Do you say yes to presence with others or to your electronic device?

When I was in the rainforest in Costa Rica, my husband and I stayed at a beautiful eco lodge located in the primary forest by the Corcovado National Park. The lodge is the last inhabited place at the end of the road after which the jungle begins.  The owner, a woman originally from Colorado, came to chat with us towards the end of the stay.  When I shared that I helped people communicate from the heart in any situation, especially in difficult ones, she lit up. She spoke passionately about how she has noticed a significant difference in the way her guests communicate now.  She has lived in the jungle over 25 years.  About ten years ago, the dining room felt so alive, filled with people’s voices sharing their experiences about hikes, the animals they encountered and the kinds of lives they led back home.

Now, she notices that sense of aliveness in conversation is shifting. Since satellite Internet came in, she saw people giving more attention to their electronic devices than to one another. She made changes so that the Internet would be off during meal times. I could see the look of confusion in her face when she asked us “Can you believe people bring their phones to the table and don’t pay attention to what they eat or to the person with whom they are eating because they are glued to their little screens?” I said “yes, bringing phones to the table has become the norm” (feeling my own pain for doing that sometimes).

We talked about the sadness she felt that people traveled for days to get to her place, yet in their electronic absorption they missed the magnificence of the animals and lush vegetation all around them, or the splendor of the stars kissing the pitch dark night above the symphonic jungle.

 When we left the lodge, the owner came to hug us goodbye. Then she said: thank you for what you do; it is very important at this time because you are helping people stay human. As the way people communicate becomes more disconnected, they will need more reminders to speak from the heart.

 I left the rainforest with the intention of being more present to those around me; especially when I get together with them to share a meal. Since then, I have reflected a lot on the words I heard from this woman. Yes, communication is shifting among us, and we have the capacity to say “yes” to presence and “later” to our distracting electronic devices.

 So, I invite you to do a little test. One day, sit down to eat with your device next to you. Check your emails, social media, the news or watch videos until your plate is empty. If you are eating with someone share your screen with this person or just nod or say “uh hum” when they talk to you. Then, check how you feel. What is the felt sense in your body? Do you feel connected? Was this experience nourishing?

 Then, at another occasion, sit down to eat and leave your device out of sight and touch. When the food comes, look at it, smell it, see its colors. Look up and take in the environment you are in. If you are at a restaurant, notice people around you and the decor. If you are with others, see if you can give them your full attention when they speak. Ask them questions about their experience and then share something that matters to you. As you have them in front of you see if you notice something new in their expression, their face or their attire. Then, check how you feel. What is the felt sense in your body? Do you feel connected? Was this experience nourishing?

 

I will share with you how this test went for me when I hear how it was for you. I have a feeling that after this little test, you too will want to say “yes” to presence.