FOMO “Living consciously in the places where Ego and Intellect collide”:

Intellect: a steady, curious and open intellect develops wisdom and contentment whereas a narrow and bumptious intellect feeds an ego-self that is continually dissatisfied and seeking validation through collecting outside information.

Ego: a strong and quiet ego empowers us to act independently and with considered authenticity whereas a weak ego is constantly attempting to prove itself and achieve validation through others.

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out: is the fear that something (life) is happening without us and that our worth is diminished by not being there. FOMO occurs in us when what we are doing for ourselves is outwardly projected (doing to be seen or to “seem” a specific way) rather than inwardly drawn (to do for our own enrichment). FOMO is a lack of contentment with ourselves.

We live in the Lakes District where one could believe the acronym FOMO was coined. I have a couple of friends who have it to such an extent that making plans with them is all but impossible as any suggested time together is always weighted against what other people are or might be doing. There appears to be a fear that they will be missing out on some cathartic or significant event rather than participating in one. This is because after the occasion or event there will be a story about everyone’s activities/engagements and a scoring based on a superficial level. If we are basing our lives on external validation we end up feeling like our time spent was less worthy, “cool”, “fun” or “significant” and when we buy into that it’s as if we saw an add on the telly saying that in order to be worthy we must buy this or that product.

While the term “FOMO” is normally used to refer to social a phenomena, I think is applicable throughout our culture. In our outdoor pursuits focus is on where we go, how hard it was, how well we did it. In yoga, it is about how difficult the class was, or whether or not you can “take” a difficult pose. The deeper significances of bonding with nature in a “flow state” or deepening your self-awareness and quieting the mind are sublimated through external focuses, validation and self-congratulation.

Seeking external validation through our actions and the approval of, or impressing of others is missing the point which, is to enrich our lives through an experience that is later deepened through the process of contemplation.

What is happening in FOMO:
In Social situations, Fear of Missing Out is a sense that our lives will be less important, valid or exciting because we have not participated in some event. In yoga, it occurs when we are unable to achieve a specific posture or endure a difficult class. In outdoor pursuits, it revolves around an ability to complete a hard, dangerous or long challenge. We feel less respectable, envied, entertaining, less story-worth. In reality, our lives “worth” is entirely unrelated to any of this and our contentment has nothing to do with whether we are “missing out” and everything to do with the attention we apply to where we are right now. This is the basis for countless movements from the mindfulness of Zen to Landmark training.

Truly our sense of self-worth would be best measured by our level of comfort in time spent with ourselves. A counter-argument can be made dependent upon the type of activity we are participating in. For instance joining a rally to speak out against social injustice is a lot different from going to the local pub and drinking a beer with your buds.

How Ego drives this:
Fragile and small egos constantly tell and show us how great they are. The small, fragile ego is constantly attempting to prove itself through acts that impress and in being seen. It does not experience sympathetic joy which would allow the individual to say “Wow! Sounds like you had a great time!” and mean it without envy. The ego experiences FOMO or not, based upon our strength of internal validation.

The Intellect and Ego/FOMO
The mind or “intellect” is the easiest attribute to develop and the easiest to distract and deceive through external influencers and validations. Just think of all the infomercials we see on telly. In order to combat this tendency toward outside influences and validation, keeping close a foundation philosophy of the practice of yoga in daily life is helpful:

“concentrate on the quality of the action rather than the goal. Pay attention to the spirit in which you act rather than the outcome you expect”…

Or put simply: do what you wish to do without expectation of reward or recognition.

In approaching our lives in this way the focus is more on our own process rather than the activities or actions of self or others and we begin to enter into a deepening relationship with ourselves as well as those we are with and our environment we start experiencing more of life. This deepening relationship draws us inward and downward until we arrive at last at the present moment of “here” or “the world”. Or to loosely translate it, “reality”… this approach keeps pushing us off the surface and down into the multiple layers of life.

I have taught yoga for 10 years and practiced for over 30 years. When I started it seemed a bit cultish. But it helped keep my head calm when in stressful situations (climbing, working, kayaking) and I stuck with it. As years have gone by the practice has become more popular until hitting first fad status. Now it is seen as a legitimate form of exercise, health maintenance and personal development.

But a lot of people come to the practice with the idea of doing rather than experiencing and confuse an advanced practice with assuming physically challenging postures or enduring suffering rather than raising self-awareness. The posture or practice then ceases to be a “seat” and becomes a pose. Once again the fear is that by not being “In” a particular pose or enduring a difficult class we are missing out on something bigger, better or more glamorous.

Now I have a lot of great students who are there for deeper reasons and I have definitely stroked my own ego with the practice of both asana and teaching but I hope to stay away from all those pitfalls in the future through the above-mentioned philosophy which is a part of the 5th Niyama Ishvara Pranidhana.

Concentrate on the quality of the action rather than the goal. Pay attention to the spirit in which you act, rather than the outcome you expect. This is Ishvara Pranidhana, to offer yourself up to the highest good.

We live in a world where the predominant interest of people at large is to be entertained. Let us shift and begin to enrich ourselves through attentive participation or passionate engagement with our own living.

George Santayana has this to say about FOMO:
“A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgement, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.”

Article by: Michael Graney
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Michael Graney has been a practicing yogi for over 3 decades. His journey in the practices of mindfulness began in his mid-teens with an introduction to Zen Buddhism presented by a Jesuit priest. Since then he has travelled extensively in odd corners of the Earth from Central and South America to Borneo and the far North. He has been a wilderness and adventure guide for over 30 years, a wilderness therapist with a degree in folklore and continues to explore far-flung regions to experience traditional cultures and learn about the land and animals that spawned us. His affinity for wildness and wild places keeps him close to his animal and mineral teachers and he has been writing poetry and essays since early childhood addressing the topics of mythology, human/animal relations and spiritual responsibility. He can be found these days travelling between New Zealand and Alaska.

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  1. Prudence

    Lovely photo , great article . I hope you are well.