During my desert retreat, it was wonderful to experience the deepening of awareness that naturally occurs whenever I spend time in silence and solitude. I felt so grounded, so much in touch with cosmic realities. Stripped of social expectations, free from the internet, and surrounded both by the intimate embrace of the canyons and the expansiveness of the desert, I could finally breathe free.
During Thanksgiving dinner, a day before my retreat began, my nephew and I were discussing the change in consciousness that has come as a result of the social media lifestyle that most of us have become engaged in. I was describing to him the fact that I've noticed a pattern develop where a person begins by making a point via Facebook, Instagram or email. I then write them privately to ask them to expound on the topic. They invariably respond by saying something like "Oh, I would really have to sit down and THINK about that," and then the topic gets dropped. This pattern has occurred numerous times, and it has really perplexed me. It seems to indicate the fact that going deep with people is often quite difficult these days. During our conversation, my nephew observed that modern consciousness has become much more horizontal, spread out among a multitude of different social interactions. "Going deep in any one interaction," he pointed out, "seems almost a violation of that incessant need to 'keep attention moving.' "
Then, while on retreat, I read Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche talk about the fact that even though our horizontal connections - via internet and social media - have increased substantially, people these days often seem more lonely. They obviously continue to maintain their group of close, in-person friends, but more and more time is consumed with internet connections. For myself, I notice that I tend to schedule less coffee times with friends than I once did. Much of the time that used to be spent with in-the-flesh interactions now is funneled into internet communications. These can, of course, be wonderful, and I have met many amazing people via the "World-Wide-Web." But somehow, giving a surplus of attention to "Likes" and short snippets of communication via text on a screen can't substitute for in-depth conversation.
During my retreat, I also pondered the fact that I can be such a dull "clod" when it comes to intuiting the true intentions of other people. My recent discovery that I had indeed NOT been laid off from my adjunct teaching position at Naropa University - despite what a person in the Religious Studies Department had earlier told me - gives ample evidence of this fact. Sometimes I chuckle and shake my head at how clueless I can be at discerning the true motives and intentions of other people. However, my glaring lack in this area has led to a natural funneling of the energy into pondering more COSMIC aspects of our life here on earth. Other people sometimes grow impatient with my philosophical and spiritual bent (they often claim I'm too much "in my head" and "too intense"), but this is simply who I am, and it is a large part of my calling here on earth.
My point is this: a disappointment with the relatively shallow nature of much modern internet-based communication, combined with my lack of awareness of the true intentions of other people, has given me increased reason to focus a surplus of attention on the deeper, more cosmic realities of life. During the past four days in the desert, it was wonderful to "come home" to who I really am :)
Photo: Meditation gong in the mini-slot canyon next to my campsite at Arches National Park, UT, November 29, 2015
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.