iOS 7 and Our Fear of Change

Even more interesting than the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 7, is how we as a collective are responding to it. In the past the common lens in which we viewed change in our society came in the form of fashion, music, politics, tolerance and industrial advancement. This is still true to some extent but what we’ve now done is added a new layer to how we are experiencing change – cyberspace.

Every time there is a new “major” update to the digital eco systems we spend most of our time in there is always an endless stream of of both public and professional pundit outrage over the changes. Anyone who has been on Facebook for more than three years can certainly attest to it. Go ahead and think about the last time Facebook made a major update to it’s product; chances are you can’t even remember what they were and all that you recall is that you were pretty upset about it. All of the Facebook posts about missing the old Facebook and that Facebook isn’t listening to it’s users were common and nearly everyone came across them in their newsfeed. Fast forward three years and Facebook’s stock is at an all time high, it’s user base is massive and once again no one can recall what those changes were.

Enter iOS 7. Apple, more than any other company, has the feverish rabid zeal of a dedicated user base that’s akin to a blood thirsty dog getting a bone. Every single move the company makes is up for tremendous scrutiny while products continue to fly off the shelf. It’s as if the dog loves to bark at the person feeding him.

If I was CEO of Apple I for one would constantly be laughing while resting assured on Steve’s philosophical blueprint he laid out for the company. I’d also go back time and again to the answer Henry Ford gave when asked about why he never asked his customers what they wanted; “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

In the world of technology of course it’s important to pay attention to what people do and don’t like about certain trends but it’s also paramount to remember we are at the dawn of the movement and no one knows what’s around the corner. Things mutate almost organically and without logic.

The most fascinating aspect of peoples reaction to iOS 7 is not the dismissal of the new color scheme, or the “swhooshes” and “blips”, it is the admission that such protest of these changes completely changes their day to day world. We live in the operating systems of today. iOS 7, OS X, Windows, Android, Facebook, etc have all become inextricably linked with our practical behavior. It’s not the sending of the email that’s important anymore, it’s the how we send the email that is important. Finally after nearly two decades of mass adoption how the interface for cyberspace looks has become just as important as the function itself.

Steve Jobs knew this long before most. He preached that design, both hard and soft, WAS the product and that they could not be separated. Apple always had in it’s DNA a belief that what you’re experiencing while you are “doing” is just as important as the “doing” itself.

Arguably, the traces of this product philosophy can go back to the counter culture movement of the 1960’s. Anyone who has taken any psychedelic or practiced any type of meditation knows that how the human mind interfaces with consciousness is at the core of happiness. Are we approaching life through a hyper kinetic disorganized system that is laden with fear and distrust? Or are we floating through life with peace, compassion and focus of mind and body?

The same can be said to our digital lives – are we spending time debugging our broken computer and navigating through endless windows of dialog boxes? Or are we accomplishing our digital tasks with grace and ease?

This, without really saying it, is why people get so worked up about the changes in their favorite operating systems? It’s so vital that they are easy to use and require a hassle free relationship. Whether or not you believe this to be true, one thing is for certain – you won’t even remember what iOS 6 looked like a month from now.

What I’ve Learned

This post is dedicated to the memories of Tony Scott, Tom Davis, Jan Sharp, Nelson Lyon, Jeb Abrams and Geoffrey Gordon. All of these beautiful souls left this mortal coil within the last six weeks.

“What’s the difference between loss and change? Attachment.” – Ram Dass

It’s a Tuesdday morning and I just returned from Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, CA. After four days of immersive practice I can’t say that I’m any more equipped to write about death than I was a week ago however, I do feel a renewed sense of clarity that comes from loss. This post isn’t really about death anyway. Plenty of people have written on that topic. It’s more about how profound and sudden change can rock you into a new understanding of some of life’s basic principles.

Specifically regarding death though…the mysteries of our physical nature are elusive, frustrating and profound. I think that because we take form in these bodies at this time we really seek to understand why that is. So when it all suddenly ceases to exist we equally try to understand why that is. Right now I feel that it is the “not knowing” how it all works is where the ultimate peace lies. I’ve grown comfortable with the notion that our physical incarnations are so fragile and so precious. Every moment is a gift and as beings taking form right now we must understand that everything is impermanent.

Over the course of the last 6 weeks I’ve experienced radical shifts in my consciousness as it relates to the time I’ve been given on this planet. It’s helped me to understand why I will miss the people who have died, why things like suicide are terribly tragic and why it’s important to fill your time with things that you love.

In Joshua Tree these past 4 days I had to take a look at my practice and what is working and what isn’t. My “practice” is primarily based in methods that seem at face value to be rather structured and formal. For instance, yoga asana has a set of physical sequences that most people do the same way or kirtan has a set of mantras that are sung the same way. However, when one personalizes these practices to let them take on their own form within your own consciousness doorways open that are yours alone. The constant repetition of the names gets so far out that different activations and realizations are available at different times depending on what is you are going through or chanting for. Personalizing ones spiritual practice really helps to make the method malleable thus making the journey constantly rewarding.

All os this loss and funky transitional life structure change all took the form of loss. After an intense four days of practice that included kirtan, discourse, friendship, a little yoga and satsang I feel like I’m come to an awareness of some life qualities that are very important.

The Big Picture

This has been said to me in a variety of ways over the years but it’s becoming very clear in a crystalized and visual way. When we encounter events like sudden and unexplainable deaths or terrible heartbreak it’s important to remember that we are not equipped to understand the bigger picture that makes up all the moving parts of the universe. We are barely equipped to understand ourselves. It’s also become clear that spiritual practice, of any kind, reveals to us glimmers of what the bigger picture is. Perhaps practice can reveal a little shard of universal truth. So when someone decides to loose their will to live we can take refuge in the acceptance that the not understanding is perfectly ok. There’s no reason to understand everything at all times. The mind will constantly go back and forth with the thoughts of “why me” or “this hurts” or “how could she” etc etc. And yes it does help to gain knowledge that can settle the heart but ultimately it’s up to us alone to walk through pain and to move on.

Our minds make up such strong stories that we perceive as our reality. This is in part true – certainly we can be responsible for shaping our living conditions. As Sharon Gannon says “want to change your life? change your thoughts.” Even so with that knowledge there is still a pervading underlying reality that makes up the universe that has nothing to do with us. I don’t believe that the universe and all it’s splendor is a dream that’s going on between our ears, I believe we are one small part of a countless collective that makes it all work together. How the rest of it works I only have slight glimpses into, universal truths that work for me.

Reach Out

If there’s someone in your life who you love or miss but have lost touch with do yourself the favor and reach out and say hello. I’ve always been bad at this because I get shy and reclusive. It’s a very worthwhile thing to do because there may be limited time for you to see them on the physical plane. They might literally jump off a bridge tomorrow. Honestly, I have some sadness in that I didn’t try harder to reach out to Tony in recent years. I have this thought that he would really have loved to see my ’73 Chevy Nova SS and would have been so proud that I bought it with my own money via hard work. I’m sad I didn’t get to share that moment with him.

This can also take on the form of combatting loneliness. I can’t imagine why someone who has so much would take their own life but I suspect it’s because they feel very alone in this world. For myself, I know that I’d be nothing or nowhere without my friends. Yes, there has been a degree of self actualization that has made my life whole but my direct lifeline to my friends and teachers has kept me afloat when I couldn’t find the strength. Don’t be lonely. My shyness has caused me a lot of grief and I’m doing everything I can to keep good association in my life through reaching out.

Do What You Love

We’ve all heard this from a million spiritual teachers in a million different forms. My favorite take on this is from Steve Jobs:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

I’ve seen more people, including myself, wallow away in a rut because they “think” that they have so much to loose if they give up a traditional route or do things out of convenience or comfort. The rationale mind will tell you that you have so many excuses for not following your heart. Society fills us with fear of scarcity – that not having enough will someday become a reality when in fact all of our needs are already met. I for one don’t want to be that guy who wakes up when they are 75 wishing I had done something that I only dreamed of. That’s enough motivation to not postpone joy, ever.

I got so freaked out a couple weeks ago that a large portion of my life has gone by so very quickly. An old group of my friends gathered at my house three days before Tony Scott checked out and it started this unraveling process of being somewhat frightened that so much time has gone by. And then the Tony thing happened and it really drove home the notion that if I’m not doing what I love then what’s the point? Granted we all have to show and up and do the dirty work from time to time but if we can fill our time here with as much joyous activity to occupy ourselves then we stand a better chance of leading a life full of fulfillment.

Take risks. Everything great comes from great risk or vulnerability. Going for that big career jump that we thought was beyond us or asking that girl out that made us so nervous. We have nothing to loose. That’s my mantra for the day.

Don’t Care What Other People Think

I have work to do here. Far too often my decisions are dictated by the results of what it is people think of me or want from me. One of my main character defects is paranoia and people pleasing. It’s a lousy combination. I want everyone to be happy and then I get so freaked out if I’ve let them down or haven’t made them happy. At the end of the day we’re really all doing the best we can. Even when we make mistakes it’s important to let them go and just be right with yourself and with God.

Spiritual communities can also be perilous in this regard – because they are so tight knit the “gossip” becomes such a huge part of the fabric. Distancing yourself front this pattern takes work and lots of awareness. The moment you start doing stuff to please someone in the community and/or your ego the intention gets lost.

All of this makes it seem like I have some idea that I know what I’m talking about. Trust me, I don’t. During Krishna Das’s Saturday night set at Bhakti Fest he went on some rap about karma and interrupted himself by saying “as if any of us know what the fuck we’re talking about.” So true. These are just thoughts that came to me during a very difficult month and I thought I’d share them.

For the first time in my life I really have no idea what’s next and it’s so completely wonderful. Be good humans.

The Revolution will not be Televised – 5 simple steps

Maybe Gil Scott-Heron was on to something after all. It doesn’t take a very sharp mind to acknowledge that the Occupy movement was one born of frustration but lined with the inherent hope that the American dream offers. We saw thousands of thoughtful young people taking arms in a sea of troubles only to have the authorities eventually extinguish the gatherings. The problem was that Occupy was a collection of ideas that were articulated by a vocal minority (that represented a majority) who were essentially leaderless. But who can say that they really learned what Occupy was about from watching TV? Very few.

After the first month Occupy was hard for most people to get their heads around because the ideas were so broad and lacked a central hub where the casual Occupier could go to learn more. Sure there were websites and various viral notions floating out there but most people couldn’t tell you more than “it’s about the “99% vs. the 1%”. If you didn’t watch The Daily Show or were a member of Move On I just can’t imagine how you even knew what Occupy was really about.

Because of that I’m suggesting that we compliment the Occupy movement with some simple steps that can help us create change now. Away from the TV. I offer these 5 simple rules for starting a revolution. We can not wait around for politicians to change our laws or for a crowd to gather in the streets again. When those happen, great. But in the meantime let’s turn within and act locally and pragmatically. There are so many tangible simple things we can do on a daily basis that will change the physical and economic landscape and open up the revolutionary change agents that are dwelling inside of all of us.

Five steps to spark change:

I preface all of these by saying that I merely strive for these, it’s not perfection, just awareness and progress.

1.) Change what you buy – if we call collectively bought hybrid cars, didn’t shop at Wal Mart and chose eco-friendly products it would make a small difference. Even if it’s only incremental, it’s a start. The fabric of the American dream is small business, self realization and self determination. This is crumbling fast. Because of cheap prices and convenience we’ve given the power back to the elite few. The big corporations are becoming bigger and more powerful because they’ve created the illusion of convenience. Short term satisfaction over long term sustainability. Shop small, shop local, buy eco friendly and try to minimize your support of the 1%. This is a very complicated topic in itself and could warrant a massive discussion – but to learn more about how a certain aspect of how the 1% operates and takes advantage of you watch “Inside Job.”

2.) Change what you eat – do you realize that if we all ate organic, GMO free, High Fructose Corn syrup free healthy living foods that the entire Monsanto corporate food structure would crumble? Everyones first response is “I can’t afford it.” That is a problem but I offer the idea that it’s sacrifice. The super cheap mass Alternatives are a trap. Do you know how much harm is done and energy is expounded to get a McDonalds hamburger to cost $.99? Spend the extra $2 and eat some local fruit and nuts instead. It might seem expensive in the short term but in the long term it will equal out because our collective supply and demand structure will change.

3.) Become vegetarian – I won’t deny the facts that show us that human beings are omnivores. We eat whatever is around us in order to survive. This is a simple fact. However, we have evolved to the point to where we can question the sustainability of choosing to deplete what’s around us. And as far as suffering goes, there really is no reasonable need to make any other living creature suffer in order for us to thrive. At the very least, if you do not agree with that philosophy (or if your body does not) at least eat organic, free range animal products. The environmental, health and karmic damage that the institutional meat industry causes is a crime and shutting this down will be a small revolution in itself. People will be healthier, less obese, the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries would dramatically change as a result. Watch “Food Inc.” or “Forks over Knives” to learn more.

4.) Develop a method – the problem with being fanatic about a personal growth method is that it becomes a trap. You start to see the whole world through that method and then judge those who aren’t on the same trip. With that said, if we all collectively develop a consciousness expanding method with some flexibility and open mindedness to others methods we’d be in better shape. Practice Yoga, do meditation, become spiritual and God conscious, chant the names of God, do community service (seva), become a member of a loving non-zealot based local church, take psychedelics consciously after you do the research, play music, make art – do any of these things. Do something that takes you out of the selfish routine of self gratification, greed and the desire to amass more “stuff”. Opening our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking naturally makes us question the world around us and causes a revolution that begins within. The best part of the 1960’s was based on this notion. Question authority but do it with mindfulness. Can you imagine what would happen if the majority of Americans started the day with a form of Yoga? Can you imagine how thoughtful we’d be if we all sang and danced every day?

5.) Use media wisely – this is perhaps the one that is easiest for everyone to participate in. We’re all on Facebook everyday anyway so why not use it wisely? There is an immense power in this. Please stop posting about your morning coffee and post about ideas that are worth spreading (thanks TED). The proof is there – when good ideas spread they work. See #Occupy or Arab Spring for evidence. Of course, it’s ok to have some fun and to keep it light – not everything needs to be some heavy message all the time. I get that. But let’s find a balance. Except for the Kardashians – there is a zero tolerance policy on that one. Don’t post about them, ever.