We’re lying on our backs on big slabs of rock beside a burbling creek in Sedona, Ariz., as our meditation instructor, Saith Gangadean, talks to us soothingly about the need to connect with nature and be present in the moment.
We must learn to live in the now, he says, his voice like honey. The sun pours lovingly. The sky sighs.
But, in my head, a nasty little voice screams.
Check it! Check your email! You heard a ping, didn’t you? Check it check it check it check it…
As I snake my fingers into my pocket to pull out my phone, I catch Saith walking near me and gently push it back into my pocket.
Jump up and down! Wave your hand at the sky! Get a signal!
The virulent little voice accompanies me on all my trips, but this time it has become inflamed by the sheer gluttony of available gadgetry.
Push Saith down! He’s blocking the signal!
It’s my own fault. I’m among a dozen or so journalists Sony has invited to Sedona, 188 kilometres north of Phoenix. We’re here for a hands-on peek at Sony’s latest cameras, camcorders, tablets and e-readers at the resort L’Auberge de Sedona. I thought the trip would be a fun getaway, mixing business with pleasure.
But no matter where I try and escape, all the demands of the online and electronic world are echoed by this tiny, bossy voice and its calls for constant connectedness.
Shut your pie hole! I want stock alerts! Weather forecasts! Sports scores!
It is the voice of my growing inner nerd, a raging Pac-Man that threatens to take me over completely. It wants to digitize the world, record it, break it down into pixels and texts and apps and emails, and filter it through screens. In this pretty little spot in Sedona, it just won’t stop.
I want my, I want my, I want my TMZ…
Sedona is a playground for mountain biking, hiking, hot-air ballooning and specialty tours that include group meditations in beautiful surroundings. While doing all that outside, I’ve also tried the Cyber-shot camera, the Bloggie Camera, the PlayStation-certified Tablet S with its Android operating system and the world’s lightest e-Reader, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi, which works great in sunlight.
Ha! Product placement!
The outdoors meditation, though, allows me and anyone else who tries this kind of relaxing activity to hit the pause button. As Saith guides us, we’re meditating on the brilliantly blue Sedona sky, the signature red rocks given colour by iron and sandstone, the creek, our breath and the breeze.
That breeze smells like…Wi-Fi! Get up! Wave your arms!
“We’ve got to get still,” intones Saith. “We are so used to stimulus all the time. Let’s take a while. Let’s focus on nature. You’ve been hearing about Sedona’s subtle energy, so how are we going to tune into this energy?”
“Just take a moment to feel the sunlight on your skin, that is real,” says Saith, extending his arms. “Feel the soft caress of the air, that is real. Listen to the birds and the creek, that is real, and that’s how we tune in.”
Shut him up! The Meditation Man lies! Real nature is Angry Birds!
“The mind is allowed to run wild because we have desensitized to our sensual experiences,” says Saith. “There is a full-blown sensational experience happening right now, without any gadgets involved. Feel your breath, the sun, the wind, the water, the earth. We’re alive!”
In that moment, I achieve a shift in my consciousness. I feel as if something has broken through, giving me a whole new understanding of what it means to be human. Every word Saith has said rings true.
I know, because my meditation app says so.
When the old man and the sea collide
He’s a bottom-feeder, a scourge, a muscled goon who’s gone a bit grey in the gills. But he can still take a right hook like he’s chewing candy, spit it back at you and float just out of reach so that you can’t touch him. To dismiss him is a grave mistake. He’s a fighter. And, this time, you’re his prey.
“Hey, Mike, have you ever fished before?”