Are You Suffering from Information Overload?

Clear communication is vital to foster healthy relationships, but in the advent of the Internet and social media, the way we communicate have changed. The question is: are we improving our communication skills or are we drifting further apart? There are no simple answer to this question, but one thing that is certain is that we all have access to a lot of information. What we do with it and how we engage with it is a very personal matter.

The Museum of Communications in Bern, Switzerland currently has an exhibition which is running to the 15th of July 2012, that is trying to raise awareness about the amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis and the influence this has on our mental health and well-being. They reckon that the amount of data released daily is equal to 12, 000 books per individual on earth. It is a shocking amount of data and it makes me wonder. . . How much of this do we need to live happy, fulfilling lives? Will this improve communication with our friends, family, work colleagues? How much new information are we really capable of processing daily? How do we sift through information to find the relevant truths it hold for us and our lives? Does the information we are exposed to scare us, inhibit us, or does it free us?

In the exhibition visitors are asked to complete survey forms that measure the amount of information overload they are suffering from, and then, depending on the results, walk through either a green, yellow, orange or red door to receive the relevant ‘treatment’. The green door is for those with no problem, the yellow door for those who are “mildly troubled”, while the orange and red door are for more serious cases. The orange door opens up to a space where visitors can take a walk through ‘nature’: wooden walls and a floor of pebbles greet them, while soothing sounds of birdsong and flowing water further help to calm the senses. Behind the red door is a meditation room. . .

Patanjali in his 8-limb yoga system has the perfect solution for anyone suffering from information overload, namely pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. It is said that the senses follow the mind in the same way as bees follow their queen. It doesn’t matter if the mind turns inward or outward, the senses will simply follow. It is through our senses that we can delight in the bounty of life, but our senses can also enslave us and tire us out. It is when, during meditation, we start to practise pratyahara that we gain control over our lives. Smooth, deep, quiet and steady breathing without pausing, as well as a comfortable seated posture are the necessary ingredients and first step towards developing pratyahara. When our senses aren’t stimulated, but disengaged and we experience an inner calm and expansiveness, we are experiencing pratyahara.

Like so many things in yoga it may be easy to understand the principle, yet so much harder to engage in the practice for lasting personal transformation to take place. When we withdraw our senses it means that we stop to engage with the images our minds conjure up, but it doesn’t mean that we should try to suppress these or stop them from happening. Our thoughts should be allowed to flow through our consciousness. It is when we manage to not attach any emotions or specific images to our thoughts that they fail to stimulate the senses, and as a result our minds will slow down and we can connect with the True Self. It is through the continual practice of pratyahara that we can deepen our experience of dharana (concentration), dhayana (meditation), and samadhi (bliss).

So how do you engage with the information that flood your world on a daily basis?

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2 Comments

  1. December 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Loved your post, thanks for that! I found that one of the easiest ways of practising pratyahara is staying in an ashram. No phone, no mail, no emails, no internet. You hand over your cell phone upon arrival. It’s wonderful. So much time to meditate, breathe. Just to BE. 🙂

    • December 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm

      I’ve never had the privilege of an ashram experience. It sounds great though. I am going to the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh next year, but I suspect that my senses will be stimulated with the “newness” of my surroundings…


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