Born with severe clubbed feet, Max Strom spent much of his early life years with his feet confined in casts and braces. Today he is known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students and has become one of the world’s most revered yoga teachers.
Formerly the director/founder of the top-rated yoga center in Los Angeles, Exhale enter for Sacred Movement Yoga (now closed), his teaching style emphasizes to live the daily experience of a meaningful life. His last book A Life Worth Breathing (Skyhorse Publishing 2010) includes a philosophy for living, self-inquiry, breath-work, yoga postures, and meditation.
Known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students and readers worldwide, teacher and author Max Strom discusses the intersection between technology and personal happiness in his latest book There Is No App for Happiness: How to Avoid a Near-Life Experience.
Roxanne Naseem Rashedi for Yogi Times: In your latest book, There Is No App for Happiness, you talk a lot about the Information Age. Can you tell us more about that? What is “the app” that can’t “save us”?
Max Strom: Technology has expanded at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been affected”” yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, conversely we find that the wealthiest societies of the world have become depressed, anxious, sleep deprived, and overmedicated.
RNR: And technology contributes to the increasing rate of such disorders?
Max Strom: Technology most certainly is a factor in play. In the most personal levels of human fulfillment, it seems that we grossly overestimate what technology can do for us.
RNR: Interesting. How so?
Max Strom: My book reveals an internal, human technology capable of empowering the most meaningful areas of our lives — tools that can lead us to deeper levels of happiness. When it comes to a meaningful life or happiness, I believe that technology is close to irrelevant.
RNR: I couldn’t agree more. We need to use technology to save time and not fill up our time. As an instructor in higher education, I struggle with this, especially with the popularity of social media sites, and I can imagine that such issues become increasingly alarming for parents too. What ways do you think we can utilize and present these technologies to our future generation of thinkers, educators, and yogis alike?
Max Strom: We have to choose our technology wisely. If we bring technology into our life, it should simplify our life. It should give us more free time, not take it away. If the technology does not make your current life more seamless and beautiful, get rid of it. I think that our present society is starving for intimacy.
RNR: What kind of intimacy?
Max Strom: An apt question. Yes, I mean friendship intimacy, community intimacy, and family intimacy. Social media is the new white sugar of our time. The more we eat, the more we want and the worse we feel.
RNR: Like that cartoon of HÃagen-Dazs which we constantly crave?
Max Strom: Very much so. People feel lonelier and lonelier and keep going back for more. Studies now clearly show that humans communicate 90 percent nonverbally. This means that whenever we communicate with text, we are using only 10 percent of our communication/intimacy potential. We are diluting communication down to what I call the 10-percent relationship . . . the very opposite of intimacy. Put simply, we need to spend more face-time with each other – make eye contact and watch our friends’ faces as we converse. The way person looks at us when we speak to that person determines whether or not we trust him or her, whether we have affection for him or her, whether or not we feel safe.
RNR: So true. The other day, I was at Baskin Robbins and ran into a troop of little ballerinas. You’d think they would be conversing but their eyes were glued to their igadets and what not. It shouldn’t be a surprise to me but it is. What’s the solution then? I can’t imagine it is to eliminate technology, right?
Max Strom: Most certainly not and I’m not anti-technology. I don’t live in a hay-bale house and grow all of my own food while living off the grid, but we need to use the right tools for each job. There’s much that new technology will help us with, medicine, food production, longevity, but it will not help us the essential ailments of the human condition, war, corruption, and oppression.
RNR: In your book, you provide three insightful nuggets of advice or “imperatives.” How do they work in tandem with one another? What role does a stable yoga play in one or any of the three imperatives?
Max Strom: In my book I introduce a course of action, the three imperatives, to accelerate change from the inside out. I call them imperatives because I don’t really think we can change the world without changing ourselves. You have an internal technology within you now, along with all of the apps you need in your heart, mind, and body to elicit a personal renaissance, but you need to upload this knowledge and begin to use it. My book introduces a direct program to empower you to access the inner knowledge and the power you possess but you have forgotten.
The first imperative: We need to become self-aware. I saw the headline of a magazine article that read, “Could the Net become self-aware?” A more relevant question for us is, “Can we humans become self-aware?” That is the question of our time. Put simply, while awareness is our ability to sense and observe the exterior world and our physical bodies, self-awareness is our ability to observe our interior world, including our motives, character, and behavior. We all have a blind side”“ and this fragmentary self-awareness is one of the central causes of unhappiness, because most of us do not know what drives us to behave in the way we do or make the choices we make. Until we humans become self-aware at the personal level, history will repeat itself, corruption and crime will continue, personal suffering will continue.
The second imperative: Live as if your time and your life span were the same thing. What you spend your time on is what you spend your life on. But most of us think of the concepts of time and life as two completely separate things. In one hand we have a precious short life, and in the other hand we have time to kill. Time is not only money it is the minutes and seconds of your mortal life. Your time is the finite resource from which you experience this world, everyone, everything, and especially that which you are devoted to and live for. Most of us believe that it is money that will make us happy; even though many of us have money now and are not happy, yet strangely we somehow still believe it.
Examine real versus perceived value. For example, do you remember the three happiest and most meaningful days in your life? (Not including your wedding or the birth of your children.) As you envision the three happiest days, how much did money have to do with the beauty and wonder of those days? Most likely, very little. If you want to increase your life span, do it by increasing the quality of your hours, increase the hours you spend doing things you love and helping others. This is a different way of thinking; you have to train for it.
The third imperative: Learn a daily regime that heals and empowers you, and practice it one hour a day. To me, yoga and Qi Gong are the highest level regimes that empower and heal us on a holistic level.
The message I want to convey to you most of all regarding exercise is this: Your life is short; if you lose your health, you lose your ability to be active in everything that you now take for granted.
You will lose your ability to work, to care for your loved ones, to make love, to walk through nature, to swim, to travel, and to help others. You will lose your ability to sleep through the night (if you haven’t already). With your health in crisis, almost all of your possessions suddenly mean nothing, and you begin to regret the hours, and years invested in things that were not important. Every minute you spend in a regimen that heals, illuminates, and empowers you deeply serves your family, your work, society at large, and especially your own happiness. So yoga or something very much like it is truly an imperative.
RNR: Max, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with our readers and for your words of wisdom!
More on Max Strom