hot take 🔥 phones *do not belong* in studios


Phones do not belong in sacred spaces. (If you run a yoga or meditation studio and you don’t consider it a sacred space, maybe you are actually running a gym or a hang out spot.) As I posted about recently on Instagram, I am so sick of photos or videos of me doing my private spiritual work going up on other people’s social media accounts without my knowledge or permission. Phones shouldn’t even be in the room.

I get the need for teachers and studios to market themselves, obviously. But to assume that a student’s words, work, or image are content or marketing fodder that you own is just . . . well, it breaks my heart. it’s spiritual materialism.

But beyond privacy and marketing issues, phones just plain do not belong in sacred space.

Here’s why:

  • The mere presence of our smart phone phone reduces our cognitive capacity. Meaning, having our phone in a room makes us dumber at just the time when we want to be able to more fully engage our mental abilities. (study: University of Chicago Press Journal, 2017)

  • The mere presence of a smart phone and what it represents (such as social media and work emails) diminishes our ability to focus and pay attention; when do we want to focus and pay attention more than when doing our spiritual work? (study: American Psychological Association, 2014)

  • We are on our phones an average of 150 times a day and touch our phones an average of 2,617 times a day; the top users touch their phones over five thousand times a day. (!!!) Let sacred spaces be the one place where we are not tempted to do that. Our brains need to remember that we don’t need our screens. Most people never unplug. Yoga and meditation should be practices during which we let go of our compulsive behaviors. (study: dcout, 2016; cited in the New York Times)

  • Multiple screens mean crazy distraction levels; people switch cognitive awareness up to every 14 seconds. If my phone is in a room, and so is his, and the teacher is teaching from her computer, and that guy’s Apple watch keeps lighting up when he moves, well . . . then no one is going as deep as they could–and that’s a damn shame. (study: Boston College, 2019)

This goes for teachers doubly. Teachers: do not teach from your phone or computer for the same reasons listed above. Use paper. Plan in advance; print out what you need or write it down. You are doing your students a genuine disservice if you pull out a screen in the front of the room. You don’t get a pass–you should hold yourself to a higher standard, as always. (If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be teaching.)

By the way, this is all true for smart watches with screens, also. An Apple watch or similar device still counts as a screen.

Studios and teachers: if you are genuinely interested in the spiritual work of your students, protect it. Institute a no phones in the studio policy–and enforce it.

If you are interested in more mindful interactions with tech, please visit my company, Mindful Technology, or send me your questions. It’s confusing, but we’re in this together.

Yours in the gritty work,

xo Liza

ps I send out a weekly newsletter on Fridays with 5 quick things in it. If you’re interested, get on the list. Also, this gif is too perfect. 😂👇🏽


Collage image of Mahakala taking a selfie is from the Fall 2018 issue of BuddhaDharma magazine and is by Lhasa-based painter Gade.