My partner and I led a yoga retreat recently in the North Cascades. The retreat was attended mostly by women, which is normal for yoga and other healing arts. Nationwide, about 80% of the estimated 35 million people doing yoga are women. What started as a male dominated spiritual practice in India hundreds or even thousands of years ago is now dominated by women.
Why this is confuses me a bit. Men, even more than women, can benefit from meditation, breathing and moving their bodies in ways the encourages full embodiment, in other words, getting out of the head. And perhaps here is the problem or challenge.
All of us—women and men—live too much in our heads and egoic minds, overly thinking and planning and controlling. When we do this, like underused muscles, our intuition and heart and instincts do not get the practice they deserve for us to live healthy and wise. Men tend to live even more in the head and mind, which causes us much pain, suffering, separation and frustration.
On this recent retreat, we had two men out of 18, and they both left early. One of the men told me that he had a difficult time even signing up, because of his concern that we were asking people to unplug from their technology. He finally agreed to come, but only if we were okay with him leaving early.
Although he was clearly attached to his technology, there was a revelation. He excitedly told me on the last morning of the retreat that he appreciated the time offline. He confessed that it was the first time in 10 years he had been unplugged. I thought he was exaggerating, but he clarified by saying that every single day for the last 10 years, he had been wired, even on airplanes, which is one place we used to be able to escape our addiction to technology. I was amazed, and he too seemed amazed that he could survive 48 hours without checking texts and email.
One woman was also not so happy with being unplugged. She later sent me a scathing email saying she felt lied to that she was not informed there would be no wireless for a whole 48 hours. Even though there was a free phone for anyone to contact loved ones, being unplugged apparently was a crisis.
I too admit that I am hooked. The internet has made my work so much easier, allowing me to connect with retreat centers and clients all over the world, virtually for free, in present time. I could not imagine organizing retreats all over the world without it.
Yet I know it is sapping my energy and keeping me from being present, from deeper connection with friends, from walking my dog, and from feeling the feelings that long to be experienced fully.
So, like all of us, I play with this beauty and beast. I play with this elusive thing called balance. I try to notice how I feel when wired—which is often just that—wired, a tad anxious, shoulders stooped, unaware of my feet and the Earth and the dog and the ones I love. And I also thank this wonderful technology, while keeping a wary eye on it, and my behavior.