Please only read this when you are present and have the space and time. Also realise that I am not a professional writer and struggle to put such ideas down with any real clarity. This is just food for thought and a catharsis for me :)
Origami is the paper folding art form from Japan. As a beginner one can take a sheet of paper and follow pre-folded lines to make an astonishing creation. Making folds on the wrong lines however starts a cascading collapse into something of a disaster.
Humans seem to be like Origami. We have inherent within us pre-folded lines, that when followed lead to beautiful expressions. These lines are simple things such as adequate sleep, water, food shelter, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, social connectivity and purpose etc…Yet very few, manage to follow these lines. We seem susceptible to making it more complicated than it perhaps needs to be. None more so than this year! Chaos abounds at every turn and the wheels are seemingly falling off all possibility of sense-making.
I was an impressionable teenager when the French Government sent their secret service to bomb an environmental ship used for protesting Nuclear testing in the pacific. It was moored in Auckland harbour and they murdered an innocent civilian. From that moment on I was what my father referred to disparagingly as a “greenie” although to be honest, it was the pure greed and arrogance on behalf of the French that spurred me on more so than any deep understanding of the nature of the environment.
This special year we are in, has coaxed greater self-reflection on what constitutes my wellbeing. My trip to the west coast of the South Island showed me first hand the heartiness of being in nature. Not just in some conceptual sense but in the deepest recesses of my being. Crossing the alps traveling eastwards, you see the land laid bare through farming.
All those trees and forests, gone! In a world where a whale is of more value dead than alive and a tree is of more value cut down and cleared to enslave animals, runaway capitalism is driving us at full speed over the edge of the climate cliff. This all seems old news now, last year's concerns.
This year however has drawn my awareness to a new frontier being raped and pillaged, our attention! Fifteen years or so ago this new frontier was emerging and much like the colonial era it was a first come first served, carve-up of resources, in this case, your attention, by the modern-day cowboys of Facebook and Google etc.. What started with emails and txts quickly evolved into smartphones and apps, with the brightest minds in the world designing algorithms to keep “harvesting” your attention. Ten mins a day quickly turned to 30 mins to literally hours of your most valuable resource. If you wish to do anything creative, to study, read a book, exercise, visit friends or practice yoga, you need your attention. The more they capture your attention the more money they make. Insidiously these tech companies have realised that it is going to be more profitable for their bottom line if the consumer is outraged, polarised, and addicted. Facts and conversations are just not as engrossing and it’s a race to the bottom of the brainstem.
In the same way we have seen the effects unbridled capitalism has had on our environment, we are seeing first hand this year to what the last 15 years of harvesting, mining and commodifying our attention is having in this social experiment we gave no permission to partake in. Turning us against ourselves, dividing our community into groups, alienation, anxiety, mental and physical health issues are suffocating our wellbeing. These unnatural Origami type folds against our pre-folded lines, leaving us in quite a state.
I have been blessed with a practice that has taught me that my attention is sacred. I can go to my mat or to class and be in silence, disconnected from a team of 25-year-old geniuses trying to shape my reality and convince me that my phone is more interesting than being healthy. Becoming aware of this asymmetry of power is just the beginning.