This week, we spoke with author Douglas Rushkoff about a new kind of economy that doesn't involve punching the clock. But what does it look like when you're creating and selling your own product? Your own brisket, pickles, or ideas? We talked to Susan Piver, director of the Open Heart Project, an online meditation and mindfulness guide designed to help people cope with what Rushkoff calls "present shock."
Ironically, the advent of technologies designed to make our lives easier, like smartphones, has introduced entirely new stresses - from worrying about missing out on important text messages to not being able to escape from work, even when away from the office. "When we're talking about the overwhelm stemming from tech, we're not talking about too many machines lying around or levers to push," says Piver. "We're talking about too much information. Too many thoughts to parse. Too much to wade through."
In an age of constant information bombardment, there are two ways to cope, Piver says. The first is to get away from it all - a great solution if you have a free weekend and a cottage in Vermont, but not if you're, say, in between board meetings. That's where the Open Heart Project comes in, by providing short, simple videos to help manage stress and, as Piver describes it, "keep a relaxed mind in the midst of a tsunami." The idea is not to ignore stress or let it build, but face it head on using meditation as a tool. "You feel it, you allow your life to be what it is, and you relax with things as they are," she says.
Piver's one-woman meditation operation has put her in the center of the new economy Rushkoff describes, one based on cottage industries, not big corporations. It's a path both fulfilling and challenging. On the one hand, you can make a living doing what you love. On the other, it's a path that doesn't necessarily come with an instruction manual and, as Piver freely admits, that means challenges - both financial and logistical - come with the territory.
"If I was to measure my life by how much money is in my bank account, you know, I would not be very happy right now," she admits. "But if I had to measure my life by how myself can I be every day, and how much can I offer that makes me happy - I don't mean to sound sappy about it - but it makes me overjoyed to offer this."