Linda Stone’s Antidote to Quantified Self: The Essential Self

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that was working, so why is my body betraying me? I’m smart. I followed the rules on nutrition. I followed the rules on exercise. Why me? “Why me” doesn’t make for that peace between body and mind.

WR: Do you feel like your Essential Self theory is starting to resonate and perhaps inspiring people to build technologies and apps that would support embodiment?

LS: The message is so resonating. Every time I give a talk I get contacted, both by people who are doing Quantified Self technologies and who want to move toward Essential Self, and by people who want to talk about ideas for Essential Self technologies. People are realizing that counting is just another thing to do, and that where they feel soothed is by sensing and feeling. It’s why we end up sending cute cats to each other across the Internet. It’s soothing, it makes us happy, it feels good.

One of the things I learned as I researched attention is that attention, emotion, and breathing are very connected. If you are breathing in a relaxed way, you have an ability to use your attention exactly as you want to use it. Notice that a really good golfer is breathing. A good test pilot learns how to breathe to handle the G-forces. A good athlete can do that long-distance run because they know how to manage their breath and their emotion. Once you start holding your breath the stress starts.

So again, I think we need to change up the kind of questions that we’re asking ourselves. You know, it’s not “Do I want to be happy?” It’s “How am I happy?” And even more important, “Is there meaning in my life?” and “What moments feel meaningful?” It can be really little. It can be that you’ve said hello to a neighbor. Let’s talk about that, instead of talking about disconnecting and unplugging and distraction. Which is frankly a super stressful conversation, don’t you think?

WR: The idea of having to turn off or give up my devices is stress inducing all on its own. I feel like I need them to be as productive as I am.

LS: We have this naming, blaming game that goes on, with television and junk food, and now technology is the evil thing. But at the scene of the crime, the thing that’s in common is us. And so what is our opportunity? It’s to determine what we want to connect to. One of those things is coming back to embodiment. Coming to our senses, so to speak.

I guess the last piece of this is, in the same way that we have a physical homeostasis, we have a spiritual homeostasis, both individually and collectively. When we move so far away from where we are comfortable with who we are as human beings, we are drawn to what soothes us and makes us more comfortable. And there are four dominant collective activities that I see that are very soothing and that are bringing us right back.

First, the move toward yoga and meditation. Second, the maker movement, which is almost like a meditation movement—it brings us to our own creativity and resources with a kind of relaxed, engaged attention that is like children at play. Third, the urban gardening movement. Fourth, the movement toward joyful dance as exercise, from African Dance to Zumba to Nia to Continuum. Dance and rhythm are among the most powerful ways for us to re-set our individual and collective nervous system; this is a really powerful trend that contributes to our collective health and well being. I think these four things are all the same thing, and they’re all returning us to this spiritual homeostasis.

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The Author

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy.

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  • Steve Sisgold

    I really liked your article and your work is awesome. I wrote a book, “What’s Your Body Telling You? Great to find you. Steve Sisgold

  • LEE STEIN

    fantastic read and brilliant as always….

  • http://eric.jain.name/ Eric Jain

    Quantified Self isn’t meant to replace your senses; in fact QS tools are often used to help get a better sense of e.g. what your heartbeat feels like when you’re exercising in a certain zone, or to increase your awareness of your breathing or posture when necessary.

    Recording data is also useful to monitor long-term trends, something for which we have little sense, and for sharing our progress with a coach, or with friends, be it for advice or for motivation.