Recently, I was browsing the news stories on the CNN website when I was struck by a particular headline in the technology section. It asked a simple question: "Can You Prove You're Not a Machine?" The words caught my attention because I had been asking myself the very same thing, and I wasn't really sure I could answer in the affirmative.

In the old days, it seemed like we were always asked the opposite question. In high school, the biology assignment was to prove that a car is not a living organism, or to examine a manila envelope containing a mystery object and ascertain by the weight and movement whether the contents were inanimate or not. But modern life has turned the question inward: are we really alive? Are human beings that different from the technology that serves them? Do we bring anything meaningful to the lives we lead, or are our physical and material needs forcing us into daily routines that feel more and more mechanical?

We can be forgiven for wondering from time to time. The rat race can often make life feel remote and monotonous. Society puts a lot of pressure on the average man or woman to earn a good living, to obtain that picturesque house in the suburbs, to acquire all kinds of material possessions — in short, to live up to the American Dream. These are not unworthy goals, per se, but the tireless quest to achieve them can create a void in spirituality, and that void can quickly turn the quest into a robotic chore.

Of course, like all good consumerist societies, we have various answers to modern man's existential crises: self-help books, weekend retreats, enlightenment seminars. One day, when I was feeling down about the humdrum monotony of my daily life, I decided to seek out one of the latest therapeutic tools: the meditation room.

I found one tucked away in Soho, in a quiet building designed to give students or office workers a brief respite of calm reflection in the midst of chaotic city life. The windowless room smelled of incense and had no chairs, so I sat down on one of the floor pillows and prepared to unburden myself of earthly concerns. I was going to drink in the elixir of enlightenment, to taste the freedom of a mind unfettered by daily worry.

But the moment I closed my eyes, I suddenly felt extremely claustrophobic. It wasn't just the lack of air circulating, or the fact that the room's only other occupant seemed more sinister than serene. It was the very idea of a meditation room that really unnerved me. Confining spirituality to a single airless room just seemed so suffocating.

And then I realized that perhaps that had been my problem all along. Maybe that's the problem a lot of us have. We feel like machines because on some level we function like them. We compartmentalize the different aspects of our lives and think that they can each work separately from one another. The office is where we act as our professional, task-driven, and often more boring selves. After hours, we get to feel like our "real selves" by having fun and engaging in meaningful relationships. G‑d, or meaning, or spirituality — or whatever we call it — is something we do on the weekends or on our lunch break, if there's enough time. Our lives are not necessarily unfulfilled, but they are disconnected, because there's no unifying meaning bringing all the pieces together.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If we could only realize that there's holiness in all aspects of our day, then maybe we would feel less like machines and more like the human beings that we are. We don't need meditation rooms to feel spiritual; there's meaning in the seat we give up for a stranger on the subway, in the dollar we drop in a homeless man's coffee cup, in the conversations we have with coworkers, in the silent moments we share with the people we love, in the poetry written on the sidewalk, in the shadows the streetlights cast on our bedroom walls at night.

If G‑dliness exists in the little things, then all we really need is a bit of string to tie them together.