what pain is, even really difficult chronic pain.

I would offer that everybody should be able to stand, walk, sit, and sleep, without issues. You might not be able to run a marathon anymore, and you might not have the best tennis serve that you had when you were in your 20s, but ordinary movements of sitting, standing, walking, lifting your shopping; it’s actually often possible to get people to a place where they can do those everyday functions with ease reasonably quickly. That makes a huge change in happiness and vitality

What is the central message of the book?

There is something that you can do to change your pain experience. There’s always a change in behaviour, a change in how you think, feel, move that can be used to creatively stimulate your brain to do something different.

The really central message is: think of pain as a bad habit or an alarm system that has gone wrong. Short-term it was very useful, but long-term chronic pain serves very little purpose. We can unlearn the pain habit. We can train our nervous system to respond differently to the information that’s coming in.

What is the hardest thing to explain about pain?

By saying: “Pain involves the brain,” people often feel that you’re saying that it’s their fault. That’s really not what I am saying. I like to talk about the mind, the brain, and the body. The mind is our consciousness, our awareness, our sense of self. The brain is in between the mind and the body. Pain is an output from the nervous system, not an input.

The brain can make mistakes. It gets into habits or reflexes. Evolution has taught us to respond to the threat of danger very, very quickly, and sometimes in those quick responses, we go down fixed, hard-wired, old patterns that are hard to break out of. But, and this is the important bit, reflexes and habits are responsive to new learning; we can learn to respond differently.

There’s no one answer to pain. For me that’s very exciting, but it can feel overwhelming and confusing. It implies that creativity, learning to do things differently, is possible. A complex nervous system will benefit from a multitude of responses. Culture, society, family, stress, how we eat, emotion and metabolic activity in our body are all deeply relevant to the pain experience.

What can people do to manage pain?

Mostly, it’s about being creative. Do something different. Whatever you’ve been doing, if you’re still in pain, it’s not working. Try a new approach. We can move differently, understand differently, feel differently, describe ourselves differently. The book explores some simple hints about how we might do those things, but the essence is change and creativity in response to the danger signal, and not going down fixed, hard-wired responses.

Understand that reflexes that were useful when you really needed to protect the tissues as they repaired are no longer useful after the tissues have repaired. Tissue repair takes no more than a few months. In chronic pain the nervous system needs recalibrating.

For me, the book is a very hopeful book; there is something you can do to change your pain experience. Pain isn’t about tissues. It’s about an alarm system in the nervous system that’s exaggerated and is no longer accurate about the state of the tissues.

Steve Haines, June 2015

Or listen to the full interview here. Linda from Singing Dragon asked Steve Haines some questions…

Steve Haines has been working in healthcare for over 25 years and as a bodyworker since 1998. He is the co-author of ‘Cranial Intelligence’ and author of the short graphic books ‘Pain Is Really Strange’ and ‘Trauma Is Really Strange’. Understanding the science of pain and trauma has transformed his approach to healing. He has studied Yoga, Shiatsu, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). He is a UK registered Chiropractor and teaches TRE and Cranial work all over the world. His treatments now use education, embodied awareness and light touch to help people move more freely and be more present. Steve lives and works between London and Geneva. 

Treatments: www.stevehaines.net Teaching TRE: www.trecollege.com Teaching Cranial: www.bodyintelligence.com Graphic Books: www.painisreallystrange.com

 

 

 

Summer energy urges us to get moving

Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.

Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:

“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.

During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”

Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.

Master your technology or it will master you

Noel Plaugher shares insight into the martial arts exercise featured in his new book, Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang, and encourages readers to be more present in the moment.

“My book is about a still form of exercise that incorporates mind and body, and I hope that aside from the physical, readers will take heart and embrace the idea of being in the present. It sounds cliché but it seems all of us are involved in everything but the world in front of us.

In our hectic and busy lives we forget that there must be moments where we stop for a time and look around us, or simply close our eyes and be in the present. I am not talking about having a full blown meditation on a commuter train, although what the heck, you may want to try it. I try often to do this, to have these small moments (not full blown meditation on a commuter train) as I work extraordinary hours and small breaks are nirvana to me. Even for a minute or two I have found it beneficial to walk outside look at the sun and sky, take a deep breath, and think about what is happening at this moment in time. It seems like the enemy for these moments are those devices which were sold to help us save time and make things easier. I haven’t really seen that materialize. Have you?

I am disappointed that all of the science fiction movies and TV I watched as a kid that painted such a rosy picture of the future, didn’t happen the way they described. I don’t mean the flying cars, which I guess, will never happen, I mean the promise of the ease of daily activities. The one thing I noticed in science fiction was that no one was ever in a hurry. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Floyd is briefing the others on the space station, they were completely relaxed. They were talking about other life in the universe and they could have been discussing color swatches for interior décor. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” And this is when Bowman is facing death in the vacuum of space! Sure, Star Wars has some excitement, but they are shooting lasers at each other. I don’t see that I have more leisure time because of technology, and that machines are doing things for me, so I can relax on the couch. Like most people I have ended up serving the machine! Now we work everywhere. Is that an advantage? Only to the work, I think.

We are all tethered to devices that are merciless task masters. ‘Ding!’ There is a text! ‘Swoosh!’ That is the email asking about the text. ‘Swoosh!’ There is that Facebook post from the kid who sat in back of me in high school. He found me on Facebook and now I look at his posts of his family vacation and ‘like’ pictures out of some kind of bizarre obligation. ‘Ding’ a text reminding me about something that I didn’t forget, but the text requires that I respond so that the other person doesn’t get offended. Now I insert the proper emoticon and…’Swoosh’ email arrives notifying me about a picture of a plate of food that someone thinks is incredibly important. With the internet, you can read just about everything ever written by Joseph Conrad, but we use it to send pictures of plates of food. For some reason we do all of this while life is streaming by and we give it barely a notice. What the heck!

These devices are so insidious they have wrapped their tentacles around our children as well. (or did we do the wrapping?) We are often found staring stoop shouldered at our palm size czars while our children are enthralled by a screen encompassing their entire field of vision, and we all MUST HAVE IT! What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Look at this device! Look at all the things it does! Perhaps we need to be asking if we need it to do all of these things.

I have stood talking to people looking at a phone, with earphones in their ears, and they have told me: ‘Don’t worry, I’m paying attention to you.’ Really? I beg to differ. Two of their senses are occupied and tasting me is out of the question.

Usually, we think of the phone or other device as our connection to the world, when in fact it is the exact opposite: It is our disconnection from the world. The world is happening in front of us and all around us. Do we even notice? Often I am criticized for not taking pictures of events. But I refuse to do it. I don’t want to document my life for myself or anyone else. I want to experience and live it. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think my life is all that interesting to anyone but me. A few events, may be worthy of note, but a daily dose of minutiae?

So are we disconnected? How disconnected can we be? Laws have had to be passed so that we don’t type one fingered messages to others while driving a one ton death machine on a public road! Now THAT is disconnected.

So what do we do? I don’t suggest turning your back on technology. That is unreasonable. I only think we need to be prudent in its use. Give attention to what is important, and realize that what you give your attention to, whether we realize it or not, is what is most important to you at that moment. Once when I was pushing my son on a swing and checking my email on my phone, I realized that what I was looking at was the most important thing to me at that moment. That really struck me, so I put it away and when I am interacting with my son I make sure I give him the same attention I demand of him.

What about emergencies? Let’s face it if we ever only used our devices for emergencies they would be dusty and full of cobwebs. If we put them away for a moment nothing will happen. Sadly, we all must realize that we are not as important as we think we are, and we are really only important to those close to us. How often do we give our time and attention to others at the expense of the ones that care about us?

So what do we do? There are small things we can do, and I have provided some suggestions below. However, having an overall awareness of the fact that we are making choices is important. We are not helpless, unless we choose to be.

These are some things that I have found useful.

  • When you are by yourself, periodically, at least once a day, turn off your phone, or at least the volume, and be alone with your thoughts. If you have to ask what you should think about, do this more often than you were originally planning.
  • Require full attention of those that interact with you. No checking texts while speaking with you. No glancing to see if anything came in. I have instituted a “walk away” policy for myself. If when speaking with someone they choose to do other things, so do I.
  • Do the same as above for others. (How often did I catch myself doing this stuff? Too often.)
  • Look in the night sky and try to find a constellation of any kind.
  • Look at the daytime sky and observe the clouds or anything that is there.
  • Stop and think about how you are right now. What do you feel?
  • If you don’t like your child spending so much time on a device, then make it stop.
  • Breathe deeply by inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5.
  • Choose to use technology to make your life easier and realize that nothing is an emergency but an emergency.

When I was writing my book I tried to talk about being present, as standing qigong is definitely something that helps cultivate this practice, but I wouldn’t want someone to think that they can’t simply start being present immediately. I hope you read my book and the others that are coming. Now, turn off your ringer and try the suggestion where you take in a breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5. Do it now. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Great! Now, without holding your breath, breathe out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There, that is it. Look around you. Look up, look down. This is where you are. Doesn’t that feel good? This is where you are.”