Self Care in the Digital Age, by Larkin Oates, MA

Occasionally, managing e-mails and photo storage is overwhelming, and the delusion that I am succeeding at the task evaporates.  During a recent bout editing three storage Clouds, I found Charlotte Kasl’s book, "If the Buddha Got Stuck:  A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path."

I picture Buddhist monks on silent retreat, serenely managing their texts, Cloud space, and e-mails.  I want that inner peace if my computer is not functioning.  I would like to breathe deeply when my emails accumulate or when my iPhone storage is too full to take pictures.  Although combining Buddhism with technological ruts seems incongruent, the digital world is where I often feel stuck, so I listen to the audio book.

In this narration, Kasl outlines steps to returning to your life’s flow.  (Good. I want flow.)

Kasl recommends:

  • Notice Where You are Stuck             (Ok, I am stuck. I’m stuck!!!)
  • Show Up for Yourself                           (But, I want to numb out on Netflix!)
  • Pay Attention                                       (Again, refer to complex Netflix avoidance scheme.)
  • Live in Reality                                       (Did I mention Netflix?)
  • Connect with Others                            (Invite people over for my Netflix marathons?)
  • Move From Thought to Action             (Make a list while watching Netflix.)
  • Let Go.                                                   (Mmmmm.)

I easily identify ‘stuck’ and 'frustrated' feelings as I work hours to link Quicken and my online bank account.  I am invested in this connection because only when Quicken works, can I envision money as something other than monopoly dollars.

I take a deep breath and step away from the computer.  According to Kasl, I must now show up for myself and practice self-care.

I imagine saffron robed priests sitting in a row. Their eyes peer out from mud masks, and the hems of their robes are hoisted up to their knees as their feet soak in lavender salt baths. At first, self-care seems in direct opposition to my image of the Buddha where I imagine self-sacrifice is praised. Then I remember, Mother Theresa asked for the creature comforts as she traveled. Consequently, she had the good health and the strength needed to help more people.

Therefore, instead of continuing down the Internet rabbit hole looking for a computer fix, possibly going mad, and quitting Quicken for another year, I inhale deeply.  I then tune into my inner wisdom.  It says in no uncertain terms to take a break and walk the dogs.

Nothing is like walking my 11-year-old smiling lab as she prances down the street with me and my scraggly-toothed Snoodle Spike.  As we move along the neighborhood sidewalks, my smile widens, my cheeks lift, and my mind clears.

After taking this time for myself, I calmly call my bank’s helpline. I have used my insight for good and will not curse at the service tech.  Surely this is progress.

In addition to taking care of myself, Kasl would encourage me to have compassion for myself around learning new things.  After all, I am not genetically designed to understand the Internet or Cloud storage.  Since life is not a movie, I can no more step onto the stage of a musical and begin performing, than I can operate Photoshop without guidance.  I must give myself the time and patience to learn, and ask for help when I need.

My final takeaway from Kasl’s book is that personal power is not determined by an ability to confront life’s challenges alone.  Formerly, I envisioned strength as retreating into isolation like a tough younger Clint Eastwood.  Then, feeling stronger, I thought I would emerge revitalized.  But, science now shows that the presence of a healthy support system (and tech support at Simply Mac) helps humans heal and grow.  Therefore, as a part of self-care and compassion for myself, I am reaching out to my healing community.  And, although none of us wears robes, a few of us might try a mud mask or a pedicure.


by Larkin Oates, MA
Integrative Therapist, The Estuary
(615) 945-8950