Life’s intelligence, received through our inner guidance, is habitually interrupted or camouflaged by the mind’s chatter. A reflection of this same process is occurring worldwide, where we find ourselves in the midst of a highly magnified “technology takeover.”
The universal use of technology, much like our addiction to thinking, has resulted in a constant current of information interrupting the “flow” of our life. This intrusive pattern was initially marketed as “call-waiting” for our phones. But now our eyes, ears, and fingers are glued to our technology 24/7, searching for information on the web. We are bombarded by emails, texts, tweets, or the news feeds on our Facebook pages. My friend Ron refers to this technology as “weapons of mass distraction.”
But how is this mass distraction affecting our degree of presence and ability to attend to the everyday demands of life? According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation report, children from eight to eighteen spend an average of seven hours and thirty-eight minutes a day using entertainment media. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has continued to rise at an alarming rate for more than a decade. In addition, a study published in the August 2010 issue of Pediatrics found that exposure to screen media was associated with attention problems in a sample of 210 college students. But it does not stop there. According to the late Dr. Paul Pearsall, a psychoneuroimmunologist and New York Times bestselling author, all of us have become media frenzied and have developed a form of adult attention deficit disorder (AADD).
The distraction is just part of the larger picture. Dealing with a horde of daily text messages and emails makes it difficult for us to be by ourselves when all that activity stops. Although a sense of loneliness is natural at times, our addiction to the nonstop interaction afforded by technology amplifies that feeling when access to the technology is unexpectedly unavailable. Just think how you feel when you lack cell phone or web access. Is it possible that our obsession with continually checking our emails and text messages has contributed to our inability to genuinely relate with others and find contentment without constant stimulation?
Fundamental Communication and Social Skills
Aside from the impact of technology on our attention and our ability to be at ease in the absence of our technology, let’s examine how interacting with our devices interferes with the development of our fundamental communication and social skills. Many researchers observe that everyday conversation between human beings is becoming increasingly rare. Consider how often we speak to each other on the phone or have face-to-face conversations versus how often we communicate via text or email.
Those of us born before the age of computers and smartphones naturally developed these social skills because much of our life depended on directly communicating with each other. But all that has now changed, impacting our children in ways we cannot imagine.
Many parents are so busy interacting with their handheld devices that they often give their children electronic games to soothe and entertain them instead of personally interacting with them. As a result, many of today’s children are growing up with a built-in dependence on gadgetry, making it difficult for them to feel comfortable in everyday social situations. Often they find it challenging to make eye contact or deal with even the simplest face-to-face interactions without the aid of technology as an intermediary.
Over time these children forget how to relate with each other because they have become habituated to using technology to avoid direct contact with others and life itself. In fact, some neuroscientists believe that use of the internet actually rewires our brains.
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Information Is Not Wisdom
We live in an age of information, but information is not wisdom. Information is transmitted from the head to the head. But wisdom is communicated by the heart. Wisdom comes from direct experience, and direct experience comes through interacting with each other and the world. During face-to-face interactions we transmit primal, nonverbal cues that subconsciously communicate critical information. These signals, transmitted through the eyes, facial expressions, body language, and pheromones, elicit instinctive responses that have evolved over millions of years. These highly evolved non-verbal communication skills allow us to function successfully in the world, and they only take place in the presence of each other.
The more we attach to technology, the less we bond with one another and the more we diminish our ability to cope with the everyday stressors of life. Unfortunately, we have become so dependent on our devices that many of us find it difficult to function if we are unplugged, even for a relatively short period.
We used to spend time with people face-to-face so we could look into their eyes and feel their presence. Now much of that has been replaced by emails, texts, and if we are lucky, video calls.
Modern technology has very efficiently taken control of our lives. But it is only a reflection of the ego’s proficiency in doing the same thing. The inner occupation by the virtual “me” is now echoed by technology everywhere we look. Is this called “creating our own reality”? If so, what is the value of this reality and how do we make use of the wonderful technology we have developed without injuring our health, happiness, and connection with nature?
Many years ago, when I was in optometry school, I was introduced to the concept of near-point stress. This occurs when our eyes are confined to a two-dimensional plane for prolonged periods while reading or computing, and is characterized by physiological changes associated with stress. The reason this occurs is that humans are genetically designed and neurologically wired to see the world in a three-dimensional form. Any activity or environment that creates a mismatch between our genetic design and our life’s preoccupation creates stress, reducing our quality of life and potentially contributing to disease.
When your vision is confined, you feel imprisoned, as if you have lost your freedom. That can lead to a variety of stress-related symptoms and aberrant behaviors. Individuals who commit crimes are typically incarcerated in small cells without windows and given limited time outdoors. Violent criminals are confined in visually restricted solitary confinement for as much as twenty-three hours a day, where their eyes cannot escape confinement and see the light of day.
Restricting the expanse of our three-dimensional vision by focusing on our cell phones or computer monitors for extended periods is like being in an elevator for too long and wanting to escape. The human eye is primarily intended for distance vision. But since so much of our time is spent looking at our computer screens and cell phones, our eyes end up working too hard and, without frequent breaks, experience fatigue, which often leads to myopia and astigmatism.
As a result of the widespread use of computers and handheld devices, deteriorating vision is now the world’s largest health epidemic and is continuously growing. Ian Morgan of Australian National University reported in the journal Lancet that up to 90 percent of young adults in China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea are nearsighted. These statistics further confirm a 2009 National Eye Institute study that found an alarming 66 percent increase in the incidence of myopia in the United States since the early 1970s.
Scientists know that a person’s environment is related to whether they develop myopia, and believe that staring at computer screens and cell phones is a major contributor to this epidemic. However, a new Australian study published in October 2015 has demonstrated that vision worsens in nearsighted children who spend less time outdoors. Based on the results of this study, the researchers recommend that children spend at least one to two hours per day outdoors to prevent nearsightedness or slow its progression.
A Shrinking World-View?
This significant increase in the number of young people becoming myopic is quite telling. Just look through a pair of glasses used by a nearsighted person and you will notice that they make everything appear smaller and closer. The underlying reason for nearsightedness is that the person has literally shrunk their world-view in response to unnatural socially accepted demands, and the prescription in their glasses just mimics the perceptual adaptation they have made.
Since the use of computers and handheld devices significantly diminishes our field of perception, it is easy to see how the prolonged use of those technologies can cause a perceptual adaptation. The more we focus on digital technology at close distance, the more visual stress we create. And the more our perception narrows, the less we see, remember, and learn, resulting in less efficiency in our working lives, contrary to what the sellers of this technology tell us.
During a recent visit to New York City, I became aware of how modern technology was impacting our most fundamental human functions, including vision, hearing, sensitivity, health, and mortality. I was able to see the impact of this firsthand as I rode the subways. Most people were wearing earbuds as they focused on their smartphones, unconsciously compressing their peripheral vision to the size of their screen.
I also noticed that hardly anyone on the street or subway made eye contact. Yet only eye contact fully activates the parts of the brain that allow us to accurately perceive, process, and interact with others and our environment. When we make eye contact with another person, we literally exchange our light with them, which is why we can often sense someone looking at us before we see them. Even the brains of individuals who are legally blind get measurably activated when somebody looks at them.
But it is not just eye contact that allows us to see each other’s light. Native Hawaiians traditionally acknowledge each other’s divinity, or light, by sharing their breath. This ancient ritual, referred to as sharing ha (the breath of life), is done when welcoming a guest and is performed by both people pressing together the bridge of their noses while inhaling at the same time.
In an age when human contact has, in many ways, been supplanted by wireless connections, and collaboration has been replaced by competition, we must never forget our universal need for connection with each other and the world we live in.
Copyright ©2018 by Jacob Israel Liberman.
Reprinted with permission from New World Library
Luminous Life: How the Science of Light Unlocks the Art of Living
by Jacob Israel Liberman OD PhD
We are all aware of the impact of sunlight on a plant’s growth and development. But few of us realize that a plant actually “sees” where light is emanating from and positions itself to be in optimal alignment with it. This phenomenon, however, is not just occurring in the plant kingdom — humans are also fundamentally directed by light. In Luminous Life, Dr. Jacob Israel Liberman integrates scientific research, clinical practice, and direct experience to demonstrate how the luminous intelligence we call light effortlessly guides us toward health, contentment, and a life filled with purpose.
About the Author
Dr. Jacob Israel Liberman is a pioneer in the fields of light, vision, and consciousness and the author of Light: Medicine of the Future and Take Off Your Glasses and See. He has developed numerous light and vision therapy instruments, including the first FDA-cleared medical device to significantly improve visual performance. A respected public speaker, he shares his scientific and spiritual discoveries with audiences worldwide. He lives on Maui, Hawaii.
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