Less than a week.
That’s all it took for Google, with whom I’ve homed my primary email account and have utilized every day for 8 years, to think my inactivity constituted an abandonment warning message. Less than a week was all it took Hinge to decide my inactivity was enough to demote me to not receiving a “most compatible” notification. As if my absence must mean I’m just not serious enough about finding a partner, and therefore not worthy to even receive advertisements for any. Three screens. That how many times I had to click “yes I’m fucking sure” I want to cancel my Amazon Prime subscription, and even still, I received an “are you sure” message the day-of cancelation, with a link to subscribe for just “$12.99 a month!” As if somehow seeing a bite sized dollar amount instead of the yearly chunk (there was no cost savings to going yearly) would make me cave at-second-thought, after already making my decision to no longer patron a conglomeration wildly profiting off of under-compensated laborers, who are additionally under constant job performance surveillance stress.
That’s all I spent not going to the internet for doses of entertainment or education. Choosing instead to turn-off all medias, all sounds, all voice, save for one app we all know and have come to LoveHate, Zoom, to attend a course required and joyously attended, silent, Vipassana meditation retreat. Six days alternating seated and walking meditation (intentional focus, no ‘zoning out’ here), guided practice, dharma talks, and only enough room for a meal break three times daily, which were just long enough for me to food prep and get some sunshine half-naps outside in the chilly spring.
Was all I spent, connecting with a global “sangha without borders” as one of my classmates spoke of our group. “Sangha,” being the Sanskrit word for “community” or “assembly,” used to describe any conglomeration of meditators. Six days practicing with a group that literally spanned the entire globe...as the western U.S. time zones were ending their practice, the eastern most regions of Asia were waking and rejoining, creating a round the clock, presently aware, global network of meditators reminding ourselves to keep returning our attention and breath to each, next, present, moment.
Was all it took for me to experience a “trust fall” into my own consciousness and physical being for love & support, and to embed the feeling of never wanting to return to online media marketing (consuming or producing) ever again.
Because two days.
Was all it took for me to have my first TOTAL nights sleep in……..years. The FitBit doesn’t lie.
Because three days.
Was all it took for me to let go enough of my aversion to accepting that anger and frustration was just going to be a part of my relationship with my parents, and perhaps my work, for quite some time more, and trust that my Heart could figure out a way to keep communicating the seemingly incommunicatable.
Because five days.
Was all it took for me to find a spacetime in my own, sober, consciousness, of equanimity that allowed me, for a brief moment in time, to be absolutely the fuck OK. Held in faith and feeling of belonging to the Earth, the Universe, that moment, fully inhabiting my own physical form, and unable to distinguish where my atoms stopped and those of the room I was in, the objects I was surrounded by, and the elements making their way through the air around me, began.
Because 40 years.
Was all it took for me to learn, nearly be destroyed by, and thus unlearn control programming. Dominance dynamic. Colonialism. Patriarchy. Religious shame. Body shame. Sexuality shame. Shame of being a ‘sensitive.’ Shame of being ‘under-educated’ in my new career field.
Because 40 years.
Was all it took, of constant, societal (and familial) pressure to perform at peak, to never seem weak, to be assertive, but not too aggressive. 40 years of constant societal input from media: books, television, radio, long playing records, overhead projectors, blogs, websites, infographics, and yes, social media. 40 years was all it took to be absolutely the fuck overwhelmed by “media,” and rest in an equanimity of zero fucks of caring anymore if I “fit” the version of “me” I had to “be” online in order to reflect the “correct version” of me that I am when I haven’t painted on my eyebrows yet. When I haven’t carefully selected the color pattern and aesthetics of my own infographics. When I haven’t digested enough of my own rage and offer a scab instead of a scar to try and offer something novel in my word choice, calling out the systems that steal our lives from us, right under our nose, in an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes a day. That’s nearly 17 hours every week.
Because 40 years.
Was all it took for me to fully embody the innate wisdom of fight, flight, freeze and fawn that courses through my veins like wildfire and icebergs, re-carving the knowledge of what happens when we train ourselves as a society to put shame on a pedestal to weaponize our natural instinct to manipulate each other out of our own pain for survival.
On January 21, 2017, I and a group of fellow sex workers and allies made our pilgrimige to Washington DC to participate in the 1st Women’s March. I carried with me a sign that on one side said “Strippers Against Trump” and on the other “We are the granddaughters of the Witches you couldn’t burn.” It was a moment in chilly DC winter spacetime, that’s now embedded into my internal programming, of the embodied, felt sense of the kind of equanimity that gives absolutely zero-fucks about anyone’s, specifically my familial and societies “image” of “who I should be.” It was a moment I memorized in my bone and sinew and every hair follicle that yes, I was definitely on the right path because this felt like me. My rage had been speaking to me, and it was my rage that emboldened me enough to quit with the many toxic patterns underlying the fabric of my existence, cultivating a self-unlearning, and un-belonging to the systems of programming that pattern us to be separate and fight over our fears. It was an early day, and a big step on a bridge to now, that I’d make over these four years with him in office, reflecting on the toxicity of my own life and the toxicity of the many systems woven into the fabrics of the lives of all those around me. Reflecting and rejecting and burning off the layers that weren’t mine yet were imposed on my flesh and nervous system, burning away like a magnifying glass on a tiny ant just making their way around the Hive.
That’s kinda what meditation is like. Being the ant.
Practicing patience and stillness and cultivating our ability to be with whatever comes. Taking these moments to fully feel the brunt of that intense, knowledgeable Light like a download from our more-seeing-future-selves, or like a bitch slap upside the noggin’ from our dearest angel protectors. Practiced intentionally (and safely, trust y’all, plenty could go sideways not practicing with and from skilled professionals), and for long enough, and we get to anticipate that cosmic bitch slap because it’s always attached to these “ah-ha” moments of release of grounding into our internal combustion engine of knowing. Yup. That saaaaaame fight, flight, freeze and fawn that activates us to steer clear of everything that feels unpleasant to begin with.
Look y’all, we haven’t discovered extraterrestrial life (yet... *shifty eye*), so the good news is, we’re all wired the same. And once we’ve honed this feeling of choosing ourselves, we’re well on our way to unraveling the many layers of the Imposter Dream we are all expected to live out.
This isn’t going to be a blog telling you to go “Office Space” or “Half Baked” on your job next week, unless you’ve really meditated on it, and you’re really ready. It is however going to be a blog that aims to put some more words on this thing that my meditation teacher Tara Brach says as “the trance of unworthiness.”
You may have heard this by its alternate reference, imposter syndrome. Or just generally “un-belonging.”
Remember that part where I said we’re all wired the same way? Well we’re all wired to “un-belong” and it’s not our fault that actual belonging is hard, especially in the digital age. Un-belonging can have us stopping in our own tracks in an extreme self-worthlessness moment that could have been brought on by any number of small or large triggers depending on the day. Un-belonging can also have us setting up our lives to “not feel” unpleasant things (aka “spiritual or emotional bypassing”), because what would happen if we had to, gasp…. c.h.a.n.g.e. who we are?
If I stop drinking, will this group still call me to hang?
If I get into a new musical taste, will I find new friends to go to shows with?
If I have to break up with them, will our mutual friends turn on me?
If I have to speak out about sexism or racism in the workplace, will my co-workers support me?
Will I have to look for a new job?
Oh god, am I too tattooed/old/worthy enough to get a new job?
I knew it, my mom was totally right about my damn tattoos!
This is the “trance of unworthiness” and quite often when we attach it to our jobs, our livelihoods, our identities, our labels, our likes, our dislikes, our image, our sense of wellbeing…..you get the picture.
Y’all, I know I talk about social media a lot, but for real, these companies profit off our survival instinct and use it against us to keep up our own Imposter Dream. These companies profitize our “fake it till you make it” urgency to “fit in.”
Take a moment right now and just do a general survey of your social media habits, or try this for the next day, and then come back to this blog and share how it went.
Is your phone the first thing you pick up in the morning?
How soon after waking do you check social media?
How often do you visit social media, or any scrolling media experience per day?
How long do you spend per scroll?
Do you feel more or less tired when scrolling all day?
If you had to try to curb your choice to reach for your phone 1 of 4 times, could you do it for a whole day without feeling frustrated or anxious?
Every time we experience media, our brains are receiving information, whether we’re on autopilot or on purpose. When we start to think of our entire knowledgeable experience about news, politics, culture, history, art, science, ourselves, everything as an amalgamation of our lifelong experience absorbing media...well, let’s pause there. How young/old are you? How long have you been taking in media information? Each human has 1440 minutes per day, and roughly 525,600 per year. How much is your screen time per day? Per week? What’s your average per month? Per year? Do the math! For real. By the national average of 2 hours and 24 minutes a day, that’s 52,560 minutes or 876 hours a year.
If it seems like it’s a lot, it is. That’s your life in those minutes.
Every time we experience media, our brains are receiving information, whether we’re on autopilot or on purpose. That’s because humans have been wired since the dawn of humans to survey our surroundings for threats at any given moment. When we empower the internet to be our primary, and virtual environment, we’re signing up to this survival instinct, regardless of our purposeful intention or not. Unlike the days when we actively chose to go hunt mastodon outside of our protective caves and tribal units. On the internet, if we come across something we don’t like, something that’s unpleasant on the extreme like triggering violence, or just generally on the annoying level of “oh so and so is talking and this and such again,” it’s still our survival instinct that tells us to scroll on, judge it, feel pain by it, shame it, etc.
Now think about every single Instagram square you look at per day. Every story.
Every single Tweet.
Every single post.
Y’all, they’re literally called advert-isments. The definition of advert is to turn the attention to. Our days are made up of a string of tiny bite sized information zaps of attention that our brains have mere seconds to decipher if it’s worthy of our love, devotion, aversion, disgust, or rage. It seems ridiculous to think about right? All that stuff is nonsense. That’s just the bullshit we scroll by while we’re looking at what we really wanna look at...right? Our brains can’t really take all that in, I’m not even paying attent-ope!
Exactly my friends. We’re not even paying attention, and our brains are still taking it in. How do I know? Well, how do you feel after scrolling the internet?
Did you compare your clothing or haircut to someone else’s?
Did you wish you had some bedroom accessory someone else had in their selfie?
Did you see someone on a vacation you wish you were on?
Did you see someone get an award or recognition you think you’re more qualified for?
Did you see someone who was an asshole to your friend get a new love interest?
These are the things we’re not even aware our brains are doing every time we throw a finger to our device and swipe...swipe...swipe… Now of course I’m not writing anything new here, we all know humans compare & contrast each other. “But Deanna, what does this blog have to do with MY wellbeing?”
It has to do with you because all of these moments of self-comparison don’t get added back to our lives, even after therapy.
Because all these moments of exposing ourselves to a surrounding in which to survive, when strung together by our brain’s natural instinct to problem solve AND file the experience as a felt-sense emotional memory, are working just like a algorithms to create a virtual version of ourself that exists as our avatar in this virtual survival world.
And because unless we are paying attention, on purpose, we will sail ourselves down the stream of unworthiness, shame, freeze, un-belonging and self-destruction.
Luckily, at this point in our human evolutionary process, we’ve still got a backup version of the original, untainted program of intrinsic BElonging. And as long as we are breathing and have a body, we have an inalienable right and instinct to fight for our survival through our body. And this dear friends, is where mindfulness, or Vipassana meditation comes in.
We have this ability in our brains to think new thoughts and actually learn to calm our own nervous system from hyper-usage, it’s called neuroplasticity. I talk about the science of it, and how our brains store stress in our bodies in this video blog here. Funny thing...that dude Buddha already knew about neuroplasticity two-and-a-half thousand years before brain science was invented. And you know what else, many indigenous cultures and spiritualities have meditative practices that involve a purposeful concentration, contemplation or devotional that involve moving the breath and blood through the body, offering an opportunity to ground the experience of the feeling tone itself, around the insight to the emotion that caused it. This is not witchcraft, it’s science (and ancient Buddhist philosophy).
So let’s go back to what this has to do with your wellbeing...because that’s why you’re here right? To have a good media experience? I mean, that’s why I brought you here. Much like the moment Morpheus introduces Neo to the Matrix…
You remember that moment right? I’m assuming you’ve all seen the Matrix. I have a hard time thinking someone made it to my blog without having seen it, lol. I digress. Do you think about that moment when you catch yourself doomscrolling? Or do you further shame yourself for feeling the desire to doomscroll? Doesn’t that tiny moment of shame make you not want to do anything different? Freeeeeze.
Yup. There it is again. Mindfulness of our self-shame. Are we catching on yet?
Mindfulness isn’t some mystical place where we transcend physical and thus, social reality. Nope. That’s drugs actually, lol. Mindfulness is our careful attention to catching ourselves in unhelpful thought patterns. Like reaching for a device for an 80th time for the day because we have a moment of time in which we are not ok being alone with just our thoughts.
There are two points to this blog I’m going to tease out that involve bringing mindfulness to our media experiences, and thus, welcome an opportunity to care for our mental wellbeing. Which hint, is interconnected with everybody else’s wellbeing too.
The first, I’ve already written - we don’t get these minutes back... (Or do we?...More on timeline travel in another blog in the future…)
When we’re seeking for experiences to bring pleasantness to our lives, our innate and initial reaction is not always best. Sometimes we placate ourselves with things we don’t actually want. Wish.com buys. Horrible haircuts. Regrettable tattoos. Toxic partners. Unfulfilling jobs. Having a moment to check in with ourself to really know what we want or need requires a pause. It requires us to take a moment, perhaps even close our eyes or turn down the music and say, “what is my body feeling right now?” Sometimes our bodies are numb, and we don’t really know what we want. Sometimes they’ve been so understimulated (hello pandemmy) we want to do everything all at once. Sometimes we just choose the easiest thing to do when we don’t know what to do, which is...choose the phone.
Do you see the loop? Do you feeeeeel the loop??
These exact moments we reach to placate our senses are the exact moments we typically choose to avoid checking in with ourselves about what we truly want or need. This loop sets our brain into a pattern of constantly being simultaneously under and overwhelmed with media experience. Why? Because surfing the web of survival for an average one-sixth of our waking life is exhausting. Mental and emotional effort is effort. How many minutes of added effort do we add into our already difficult-to-survive day? We have to drive cars and not run over people, and walk around not getting run over ourselves. We have to not go off on our bosses (most days). We have to “code up” to go out on dates at restaurants and with people slightly out of our league. And if we are a person who has had limited access to resources and privilege, we can literally feel like we’re fighting for survival all day long, because we are.
This is one of the biggest reasons I’m a fan of mindfulness for stress reduction and media addiction. Because with training (again, with skilled professionals) we can bring our attention back to our in-body experience and discover we want to go for a walk, take a dance class, see some art, play with our pet or our kid, clean out a closet we’ve been neglecting forever, break up with a partner or an entire wing of our family, or build a vegetable garden. All the numerous things humans have also been programmed to do for millennia, unlike the programming we’ve received from social media technology imperialists who are only interested in using our data to steal more of our attention, time and energy to line their pockets with.
The second point I’m going to make about bringing mindfulness to our media experiences involves the namesake of this blog. The Imposter Dream. We could call it “simulation theory” in chaos magic, and it goes by “the Matrix” in mainstream media. The idea that there is a virtual existence we are unknowingly digital pawns in, and that somewhere there are media overloards hoarding human mind energy for survival resource….
Umm….it’s true y’all. Do you follow me on Twitter? Here’s how I mean it:
All that judging and analyzing, comparing and contrasting we do to other people consciously and unconsciously, every single time we’re utilizing media… we’re being judged and contrasted too.
How many of your decisions about what to put of yourself on the internet involve some tug-of-war with whether to post it or not because of how some people might take you? I imagine you have at some point frozen yourself from posting something vulnerable right? And at some point said “fuck it” and posted some risqué shit anyway? If your career or hobby interest involves you advertising yourself, how much of your involvement with social media comes from what you “have to do” in order to get followers, likes, patrons, support, income, validation (oof)?
As long as I’ve been in social media marketing, and that includes advertising myself, my companies, other people, and other businesses, I have yet to run into someone that says that shit is not exhausting. That says it’s not a constant battle between “am I being authentic and clear enough” and “that’s good enough.” Even the times to ideally post for the most impact are dictated by a global supermind of data evidence given to us by the same human data harvesting machines that pilfer our brains, likes, tastes, habits and addictions daily. How many posts are we “required to like” to feel like we’re “engaging with our contemporaries” and sharing in a “supportive media experience?”
Look, I’m not here to pop holes in everyone’s fun on the internet. Quite the opposite actually. I am however divesting our attention toward the idea that we can’t keep feeding the cycle of un-sustainability that is the “attention economy” on a global, centralized, corporate, imperialist, vertical and opaque scale. That’s how humanity ends up relenting to virtually suiting up each day and jumping into the pipeline of corporatization and privatization, surfing our lives away around our addictions to seeing everything that’s going on in our one, two, three, eight, fifteen different communities. Divesting our idea of ourselves, and who we are at our core from the internet firstly and back into our actual, non-virtual, living, breathing body is how we reclaim our time and energy away from these systems that keep us in numb, craving poverty and ill-ease.
Think of it like this. When we’re walking down the street with our face in our phone, are we totally aware of approaching traffic? How many sets of footsteps are behind us on the pavement? Are we able to discern a possible bystander intervention, and assist someone being unfairly targeted? Not as much as if our reaction time didn’t involve us having to take a moment to acclimate from near attention to far attention.
This happens with our virtual persona too friends. The internet can be a wonderful great place to learn about all kinds of things that interest us, and help us find resources to feel more like ourselves. And it can also pattern us to create a virtual version of us for safety that is incongruent with who we are without the makeup, and in the sweatpants. Wormholes happen on the internet too, not just in outerspace. We can get lost following the enclosed tunnels prescribed to us by sentient algorithmic machines sent only to serve social media executives that don’t care that their machine possibly spent your advertising money on fake profiles (a class action lawsuit waiting to happen imo).
We can think that this blinder-vision only affects the “un-woke,” racist, xenophobic, transphobic people, but we’d be wrong. We all get blinders, because we all are innately programmed to surf for survival all day long. I’m not saying don’t ever use the internet heck, we’re using it right now. I am however gonna let the master media prophet speak on this one: