Many of us, whether as students doing schoolwork, or professionals working from home, or family members and friends trying to connect and celebrate with one another from a safe distance, we’ve all been spending lots of time in front of our computer screens. I’ve heard people complain, “my butt’s sore!” And I’ve thought, I’m almost too exhausted to do it, but I need to go for a walk in the fresh air to ground myself back into the real world.”
Having just completed my national organization’s annual leadership gathering on-line this past weekend, I realized we may have pushed close up to the limits of what our bodies, minds and spirits can do, and remain healthy. In most of the past 30 years of our organization’s existence, our gathering were held as week-long conferences, often situated in lovely retreat-like natural settings. Our conference began with our grieving at the loss of that luxurious reality.
But there were gains. Without the cost of travel and the usual time commitment involved, many people were able to attend from across the globe. The months of isolation, or quarantine or sheltering in place, whatever we called it, had increase our delight in seeing one another, even if it had to be virtually. It was especially fun to see people in their own personal settings; the balcony of a high-rise, a deck overlooking a forest, a bookcase– lined study, the corner of a bedroom, or a section of an office or art studio.
Since the name of our organization is Body Wisdom, Inc. and since our practice is a creative approach to unlocking the wisdom of the body, we were especially sensitive to having our on-line experiences be respectful of what bodies need in order to be creative. One of our guiding principles, off-line or on, is something we remind ourselves often–“Go the speed of the body.” Technology rarely does that by design, and we can think or imagine something much more quickly than we can actually perform it in the real world.
Body’s aren’t built to do anything for too long without pausing for a rest, and on-line experiences seem to underline that reality. In the past few months we’ve been learning that, in addition to short breaks to catch our breath, we need to adjust the way we physically interact with the technology so it has less impact on our nervous system. Some bodies are neurologically more sensitive than others, so personalized self-care strategies are especially needed. One of our directors, Cynthia Winton-Henry reminded us of the relaxed way we would watch a movie on a large screen in a movie theater. (Remember those days?) She suggests that, rather that the narrow way we usually focus our eyes on the small commuter screen or Ipad, we sit back and let the images on the screen come to us. We call this, “easy focus.”
There are other adjustments we can make to vary our experience on-line. We can turn our camera’s off and walk around our space when our visual presence is not needed. We can hide self-view so we aren’t looking at ourselves, yet other people can still see us. I alternate standing and sitting, standing when I’m presenting and sitting in a comfortable chair like in the movie theater, when I’m not.
Presentations on zoom need to be shorter than in person, interspersed with elements like breakout rooms, polls, quizzes, music, and movement activities. Groups can be directed to take a breath together or a stretch. In some ways, the privacy of our own space can give us more room for adjusting to the needs of our own bodies when not directed to do so by the presenter.
We can also create more ease for those attempting to view us. A light source shining from in front of you rather than light from a window behind makes it less stressful to try and see you and to attend to what you are saying. Also, a simple background reduces distraction and eye strain. In visiting with you in your real- life kitchen, I might hardly notice the dishes and clutter on the counter. But on zoom, such items make it harder to focus on you and want you are saying.
And finally, as I think of the zoom sessions I do with my 8 year old granddaughter, I want to give a shout out to the on-line technology that allows many of us to do so much of what we did in person before this pandemic. There are still huge inequities in access to broad band, especially in rural areas and lower income neighborhoods, and we need to fix that immediately. And while still missing the in-person physically of real life, I’m amazed at how reassuring and touching on-line connecting can be.