Saturday, March 2, 2013

Information Overload

Have you ever noticed those numbers and items that seem to follow you everywhere? My birthday is January 10, and I swear I see the number 110 everywhere (for those of you not from the United States, we put the month first and then the year). I got a herniated disc and sciatica, and all of a sudden I see pain management centers on every corner and people are telling me their back problem stories.

And just this week, snakes seemed to be everywhere. This is the Chinese year of the snake, and one day, I was talking to some people about a scary snake experience, and then I went to see someone else who handed me a plastic snake. Then the following day, I was at someone’s house, and the wall hanging had snakes on it. And I have a cousin who sees the number 613 everywhere.

Where does this phenomenon originate? I know this happens to other people.

Many of us think our brains are about bringing in information. The opposite, however, is true. Our brains are really just filters. If we actually processed everything that we receive, we would go mad. In one sense, then, our brains our simply filtering out the things that do not fit our preconceived notions of what follows us around. For example, I see a lot of numbers every day, but I only pay attention when the number is 110.

Many people have begun calling this time in history, the information age. We can get any information anytime we want. Some people have pointed out this means we do not need to remember as much information. I mean, why do we have to remember if google is always at our fingertips? But that also means there is so much information we can get lost amidst it.

Here is the information I have been getting for while I am still in pain: 1) the surgeon has no idea; 2) the acupuncturist says it is a kidney blood deficiency; 3) the chiropractor says it is emotional; 4) another acupuncturist agrees about the emotions; 5) some say it is inflammation, and I need a cortisone shot; 6) some say I just need a prolozone shot; and 7) the physical therapist has simply given up after trying to work on my back and legs. Oh, and of course there has been the foam roller suggestion (yes, it’s awesome, and yes it hurts more than anything!). And I listened to all of them.

We look to others who have expertise in certain areas, and of course, when your only tool is a hammer, all you ever see are nails. We ignore all the other information for that which makes the most sense to us, or that which seems to follow us everywhere we go. And that is useful and necessary . . . to a point. At some point, we have to stop taking in so much information from the outside and look to the inside for the information that will be most beneficial. The answer is not always 110 just because I happen to notice it everywhere I go.

And I recognize I am talking (typing?) out of both sides of my mouth. The first step is to stop zeroing in and seeing only one piece of information, that which follows us around. The second part is to stop trying to make sense of the information coming from a variety of sources limited in the same ways we are – sharing their nails with us. And at some point we have to listen to the information within ourselves.

Not just our brains are really great filters, though there is no question, many of us get caught up in our minds and forget the rest of ourselves. But it is those moments we check in with ourselves that we learn the most, and the most healing can occur. Because our bodies know what information to share with us. Our bodies can tell us what we need, not what someone else thinks we need.

There is no doubt learning from the experts is important. They help us understand all the possibilities, and the more information we have the more we can then filter through. But at some point, we have to stop taking in all the information there is. We have to stop googling every possible avenue. And we have to start listening to the one person who knows what works for us.

We live in a world of information overload. It is so easy to get caught up in always trying to get all the information. It is incredibly interesting, helpful, and important. But there is only so much we can take. Those little nuggets that follow us around are proof that we like consistency, we like filters, and we like to leave out some information sometimes.

Yoga is a lot about letting go. Someone once explained bodywork (energy work) as downloading information into the computers that are our bodies/minds. If we think about ourselves that way, yoga is a chance to let go of the information we do not need anymore, the information that is getting in the way of the information that will be most useful to us.

Do you ever notice information overload in your life? How do you finally stop it? What numbers and items show up all the time in your life? Are they trying to teach you something?


© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved. 

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