Years ago, when I was working as a group leader in a training center in South Dakota, a Lakota man shared that to feel spiritual was to feel “connected.”



It could be said, I suppose, that we’re becoming more spiritual by the nanosecond here in America by one interpretation of his statement.

Years ago, when I was working as a group leader in a training center in South Dakota, a Lakota man shared that to feel spiritual was to feel “connected.”

It could be said, I suppose, that we’re becoming more spiritual by the nanosecond here in America by one interpretation of his statement.

Everywhere I go, I see people locked in and connecting on their laptops and cell phones, e-mailing and text messaging, or talking to one another (in a voice loud enough to connect with anyone within 30 feet) about how their kid’s doing in the ballgame going on or what they did at a party the previous night.

There’s also Facebook, the social networking website on which you can surf around to see what’s been happening the last 15 or 20 minutes with your “friends.”

Yes sir, people are getting more connected all the time.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out so well though.

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a 51-year-old woman from Fox Lake, Wisc., after being persuaded by bar patrons and her boyfriend that she was too drunk to drive, used her cell phone to call 911 and connect with the sheriff — whom she asked to send someone out to follow her home.

The woman ended the call telling the dispatcher how dangerous it was to talk on a cell phone while driving. When arrested, her blood alcohol content was well over the legal limit.

On the subject of making train connections, I read that two California men were recently hit by trains while talking on their cell phones. (This gives new meaning to the phrase, “I can’t hear you. You’re breaking up.”)

The Native American man I mentioned above, of course meant something quite different than a technological connection. He was speaking to the timelessness that envelops us when we stop, center in our bodies, and spend quiet time alone or with family and friends. Connect with our hearts as well as with our heads.

Associated Press columnist Maggie Jackson decided to take a hard look at technology’s affect on her life in a book titled Happening to Home: Balancing Work, Life, And Refuge in the Information Age.

Jackson notes that in an era of home offices — and of workplaces that include gyms and day-care centers — it's getting harder for most people to distinguish between when they're at home or at work, on the clock or off. Once we get totally wired, how easy will it be for most people to disconnect when it's time to relax or hang out with our loved ones? Not very, she found:

“The cell phone makes so many of our activities portable, which is good. But being divided between two places puts us in two contexts. We don't like to think of it that way. We assume that we may freely choose between the two situations, tuning out one while attending to the other and vice versa. Yet we are involved in both situations, and we run the risk of being fair to no one, not even ourselves.”

Many people, these days, say they need their phone at all times and they feel lost without it.

The problem is not limited to the United States. According to a new British study of 2,100 U.K. cell phone users, actual anxiety symptoms can break out, including cold sweats, if a person’s cell phone isn't around. (It should be noted that these are also symptoms of addiction withdrawal.) The new disorder is being called nomophobia. It stands for no mobile phone phobia. Stress levels are similar to getting married, moving, or going to the dentist

Jackson reports in her book that she’s figured out a way, after the work day ends, to move through the anxiety, access her sense of self, and make more timeless connections: “As I amble along, I try to notice the pastel colors of the sky at sunset, or the phase of the rising moon, or the hurried gait of my fellow commuters. I find that the "here" and "there" of my body and my mental wanderings no longer clash.”

How did she manage this? Simple. She went cold turkey. Turned off her cell phone.

J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-1852 or jtknoll@swbell.net.