A Badass Musician & a Sixth Degree Aikido Black Belt Advise on Email Apnea

Watching Cameron Carpenter play the organ is a transcendant experience.  It’s as if he’s “lit.”  The organ just sits there, and Carpenter’s body exudes a powerful energy.  Most of us, when we interact with digital technologies, “merge” our energies with the device, exhausting ourselves.  Experienced musicians don’t do this. In the evolution of our relationship with digital devices, we have a lot to learn from experienced musicians.

So, recently, when a friend and I had a chance to talk with Cameron about email apnea (also called screen apnea), and conscious computing, and to solicit his advice, we seized at the opportunity.

A little more context first:

“Email apnea,” or “screen apnea”  is temporary cessation of breath when we’re in front of a screen, especially when texting or doing email.  This chronic breath-holding puts us in a state of fight or flight, affecting emotions, physiology, and attention.

Our opportunity is to evolve toward, “Conscious Computing.”   Instead of merging with or into the screen and our digital devices, we stay embodied, breathing, and separate from the devices, in the same way an experienced musician relates to his or her instrument.

Carpenter plays the organ;  a complicated instrument with complicated controls.  He paused for a minute before responding to us, then with complete confidence, advised:

“You’ve gotta dominate the mofo!”

The next day, I related this story to Wendy Palmer, who coaches leaders in conscious embodiment.  Her reaction, “There’s a gentle way to just let it know you’re the boss.”

Take your pick.

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

2 thoughts on “A Badass Musician & a Sixth Degree Aikido Black Belt Advise on Email Apnea

  1. How I love this post and how you put your point of view in it.

    When I was 16 I had a condition my doctor called “sleep apnea”– I think you’ve heard of it–. My doctor was perplexed as he explained that this “is usually found with aging people over 50 who are obese.” At 16, I couldn’t be described as any one of these. I must’ve been quite stressed. Thankfully it stopped occurring soon after. But!

    I noticed when taking photographs, sometimes I still hold my breath. Other times it stops when I’m the photographer so my camera doesn’t shake, or so I don’t lose the frame. Other times, it’s so I I can fit in my jeans. I think I will no longer own any form of tight, restrictive clothing, by the way.

    I remember hearing a pop singer say on tyra that she finds herself holding her breath in photo shoots. I think it was Katharine McPhee a few years ago. It caught my attention. tyra looked at her like she was crazy, if you can believe it.

    I am not as aware of screen apnea as I am of other ones, but I have to admit that with texting, twitter, email, or blog, I think it’s the stress of making a decision and giving it more power than it deserves; the knowing that what you’re about to say is going to show up on the receiving end.. and be there forever. Many people are terrified of this. And the thing is, it’s not ‘forever.’ It’s just ‘for now.’

    It’s a lot like the fear of getting on someone’s answering machine, if you can remember the old days and the countless tv and movie scenes regarding the awkward moments leading up to a “beep.” Talk about moments that take your breath away!

    I think this is a block to living authentically. To living truly in the moment. Once we can disconnect not only from technology, but also from possessions, essentially, to connect to our center, to be grounded and connect to other souls lovingly. Once we can do that, we can begin to truly be happy.

  2. Momentary apnea is not nearly as interesting or important as breathing range, as breathing range determines your oxygen intake 24 hours a day, even when you sleep. We breathe about 17,000 times a day. A small restriction in breathing range is multiplied 17,000 times. Breathing range is the percent expansion of your stomach, diaphragm and chest. You measure your circumference at each level, then measure how much you expand. Divide the expansion by the circumference and you get the percent expansion. You want a minimum of 15% expansion. Most people with a 40″ chest expand only 1-2 inches, or 2.5-5%. 15% expansion requires 6″ of expansion. We have measured 9″. As we increase their breathing expansion, people improve their problem solving performance. For instance, programmers have reported 3 promotions and two pay raises as a result of increasing their breathing ranges. Parents of kids who have increased their breathing ranges report as much as a full letter grade improvement in school. An artist who increased her breathing ranges went from painting miniatures to painting murals. Athletes who increase their breathing ranges improve their performance. One swimmer who was unable to transfer her success at 50 meters to 100 meter races won four Gold Medals in 100 meter events after increasing her breathing ranges.

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