Friday, September 26, 2014

Slow Technology

You've probably already heard of the Slow Food movement. Recently, I read an article* in Taproot Magazine about “Slow Fashion.” This is an interesting construct. Instead of buying clothing that is mass marketed, you artfully mend and sew clothes using old garments. The clothes are very beautiful and comfortable looking.

This post is not about my giving up modern technology for a period of time and using antiquated forms of it. I'm not leaving my smartphone at home. I’m not going off the grid. I won't be taking a typewriter to Starbucks to see what typing on carbon paper is like. I won't be asking around for 8-track tape players. I won't be communicating only using snail mail. I do believe that at some point I will be trying these things and then writing about the experience for my blog. But I'm not going to do it today.

I have an iPhone 4. I have a first-generation iPad. Our family shares an iMac from 2009.

One STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) oriented member of my family is chagrined that I continue to use the iPhone and iPad. As far as he is concerned, I might as well be living on Little House on the Prairie, churning butter, or cobbling.

Since I am comfortable with these devices and am familiar with them, I see no point in randomly replacing them. When they break or become unusable, then I will do so. I've said this many times before. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Most of the time, things work just fine. But sometimes, small bad things happen. I've noticed that these small bad things annoy me a lot. Sometimes I even get angry and have a little meltdown.

The other day, I became mindful of the stress this was causing me several times a day.

The stress response comes because sometimes the Internet in my apartment becomes slow and spotty for a period of time. Sometimes, I have to take it off the WiFi and use the 3G. In any case, this phenomenon causes very slow loading of website pages. I'll have to wait around to see what I've Googled.

Other things happen because my equipment is getting old. Things will act buggy. Apps will randomly quit. My curser will get stuck. They'll be a spinning wheel and I have to re-start. Attempting to comment on someone's Facebook post will get trippy.

These things are all annoying, but none of it is that bad. Really, the problem is that I have to wait. I'm like everyone else who uses this technology. I want instant gratification.

All of this type-A impatience with technology is habitual in spite of my being a very patient person when it comes to other things. I rarely lose my temper with my children. If we are in the car and stuck in bad traffic I'm cool as long as there's good music and conversation.

Once I started to notice behaviors ranging from under my breath profanity to blowing my stack, I started wondering if there was a different way to respond.

So I tried something new. I was using my iPad and a website I'd visited was taking its time to load. I closed my eyes and took 10 deep breaths. I inhaled slowly. I exhaled slowly. Then I opened my eyes.

The website made some progress but wasn't fully loaded. So I closed my eyes again and repeated this. By the time I opened them a second time the website was fully loaded. I was in a calm state as I perused a very artistic and inspiring website.

It was so pleasant and relaxing I tried it with restarting, slow Internet, app crashing, YouTube loading and all manner of temporary technology issues that involve having to wait for something.

So this is what I’m doing. I'm going to manage my expectations regarding my technology. Sometimes things will work perfectly. However, I am not intrinsically entitled to things working this way every time. Sometimes things will be slow. Sometimes, I'll have to start again.

Any time I'm waiting around for technology is my deep breathing time. Already it is transforming my relationship with my iPhone, iPad and iMac. Because of my deep breathing, there is something good that comes out of needing to wait.

The longest I've done any deep breathing so far has been about a minute. The minute hasn't even been all at once. I'm basically checking the progress of the electronics about every 10 breaths.

I'd have to be under a rock not to know that deep breathing and mediation are having a major moment right now. However, these short sessions are not what I'm seeing recommended in articles or literature.

I've tried what the conventional wisdom says. You start by sitting for five minutes. You pay attention to your breath and breathe deeply in and out. Anytime your attention wanders from your breath, you bring it back. It doesn't matter how many times this happens. You gradually work up to 30 minutes.

One of my biggest problems with even five minutes of this is that I can feel my own heart beating. This is something I'd rather not be so aware of. I'm aware of it when I do cardio, but it doesn't bother me then. But when I'm sitting still I don't like the sensation.

Many people would say that I should live with this discomfort. Try to just bring my attention back to my breath every times notice my heart beating. The problem is that I'm just too disconcerted by my heart beating in such an obvious way.

The other thing I love about deep breathing while waiting for technology to cooperate is that I am not just sitting and breathing. I am not just sitting and waiting for the spinning wheel to stop. I'm combining these two things. I'm multitasking.

It appears that I'm not committed to an all out meditation practice at this time. But I am committed to taking some of what's been swirling around and applying it to really slow Internet. I'm not flying off the handle every time things get twitchy with my old iPad. There’s a silver lining to imperfect Apple products. In my book, that's really saying something.

*'Mendfulness' by Katrina Rodabaugh 

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