Which would you rather have – a computer with a huge programmable memory and no internet access, or a computer with limited programmable memory that was always online, wherever you went?
Over the Christmas holiday, my brother, who is a VP at an international internet company, pointed out that if someone took a hammer to his laptop it wouldn’t even inconvenience him as all his data and information was readily available to him "in the cloud". A bit of quick research (online, of course) revealed to me that "cloud computing" is the practice of storing all your data from pics to docs to apps online, relegating your home computer or laptop to the role of a "network access point".
Once I was able to shake the somewhat dramatic image of someone smashing the hard drive of my laptop without my being inconvenienced, I realized that working on a computer offline vs. working in "the cloud" is an excellent metaphor for how the human mind works.
Try this quick experiment:
1. Run a search for "chocolate chip cookie recipes" on your local hard drive.
2. Go online (if you’re not already) and run the same search on your favorite search engine.
When I tried this for myself, I found that when I refined the search down to just the word "chocolate", I had 16 responses, ranging from a client intake form to a product search at Staples for 1" binders to an email from a friend who had hot chocolate while trying to recover from frostbite in the Andes. The same search online got me five award winning recipes (including the Nestle Toll House recipe) in the first five responses.
Using your mind offline involves continual searches through your personal data banks (i.e. "thinking about stuff") and making decisions based on computations using the limited data of our own learning and memory (i.e. "best guessing"). When we use our minds "online", we instead have relatively unlimited access to the wisdom of the universe, allowing us to discover and utilize the best and most relevant information available with a "just in time" delivery.
If you are continually using your mind offline, chances are you place a high value on information gathering as a means of getting smarter, be it through reading to keep informed, advanced schooling, and/or experiencing more and more things. Your biggest fear is, of course, dementia or Alzheimer’s, which like a computer virus can wipe out key bits of your memory leaving you helpless to navigate in an ever more complicated world.
While using your mind online doesn’t mean you stop being interested in learning or you would look forward to a decline in memory, it does free you up to experience life more in the moment without the need to rely on your personal thinking to guide you through the fray. You can elevate problems to the back burner, putting them out of your mind until the answer arrives, fully formed, like a web search running in the background while you check your email or play Minesweeper to keep yourself busy.
So how do we do it? How do we "go online" with our minds?
Here’s the only thing you need to know: Being "online" is your natural state.
When you are relaxed and content with a relatively quiet mind, intuitions and insights flow like gigabytes through a data cable. So if you’re ever not sure whether or not you’re using your mind effectively, you need look no further than your own state of mind. Whenever you are in a relative state of clarity and well-being, you can be assured that your mind is online and whatever comes through will be of use. Whenever you are caught up in trying to figure things out, work them through, or overwhelm them with your brilliance, chances are your mind is offline and you will do as well (or poorly) as your history dictates.
In other words, using your mind online feels better – a quieter, deeper feeling than many of us are used to. You might describe it as clarity, contentment, happiness, ease, well-being, or even peace. In the quiet of those moments, you can easily hear the still small voice within. This is the way your mind is designed to work – a clear channel to your higher wisdom.
And since this is your natural state, you don’t need to worry about practicing techniques to stay online. In those moments when you notice your thoughts are racing and you find your mind offline, simply relax as best you can and wait – you’ll be back online much sooner than you think.