Tag Archive: books

I have been looking forward to this book since Alex first told me he was working on it (he was kind enough to agree to serve on the advisory board for a project I planned).

The book doesn’t disappoint. OK, that’s an understatement. It’s one of those books I wish I had written.

Even though this is a book about the dangers of technology use, it is not one of those panicked, hopeless, technology-hating arguments. It is a guide for making the best out of technology – for using it rather than being used by it.

The book’s premise rests in the idea of the extended mind, a concept Alex reframes as entanglement with technology. At its best, entanglement is a state of feeling the body and mind being pleasantly and seamlessly extended by technology – perceiving technology as part of oneself, just like a skilled skier perceives the skis as part of herself when zooming down a slope. This kind of entanglement has been happening since the beginning of history and tool use. Whether you use skis, an axe, a bicycle, a pen, a car, or a computer, you can have that sense of it extending your human abilities, being a part of yourself. However, there are times when entanglement goes wrong, and technology feels like a pair of broken, uncomfortable, awkward high-heel shoes. Then, it becomes an extension of yourself that hinders movement, an arm that doesn’t obey the brain’s commands; a cause of frustration and stress.

The book is grounded in solid Western empirical research as well as Eastern thought and practice. It combines the two to propose a guide for the positive kind of entanglement. In the last chapter, it offers 8 principles for doing so:

  1. be human
  2. be calm
  3. be mindful
  4. make conscious choices
  5. extend your abilities
  6. seek flow
  7. engage with the world
  8. restore your capacity for attention

The book ends beautifully and hopefully:

“You are the inheritor of a contemplative legacy that you can use to retake control of your technology, to tame the monkey mind, and to redesign your extended mind. Connection is inevitable. Distraction is a choice.”

The question remains, how easy and feasible is the plan proposed in this book? I find it feasible, but not necessarily easy. It requires some training of executive attention (aka mindfulness) that might take a while to develop, and demands commitment to regular practice.

Summer reading: Yoga Bitch

I just finished reading Yoga Bitch – and I guess I’m really enjoying the Yoga memoir genre. The book was very funny and some moments were so “out there” that I was really surprised to get to the end and figure out it was a memoir, not a piece of fiction!

Too often, I find in yoga circles this unconditional acceptance of ideas and behaviors that would benefit from questioning… all this in the name of being nice, or yogic. Morrison brings a healthy skepticism to her yoga adventure. I identified with the critical examination (even of things she could not control, such as the relationship with Indra, her yoga teacher), humor, and -gasp! how un-yogic!- her sarcasm. The word “bitch” in the title makes it clear that these questioning attitudes are considered un-yogic in the nouveau hippie, new age, starry-eyed contemporary yoga ethos.

To me, her relationship with Indra was the most complex part of the book that shed light on an important dynamic that seems to happen a lot after we have imported yoga – but not all its social structures and practices – into the West. But that idea of the guru in the West deserves a post of its own.

I’m thinking my friend Karen would enjoy this book – or maybe even be able to write a funnier one! 🙂 I really want to send her my copy, except it’s in iBooks…

Overall, nice read, very entertaining, light yet a bit thought-provoking.