yadā yadā  hi  dharmasya  glānir  bhavati  bhārata abhyutthānam adharmasya tadā‘tmānaṁ  sṛjāmy-aham

Whenever there is a decrease of righteousness in the world and unrighteousness seems to be on the rise, The Lord of mercy and compassion manifests to bring balance.

BG IV.7

We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull.” –George Orwell, Animal Farm

“For if you kill me you will not easily find another like me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by the God; and the state is like a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has given the state and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you.” —Socrates

Groupthink is a term for the practice of making decisions as members of a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. Groupthink requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, resulting in a loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. The term is a modern derivation of terms like “Doublethink” from Orwell’s novel 1984 that takes place in a dystopian world where people are under constant surveillance from telescreens, and other humans, who act as the monitors for a totalitarian government. Big Brother is the government leader that exacts ultimate control of all human interaction with the permission and collusion of the controlled. Some characteristics of Groupthink are: delusions of invulnerability; unquestioned belief; stereotyping of opposition as weak, biased, impotent, or stupid; self-censorship of ideas that deviate; illusions of unanimity; pressure to conform; lack of impartial leadership; failure, leading to low self-esteem; moral dilemmas that are stressful; and a high degree of cohesiveness leading to de-individuation. In the past, Groupthink has been cited in nonsensical political decisions, cult behavior, and, lately, in the behavior of men toward women and vice versa. Today, it seems that Groupthink is not the exception, but the rule, with the Internet becoming the ultimate addictive agency of control and herd behavior. Viral is really the right term for defining the way an idea, good or bad, can infect the minds of hundreds of thousands of people in hours or days as it spreads from Facebook to Twitter and back again…

“I have found myself increasingly wondering whether social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, constitutes a vehicle for civil dialogue. The number of attacks that I have either witnessed or experienced has been astounding. It has gotten to the point that I rarely respond to comments on either Twitter or Facebook…”1

George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1946 as both a reaction and warning of the dangers of totalitarianism that he witnessed during WWII:
“We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?”2

I don’t have an iPhone. I never have had one. Consequently, I am constantly on the camera side as people talk to others, make plans, get the latest news, and form opinions. I do have a computer and am well aware that the eye of the camera can be watching me and controlled by others (I keep it covered up). There is an ominous cloudy decrease in righteousness in the world, and a tendency for people to be subject to emotional contagion, sacrificing their own opinion in order to join the group flow. The fake relationships of social media have replaced the authentic awakening of mercy and compassion with rage and enmity. There is a growing fear of touching or being touched.

“Nearly 20% of the total time spent online in the U.S. across both desktop and mobile devices is on social platforms; Facebook alone makes up 14% of total time spent online. With this amount of time consumption it can be argued that social networks like Twitter and Facebook consume a large portion of our lives which begs the question: what type of impact does social media have on the way people think, specifically does it provoke groupthink?”3

In the 18th Century, a fellow named Jeremy Bentham designed an architecture called the panopticon. The panopticon allowed a single watcher to observe multiple inmates simultaneously in incarceration. These days the tables have turned and each one of us are viewed from many peering eyes. We have something called the Internet of Things (IoT) watching us from kitchen appliances, automobiles, smart meters, cameras and many other sources where embedded electronics, software, sensors, actuators and connectivity are recording every aspect of our daily lives. These recordings are stored in “big data” cloud storage to be accessed by marketers, hackers, government agencies, or just troublemakers. Whether it is that chip on your credit card or a heart monitoring implant, all these cyber-physical systems have robbed us of any possibility of privacy. It may not seem intrusive that the barcode on your veggie burger may communicate with your refrigerator and change what you see advertised on your Internet connection. It may not seem important that your sleep cycles are monitored, and your electric usage clocked, but taken together all these monitoring technologies may alter your freedom, as they become more and more pervasive, unregulated or misused.

Is your Yoga class a Groupthink experience? Is your Yoga teacher an envoy of the fear of touching or being touched?

Yoga class is a group activity carried on in real time, with real people, meant to provide a respite from self-centered focus, in order to celebrate each other’s unique Cosmic presence. In a yoga class we move together with Super consciousness. In yoga class the group is meant to give relief from the Internet of Things, and allow the doors of perception to open. Yoga practice is a dialogue between God and the devotee.

On the Internet we move in circles of thinking without consciousness. The Internet experience is virtual, isolating and often anonymous. The Internet closes the doors of perception and covers the individual under the shadow of conformity. Social media give us the feeling of having friends without the responsibility of friendship. Social media creates the illusion of membership through false consensus effect, and becomes a filter bubble to (not) see the world. The Internet enabled Groupthink with collective narcissism, and never touches anyone.

Groupthink cloaks reality; Yoga-think uncovers reality. The Lord of mercy and compassion will appear as people reclaim their personal data and their right to disappear their smallness in order to become genuinely large and fearless.

Teaching Tips

1 Civility on social media is dead

2 1984, George Orwell, pp204-205

3 Does Social Media Cause Groupthink?

4. A few techniques for preventing Groupthink in your Yoga classes: present a variety of perspectives and alternatives, create a feeling of well-being, encourage critical evaluation, listen to the students feelings more than your own, encourage individual investigation, encourage discussion outside of yoga class, play Devil’s advocate, don’t mediate student’s experience (saying things like “You should feel relieved, excited, balanced, etc.”.)

5. Discuss the difference between an outward dependent relationship (like drug or technology addictions) and independent relationships like yoga (where you are taught techniques of inward connection or self reliance).

6. Lead the first round of Surya Namaskara, but then release the class to practice the next rounds on their own.

7. Take the time for students to introduce themselves to the other students on the mat next to them.

8. At the end of class give everyone the option for “Yogi’s Choice” to add their individual choice of an asana to the practice.

9. Teach the Magic 10 and Beyond, a portion each day, until the students memorize the practice and can practice on their own. Encourage them to develop a portable practice and become independent, while remembering their authentic group experience to grow out of their individual limitations.

10. Reread 1984 and Animal Farm, two novels by George Orwell. Read and discuss excerpts aloud with your classes.