One of my New Year’s resolutions is to become more present — especially these days, when my constantly buzzing iPhone threatens to throw off my attempts to forge a healthy work-life balance. Amid the crush of holiday deadlines, I was more determined than ever to connect with Soren Gordhamer — the Bay Area’s go-to mindfulness guru — in order to learn how to live in the moment, a seemingly impossible goal in a culture that’s turned an overflowing inbox into a crisis. Gordhamer is unbound by the banality of email notifications, flows through life unrushed by other people’s self-imposed schedules and signs his messages with a casual “blessings.” In 2010, he founded Wisdom 2.0, a three-day Bay Area based mindfulness conference that explores the intersection between ancient wisdom and today’s tech-centric lifestyle. How to begin 2019 righteously despite an inevitably blue-lit existence? Gordhamer weighs in.
How can I begin a mindfulness practice? “Carve out a certain amount of time and ask yourself: What would bring me the greatest sense of peace in this time period? Hear what your voice says. Maybe that’s lying down and resting, maybe that’s singing or meditation. There are a limited number of heart-beats each of us has in our human experience. How do we want to spend those heartbeats? I think it’s really about taking a moment and reflecting on what is important and seeing if we can align more parts of our life to that. At some point we go to bed and we are just with our body and our mind. Whether we are at ease or peace is really up to us.”
For people who aren’t into sitting still, what are some alternatives to meditation? “It’s an air of discovery that everybody has to find. The difference is, does it make you more alive? Does it bring you greater insight into who you are? And does it make you feel more refreshed, attuned and connected? It should slowly start to creep into your day so that those moments don’t just exist in that particular experience. The beauty of it is that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. In the ideal world, every moment is a moment of mindfulness. Something that is very important to note is that there is no better or worse moment. There are just moments.”
Is there a healthy balance between mindfulness and tech? “There is an experiment that we are all going through as a culture that is, “How do we engage with technology in a useful way?” Rather than focusing so much on the technology, I like to focus on things that bring more mindfulness into your life. That could be going for a walk in the woods, making time with friends and family, or a daily meditation practice. Something that is not technology-based and makes you feel more enriched and connected — not just with yourself, but with nature and other people. That can then begin to guide us into a better relationship with technology.”
How does mindfulness contribute to personal and professional success? “It’s an interesting balance. In some ways, if you use mindfulness to become successful, you’re not being mindful. You’re doing something to get a future experience that is largely out of your control. At the same time, there is a saying that goes ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ The kinder, more thoughtful and present we are, people want to be associated with us. I can only imagine that would help in whatever vocation you do. I try not to emphasize the extrinsic benefits because I feel like the heart of mind-fulness, and what’s going to keep someone at it, is their own inner experience.”
What books or quotes have helped you on your own mindfulness journey? “Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth is a book that I really enjoy — it can get a little far out, but it’s just a quality book. Also, Yuval Noah Harrari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. What’s interesting about the author is he meditates two hours a day: an hour in the morning and an hour at night. The book has a depth that you can feel from his meditation practice. The quote that I most love I first heard from a Buddhist teacher named Thich Nhat Hanh, and he says, ‘The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.’ I’ve always loved that.”
For this year’s event, to be held March 1-3, Gordhamer has invited speakers including meditation teacher Jack Kornfield and executives from companies Slack and Pinterest.
Slogan: “How do we live with greater mindfulness, wisdom and compassion in the digital age?”
Attendance: The San Francisco flagship event summons nearly 3,000 people annually.
Activities: Gordhamer hosts speaker and panel discussions, yoga and meditation, interactive workshops and even parties to promote the idea of connecting not only in spite of, but through, tech.
Previous panelists: Arianna Huffington, Anderson Cooper, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and #MeToo founder and activist Tarana Burkehave graced the Wisdom 2.0 stage.