I returned yesterday from a natural healing resort called Kairali in the old Kerala town of Palakkad. The resort is a sort of Ayurvedic hospital with rooms designed in special ways to maximise ease and healing, lots of massage treatment rooms, a herb garden, an organic vegetable garden, and in-house Ayurvedic doctors. The food served is mostly vegan with a few dairy-based desserts once in a while. No black tea and coffee! (So I had mild withdrawal symptoms for the first couple of days.)
Anyhow, one of the main things that stuck with me about the stay was a conversation with the ancient old resident doctor at the resort. He was so old, he would fall asleep at his table when no one was looking. But he was so sharp, he knew just what was happening around the world in terms of lifestyle and technology. And some of the things he said really had me sit up thinking.
For one, he said that people who work all day on the computer have a whole new set of problems, both mental and physical. The latter because offices are designed uniformly with all computer terminals at the same level and chairs of the same dimensions. But human bodies are individual and different so one size doesn’t fit all. Women and men who are shorter or taller than the general size designed by the furniture designer obviously lose out, and end up with back and neck issues. Secondly, staring at the computer screen for hours is straining for the eyes.
There are mental disadvantages too, he said. A computer is hypnotic. Google is a great weapon but also a great curse. We have become used to typing in a query and getting an instant answer, instant gratification. It has become so easy that we cannot imagine life without it.
But there are no instant answers in nature. Nature forces you to wait, teaches you patience. A baby takes nine months to be born. A tree needs years to grow to full height. Every spiritual question asked by a seeking mind requires silence, stillness and some amount of wait before an answer is received. We cannot Google for God. It is foolish to imagine that enlightenment can be had as quickly as the click of a mouse.
In the process, we’ve become a strange new breed of humans, cut away from the slowness of nature, the serenity of a growing forest, the calm of a gurgling stream, the occasional impersonal violence of a carnivore seeking a prey. We’ve become addicted to everything fast — food, thoughts, answers, entertainment, meaning — when in fact there is value only in the opposite, in lovingly cooked home food, the balanced strain of a yoga posture, the pauses in the activity.
We rush to fill in silences, when the silence itself is the real conversation. We distract ourselves with smartphone apps when boredom itself is the birthplace of creativity.
We cannot wish away the Internet but we can become aware of its power over us, its hold on our minds and deeds. Take a break and take a deep breath. Shut down the screen and walk away. Blink. Move, turn your neck. And don’t get used to instant answers. Like Google results, they aren’t always complete or right.
There’s no substitute for earnest effort and personal experience, whether for material knowledge or in spiritual growth.