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Catherine Cussaguet Headshot

Online and Off at the Aspen Ideas Festival

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Last night in Aspen, I attended a conversation between Arianna Huffington and David Brooks about the state of American society and culture.

The conversation started with the observation that our society is driven by the desire of success. We thrive to earn more, to do more. We are not all driven by money and power, but in America, the desire to leave a legacy, to be recognized for things we do is quite strong. This can come at high cost. Indeed so many health problems are caused by this relentless thriving energy: stress and its consequences. I would add that it is also observed that our society, although richer, does not seem to be happier: more suicides, more violence and more depressions.

A few months ago I attended three days of teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. One of the Dalai Lama's strong points was that we need more balance between material and spiritual life. Although our speakers last night and the Dalai Lama come from different worlds, different educations and religions, and live very different lives, it is encouraging to note that this need of more Being, more wisdom is more universally recognized.

The point is not to retrieve from our lives and all go to monasteries but to integrate times of reflection, quietness, pause and surrender.

Arianna Huffington pointed out that these last year's electronics devices, social medias have exacerbated the problem. What allows us to be connected 24/7 indeed disconnects us from ourselves and real communications. She asked the audience how many people in the room had electronics devices next to their bed, and yes, quite a few hands were raised!

She also reminded us that Steve Jobs said he had his best creative ideas after a zen meditation retreat.

Companies like the Huffington Post encourage their employees to take breaks and offer meditation, breathing classes. Let's stop the constant "noise"of the world and of our thoughts so the whispering can be heard, something we can recognize as an intuitive kind of thinking. The idea is not new but it is our responsability NOW to implant it in our families and among our friends and colleagues.

I had a chance to greet Arianna Huffington at the end of the conversation. She had mentioned that one of her daughter does not use social medias at all. A few years ago, I took them snowshoeing here in Aspen. I remember her daughter, a young teenager at the time, running ahead and enjoying the deep powder. Of course it is the same young lady who does not use social medias these days. She is growing up her own way.

Can any of us live without quiet time and nature?

Survive, yes, live fully, no.