Living in the Sagittal Plane

(Excerpted from Your Body Mandala, Chapter 11, “Embodying Tensegrity”)

The furious pace of life in the twenty-first century makes equanimity hard to sustain for more than a few moments at a time. Life rushes full speed ahead while we, sedentary, hang on to our seats and stare fixedly at screens. Our collective focus is sagittal, tunnel-like. Thanks to Google, we are becoming mentally sagittal as well: we feel entitled to immediate answers and have little patience for research or reflection. Conversational styles take on a laser-like quality as well. Talk show guests drill one another with opinions and call it a round-table discussion.

The more we live in the sagittal plane, the less expansive our spatial orientation becomes. Awareness of people or events outside our immediate focus is vague. Hyper-focus is a natural response to traumatic events, but being in this state every day takes a toll on vagal tone, respiration, posture and social connectedness.

Although it seems specific to the Digital Age, tunneling of awareness has evolved over many centuries. In Chapter One I suggested that our Paleolithic forebears participated in streams of consciousness in common with everything around them. Not merely aware of the space around them, our ancestors must have been fully integrated into their surroundings. We can imagine that they viewed themselves—if they viewed themselves at all--as aspects of the tensional integrity of all life.

During the subsequent Agricultural and Industrial revolutions, humans progressively narrowed their physical and mental endeavors to interact with tools and machines, harvests and quotas. This narrowing of attention coincided with awareness of a separate self, and erased the prehistoric holistic perspective of aliveness.

Pity our poor twenty-first century bodies! The digital revolution has condensed the world to the dimensions of the screen in front of us.