I recently saw a YouTube video of someone giving a talk about the science behind spiritual practices which raise people’s awareness and, therefore, wellbeing. In the second part of her talk, the speaker described technological developments, such as new apps, which are being developed to help people become more aware and spiritually connected. It seems that technology for spiritual wellness is a burgeoning area of development and the speaker was very animated & enthusiastic about the progress being made. Being a soulful parent in the modern world, perhaps I should’ve been too (“great, there will be technology to support my children’s spiritual wellbeing”). But I wasn’t really…
SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY
For me, science and spirituality are two ways of knowing the same thing. We do not have to choose whether to be rational or intuitive, for example – we can be both. Some scientists think of their research as getting to know the workings of God/The Universe and, like me, see no conflict between their scientific work and their spirituality. Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous example of this (here’s a link to some of his quotes about the relationship between science and spirituality).
When it comes to our spiritual wellness, though, science seems to “prove” a lot of what we already know. Recent research has shown that meditative practices improve focus & emotional regulation; that feeling we belong to our social circle reduces the incidence of depression; and that having a sense of agency in our work makes it fulfilling rather than depleting. For me, these things all seem like common sense, we didn’t need expensive research projects to know them. But those who lean purely on rational, material ways of knowing feel validated if they can site research that proves their choices in life are effective.
TECHNOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY
As for technologies that use this scientifically-proven knowledge to help people expand their awareness and nurture other aspects of their spiritual wellbeing, I’m a little dubious that they’re really necessary. The billions of dollars that are set to be poured into them could probably be better spent.
I accept that we live in an increasingly online world and I appreciate the ways that technology makes life easier. There are some great resources available online, too, to support the spiritual wellness of ourselves and our children. My son, Jake, and I both use the Headspace guided meditation app. I learn a lot through listening to my favourite spiritual teachers on podcasts while I’m exercising and have done some helpful online courses (such as this great one for soulful parents). But I think it’s a problem if we think we need an app to become more aware or spiritually connected.
If we are feeling that we need help to become more aware, I don’t think it’s because our lives have been missing the technology to do so. Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks around the world seem to have managed just fine without smartphones for centuries. For me, the talk I watched on YouTube was a call to reconsider the way we’re living our lives. We don’t have to live like nuns and monks but I think there’s a lot we might want to think about.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SOULFUL PARENTS & OUR KIDS?
I think what science is showing us is that, when it comes to spiritual wellness for our families, we need to get back to ourselves, both as individuals and as a collective – kind of as we were doing before society made science & technology king & queen. We only need to look a few generations back to be reminded of how to be aware and connected – build supportive, in-the-flesh communities; do the things that bring us joy and put us in flow; get into nature; move our bodies; take time for stillness… These things just feel good and don’t actually need science to prove their value to us. With a little intention, we can create lifestyles for our families that incorporate these elements, no technology needed.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, it seems to me that we need less technology when it comes to our awareness rather than more, given the state we’re in – over-extended and glued to our devices. Most of the time, I feel depleted by devices like my smartphone, continuously calling for my attention. I don’t want another app beeping at me to remind me to take a “mindful minute”, for example. We think technology makes us more “connected” but I’m not sure what it is that are we actually connecting to when we spend all that time online. It usually feels more like disconnecting to me.
I’m not saying science and technology have no role in our spirituality but unlikely a significant role, as was being suggested in the YouTube video. Technology can be helpful, offering some short-term support on occasion but, if my boys grow up believing there is a technological solution to all things, I will have failed them.
Science and technology have a place and make valuable contributions in many spheres of life. But our spirituality is inherent in us. We really can recognise for ourselves what brings us a sense of wellbeing without an app. Perhaps we have lost some faith in ourselves as we have gradually handed over more and more of our lives to technology. We need to stay in charge of our technology, not let it take charge of us.
So my point is, let’s not hand every facet of our lives over to technology, no matter how much scientific research is behind it. Our spiritual wellbeing is nurtured by experiencing life with all of our senses, not by enlisting an app to do the work for us. Our children need to know that it is going inwards that really connects them, not going online.
Much love to you and your little souls.
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