Category Archives: My Digital Life

Bringing the Body Online (Guest Post by Mark Walsh of Integration Training)

I have my first guest post here on Digitize We Must!, coming from Mark Walsh at Integration Training (based in Brighton, UK).

You’ll know Mark from some of my earlier posts here and here. After attending a recent electronic mindfulness workshop, Mark showed just how wired he really is (both online and in real life). I got a lot of out of his idea on noticing the intentions and how my own use of e-mail, social media, etc. can come from simply being aware because so much of our lives are lived digitally and those actions we take online need as much balance and awareness as our physical lives do.

So without further ado…

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

My occupation, passion and personal journey is embodiment – helping people get in touch with themselves as bodies for the sake of leadership, stress management and personal growth. Starting in the middle ages the body became bad and started to be denied, repressed and ignored. The late-industrial 20th century took this to new depths and the postmodern information ages brings with it fresh challenges to staying grounded in our “primary operating system”. I have lately become very interested in how to stay embodied in a technological environment – with omnipresent online mobile communication, the e-mail deluge and social media. How do we stay connected to the most fundamental level of ourselves in a digitally connected world? How to we reboot the body in the 21st century? What on earth am I talking about?

 The Challenge of Digital Disembodiment

Have you ever finished a workday online to notice great discomfort in your body? Have you ever been so engrossed in work, social media or gaming that you forgot your physical needs until were really screaming at you? Have you ever acted in a way on a forum or social media group that lacked the empathy you bring to “real-life” social interactions? If so you have like the vast majority of people who use modern technology experienced (or more actually not experienced) disembodiment. We all spend much time lost in the matrix and unaware of our most fundamental matrix. Aside from a little RSI or stiff shoulders why is this dissociation a problem though? Well, our bodies are the substrate of ourselves – when we lose “our” bodies we lose ourselves. English is revealing here as bodies are not “ours” like a car or other object. Bodies are not “its” but part of the I. We need them to think (see embodied cognition), know what is right and wrong (see Paul Linden’s work) feel and to empathise and socially interact (see Dan Siegel neuroscience work). To be blunt, when we are disembodied (not aware of ourselves but “in our heads”/ machines) we are stupid, psychopathic, emotionally stunted and autistic.

Possible Solutions

So what do we do about this disembodied mess we’re in? There are two basic approaches, one established one new:


Many people find value in taking part in the “wisdom tradition” practices of mindfulness, emotional intelligence and embodiment. These often involves doing some of a set of related practices such as yoga, martial arts, dance and meditation, and perhaps more modern Western pursuits such as therapy, personal development workshops and group process work. These often become favourite hobbies for people and allow them to cope with the stresses and strains of a disembodied existence 9-5 (+the online social stuff 8-9, 5-10 etc). The popularity of these activities seems to have risen in direct proportion to the disembodying and therefore alienating nature of technological growth. Yoga is now pretty popular and for good reason, a regular embodied practice can bring some balance to the ultra-cognitive world we live in.


A more radical and I believe more useful approach is to integrate embodied and other “wisdom” practices WITH technology use. This turns tech usage into not so much a problem to be managed, but an opportunity for personal growth. E-mail can become a practice as much as yoga. Balancing approaches may be doomed to fail as a) they include no integration into the very different context on online activity so are not transferred across (so calm in yoga, still stressed at work), and b) many people today spend many more hours online than doing their balancing practice so any good work done in the former is easily undone by “practicing” something else online. One solution I have started to explore is to teach basic embodied practices away from online contexts as in the traditional approach and then bring them into this new context. Teaching embodiment while people are online to build their own capacity. This involves a certain amount of slowing down and interrupting the usual online activities to avoid the old conditioning taking over, and establishing a new one. This video shows a group doing this on an “e-retreat”.

 A Simple Embodiment Practice – NIT

Here’s a simple practice you can use today to be more embodied online and break your usual conditioning. It is best to have done a little mindfulness, emotional growth and embodiment practice offline at some point in your life before this integration, but it will be beneficial even if you haven’t:

Set-up – Find a timer to interrupt you –  an app or an egg timer will do – and set it to chime every five minutes. When it chimes immediately stop what you’re doing and:

Notice your body and emotions – a 3 second body-scan will suffice once you’re used to the process, longer may be needed at first

Intention – Ask “what am I doing and why?”

Transform – You may wish to change your posture or performing a centring exercise such as taking a deep belly breath

NIT on Youtube

After an hour of this reduce the chiming frequency to ten minutes. After another hour to 20 minutes and so on. Each time you will NIT quicker and with less effort but you do need to do it consistently for a few hours to break old habits. You can also tie the NIT to frequently performed online actions such as sending or opening an e-mail or pressing “save” on a document.

Feeling Your Tools

Another practice I picked up from fellow trainer Paul Levy is to feel your online devices as tools separate from yourself. Simple as it sounds feel the keys or screen and notice that you are not your device! This helps people stay anchored in their own sensations rather than being “lost” in the internet with the associated dangers to disembodiment and distraction that this brings.

 The Future

I am electrified (horrible pun intended) by the possibilities of an integrated body-mind-tech approach and am enquiring into what this might involve with a few others. The Wisdom 2.0 events and Buddhist Geeks podcast series are good resources for those interested. For me this is a central challenge of our times. Please get in touch if this interests and inspires you.

Mark Walsh – Bio

Mark Walsh leads business training providers Integration Training – based in Brighton, London and Birmingham UK. Specialising in working with emotions, the body and spirituality at work they help organisations get more done without going insane (time and stress management), coordinate action more effectively (team building and communication training) and help leaders build impact, influence and presence (leadership training). Clients include Unilever, The Sierra Leonian Army and the University of Sussex. He is the most followed trainer on Twitter and Youtube and has the Google no.2 ranked management training blog. Offline, Mark dances, meditates and practices martial arts. His ambition is to make it OK to be a human being at work.

Tagged , , , , , ,

If you’re not paying for the product (You’re our product)

Noticing how one idea for a post begins and watching it become something completely different after a new idea or perspective gets introduced is an interesting process.

This post was going to be along the lines of what the author-publisher dynamic meant to me. Being an Editor in a small publishing house means these relationships are absolutely crucial for the success of our business; this may also have been the start of a presentation I was due to deliver in Corfu at an international information law conference at the end of this month. But that’s all changed now.

Instead, I’m taking a different tack; I’m betting it’s something that is familiar to us all: the way social media has been woven into our lives. I use social tools everyday (at home, work and on my phone) and I wouldn’t be coining a new phrase by saying “how did [I/we] ever live without [insert preferred social tool here],” or that we really are “living in interesting times,” what with all the sharing and accessibility these tools promote.

But how exactly did we ever live without electricity and running water? And isn’t every time interesting for those people conscious enough to know that they are the ones living through it? I would hope so.

What I think is most important about these “interesting times” are the new levels of accessibility and openness we have, and just how easily most of us (not all) have this burning desire to divulge our most intimate details onto the social web. Again, nothing new, but occasionally it’s good to be reminded of this concept because it lands a little bit differently for me depending on whose in the hot seat.
This time it was “Silicon Valley Controversial-ist” Andrew Keen in the hot seat with his anti-social manifesto on the BBC’s Digital Planet. I’m becoming more interested in his ideas and I think he is someone who stands on the other side of the fence when it comes to online sharing. I don’t think it has to do with the over connectedness, but the actions we take with our personal information, posting it freely and finding out how unprotected our privacy really is – what these companies do with our data. Nothing is ever done freely online.

Keen said that the age we now live in is perhaps the biggest socio-economic shift our society has ever experienced – similar to the shift from the agrarian society to the industrial age. This is the core of his argument warning. What appears free, isn’t really free at all. Keen calls for new business models tailored to social networks.

Think about it: if you could pay a small monthly fee to access Facebook, would you? I hear you scream “NO!”…. but knowing that by paying for the service you use, provided by this newly minted public company, you each make an agreement in the understanding of how your data is stored, shared, and used (by whom)? If you’re tired of the ever-changing move-counter move/automatic opt-in terms of use, where you’re constantly having to adjust your privacy settings each time. Then a small payment might be the way forward.

Which is why I plan to read his new book, Digital Vertigo and figure out what side of the divide I fall on and the impact the commercial success of these companies is having on our experience.

So what, if anything, do we gain from living life online and in such a public fashion?

It’s a balancing act, but we really have no way of controlling how our data is used, or where it goes (unless you make the conscious choice of not having any kind of online profile anywhere). I could try to maintain my anonymity through this blog, or my Twitter feed, but would have a harder time of it on Facebook. So I’ve learned to embrace my online life, I’m taming my online self as it were, but it doesn’t work like that, because every bit (literally) shared is data. And data is the new oil.

I’m learning that I can’t treat my online life the same way I wish my physical life would go, as my ‘thirtysomething’ year old self’s experience of the world begins to influence the adolescent side of me online. I’m beginning to become more selective of what I post, or think before I share something (and where I share it), but at the same time I want you to know that I’m accessible, open and able to have my ideas challenged, which is why I don’t hide behind some randomly created avatar, and typically use the same handle across a lot of my online profiles.

And while I don’t always want to confess my darkest secrets in an online forum, I’ll keep using my social tools in the way that allows me to speak and share what I really want to share.

Tagged , , , , ,