Wisdom 2.0: Seeking Authentic Connection

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How do you reconcile your quest for inner peace with your Facebook habit? Can you stay mindful while dealing with the 200 e-mails in your in-box? These questions--and others like them--were pursued in lively conversation this past weekend at Wisdom 2.0, a conference in Silicon Valley hosted by Soren Gordhamer.

A former technology junkie, Gordhamer believes technology and wisdom practices can work together for the well-being of humanity. "What does it mean to live wisely and also stay connected with technology?" he asked a series of panelists and speakers, including executives from Google and Twitter, as well as spiritual thinkers such as Zen Abbot Roshi Joan Halifax, and Yoga Journal's Editor-in-Chief Kaitlin Quistgaard.

No one at the conference claimed to have the ultimate answers, but it was inspiring to see leaders in the technology industry deeply considering how the tools they create impact mind and soul.

Should we Unplug?

Attention is a finite--and invaluable--asset according to Bradley Horowitz, who manages Google's communication products, including Gmail, and who speaks openly of his own 25-year spiritual practice. "You may not be able to turn Gmail off," he said (although, he joked "in my case I can turn all of Gmail off!") "But you can step away from the computer and create space for yourself."

Consciously managed technology offers positive opportunities for connection, says Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist and strategic advisor at Twitter. But, Sacca, who has 1.3 million followers on Twitter, chooses the time and manner in which he wants to be available online. Rather than responding to every message, he asks himself: "How am I going to be most useful in a macro sense?"

Stay Connected, Stay Flexible

Meditative practices are making their way into the offices of many of these companies. Twitter's Chief Technology Officer Greg Pass leads a class at Twitter that he calls "Twittiokinetics," where employees participate in a form of qigong. And at Google, Gopi Kallayil leads a weekly yoga class for a group of students he calls the "Yoglers." He suggests trying to meditate at least 20 minutes a day. But, he said--quoting Google's Meng Tan, who leads the company's personal growth classes--"if you can't meditate for 20 minutes, do it for one breath."

The Most Important Connection

While no one denied the marvel of connectivity that technology allows, the conference discussion underlined the challenge of staying present in this hyper-connected environment. No matter how many online friends or followers you have, Google's Kallayil reminded conference participants, "The most important connection each of us needs to have is the one with ourselves."

--Carmel Wroth