Updated: May 13, 2020
One part of this lockdown journey is unravelling for me: from social distancing to increased social media contact, average "screen time" saw a ghastly increase. At first, it felt important. To keep in contact, 'be in the know', and to lessen the sense of scariness and unfamiliarity in this time of unknown, by continuing to post, to chat and to scroll as normal.
But it started to change for me recently. Social Media has always threatened us with it's ever-looming 'dark side' - we're all aware of it, but we carry on by telling ourselves it's the best way to be in touch with society. However, in this pandemic, more than ever before, I saw more disconnect than connect, more arguments than conversation, more disagreement than openness, more need to be right than to simply listen. This pandemic has brought out the worst in some people's online personas, and for me, it began to make social media a very negative space.
Moreover than that I found myself wanting to check social media more than ever, but really, what was I checking for? I think without stimulation of being free to go out and do all those lovely things we're lucky enough to normally do, our brains started demanding more easy to grab dopamine hits instead. Which we can get from being in nature, exercise, reading, learning, creating, talking, being. But there's nothing quite like an instantaneous dopamine fix from a like or a follow or a comment. Instagram and Facebook are designed to be addictive: they are more thirsty for our attention than anything else, and they're continually being evolved to weave their sneaky little fingers into our brains, so that more and more, they are what we think about as soon as we wake up, all we want to scan through before we fall asleep, and in this lockdown, for me, to steal our time and energy in too much of the in between time too. How many times do you check your phone? When you come in from being outside, when you've just practiced yoga, just had a soul-soothing conversation with a loved one? How many times are we in a peaceful, soulful state, and then bam! The urge to 'just check' takes over us like a toddler desperately screaming for a sugar fix. And that previous sense of presence we felt only moments before has vanished, and our heads are now in the online world.
So I ask again, what are we checking for? And what do we ever really find? An entertaining meme, a spiritual quote, somebody's opinion or life update? And how do these things continually affect our energy and lives, and take us away from our authentic, good-enough, unique selves? How much do we think about social media: our next post, a comment someone wrote - what did they really mean by it? Did I reply the right way? Maybe if I'd said that I would have sounded cooler, or funnier, or lovelier.
And hmm, their captions, they always sound so wise and eloquent, I'll never sound like that, I'm not good enough.
And gosh, that yoga pose, I can't do that, I'm not good enough.
And wow, her body, I don't look like that, I'm not good enough.
And ahh, that couple. They look so happy. I'll never be good enough to have what they have.
And oof, that holiday, I'll never be able to afford that. I'm not good enough.
And her clothes! I need them. Else I'm not good enough.
And that feed, it's so cool and creative. Mine isn't good enough.
And their LIFE! It looks so good! Mine will never be good enough.
How much of this sounds familiar?
So I ask one more time, what are we checking for?
The online prison takes us out of the here and now, and takes us into a world of more, more, more. More popularity, more brain-junk, more time, more money, more comparison, more distraction, more falseness.
It isn't our fault. These platforms have been designed in a way that serves popularity and makes money and always, always, always has us going back for more. They have not been designed for our mental wellbeing, for our positive personal development nor our spiritual evolution. Quite the contrary, they get completely in the way of all that. We're led to believe that our little corner of the online universe is a space to be creative and liberating, but they can instead be confining, controlling and limiting. Without even realising fully, every single time we open an app, we are opening ourselves up to comparison and self-criticism. We are spending our precious life-time looking at other's lives rather than attending to our own. We may be developing an online profile, but potentially at the cost of not developing ourselves in real life. We can't heal, grow or evolve, if our main point of contact is our phone and not ourselves. Conversely, with more self-criticism than ever before fed to us by online projections, not only can we not grow towards our fullest potential, but perhaps, we shrink further away from it.
The typical response here is, 'yes but, social media is amazing, no, NECESSARY, for business nowadays.' Yes - aren't they clever? Facebook, which owns not only Facebook and Messenger, but Instagram and WhatsApp too - have become the four biggest business tools - reigning supreme above anything and making it almost impossible to thrive as a business without succumbing to a social media profile. If you're a small business like me, having a platform to draw in like-minded people, to let them know you exist and that you are offering something they may love, nay, something that could even be quite life changing for them - is totally amazing, it's revolutionary. But the fact it's also now absolutely NECESSARY, and it has been purposefully made this way, is devastating. Spiritually speaking, I would want to bring it back to how I started Samyama: I trusted word of mouth so deeply, I knew who needed to find me and my yoga sessions, would. And it's been completely, utterly amazing to branch out, expand, and therefore meet more and more of you than I ever would have without the help of social media. But it's come at a cost, which I'm only beginning to dig my head out of the choking social-media sand and be able to realise.
Personally, the online yoga world specifically, has become increasingly detrimental and distracting to my life and yoga philosophy. Online, yoga is pretty much about how GOOD it looks, hashtag #yogalooksgood, or who's the best at posting super advanced poses with the best spiritual quote or thought, hashtag #namaste. I found myself being hung up about what to talk about, how to inspire people, how to be a positive post along the feed, and which yoga pose would look good in a little square.
But this hasn't been, isn't now, nor ever will be what yoga is for me. Yoga is soulful living, in it's entirety. The physical asana practice is just one tiny limb of yoga, but presence, kindness, non-harm physically and mentally (directly and non-directly, e.g. eating meat/dairy cannot by achieved without harm), connection, healing, growth, development, enquiry, knowledge, consciousness, spiritual evolution and real, positive existence is what the lifelong practice of yoga truly entails. If we weigh everything on the physical practice, we may under prioritise these crucial elements.
Landing on your mat and just breathing for 10 minutes is yoga.
Rescuing a spider or a fly is yoga.
Doing something kind for someone is yoga.
Putting down your phone and coming back into the present moment is yoga.
Going for a walk in nature is yoga.
Reading is yoga.
Cleaning is yoga.
Laughing is yoga.
Silence is yoga.
Listening is yoga.
Loving is yoga.
Breathing is yoga.
Just b-e-i-n-g is yoga.
Yoga is loving presence, loving awareness.
Anything can be yoga if it is done with this all accepting, all loving mentality.
The physical practice helps you get to that place. The physical practice releases blockages in your body and systems which may be preventing you from getting to that place. The physical practice gets us out of our thinking minds and into our beautiful bodies; it helps us to remember how GOOD being alive feels. But every time we get lost in social media, we are distancing from our soul and preventing life-presence. We are trying, instead of being; we are there, rather than here; we are me, me, me, rather than the bigger, ego-less, "I".
I already feel calmer. The some 5 hours I would normally have spent today online will be spent doing things I "didn't have time for" before, like this blog! My brain is already being released from the addictive, dopamine-fix cravings, and mellowing at the thought of freedom and mind-space.
For now, I am praying that staying in touch with you all via email from Samyama will be enough. I am praying that my yoga is important and magnetic enough to keep you part of the Samyama family without constant posts and reminders that I exist!
Please know that I am still very much here to talk to, in fact even more so with all this extra time and headspace. So don't hesitate to get in touch through the website or if you have my number.
Thank you all so, so much for understanding, for continually supporting, and for reading this far! If there's anything from this you want to talk about further, just send me a message. Please remember that it is my personal account, a part of my own story right now, I cannot and am not speaking for anyone else. And this is a rant which feels right and true for me in this time, if I feel like returning to social media down the line and choose to do so, as long as my intentions are healthy and positive, and I promise myself regular, honest check-ins about staying true to these intentions, I will allow myself to do so. Never say never, but I am extremely curious and optimistic about where my journey, hashtag #IRL, goes from here.
Miss and love you all,
See you in the online zoom studio!