- Andrew Lewis
Awareness and digital obsession. Keeping in touch.
The practice of mindfulness and meditation has at least one very significant and beneficial impact on our lives; we become AWARE of what is happening internally (body and mind), and externally ( what is really happening 'here and now', without the excessive elaboration of conceptual thinking, emotions, and predictions). We cultivate and strengthen our awareness through meditation and we take this into our daily practice, our daily lives, so that we begin to notice changes in the way we do things and in the way we think. We CHOOSE rather than REACT. We take control of how we want to be and how we want to behave.
A good place to start this practice is with digital technology and social media.
How many times a day are we checking our phones?
Would you dare to turn your phone off, or leave it at home for a while?
If your phone bleeps with an email or text, do you have to check it immediately?
If you go on a special holiday, or to a special concert or event, would you rather watch it all through your device, rather than be there, fully in the moment, as it is happening? We start to believe that we are not having the experience unless we are storing it and sharing it.
Do you ever sit in a room, or on public transport where everyone present is not fully present, but buried deep in some compelling digital flow?
None of this is to deny the benefits and usefulness of technology, but we need to become aware of its potential to dominate our lives and behaviour, making changes to our brain states and circuitry, our ability to focus and concentrate, and our feeling of direction and control. Always on call, always on alert, always waiting for the next text or email, or social media communication, we notice that the mind is getting conditioned to leap immediately to our devices like an obedient servant, like a puppet going where the strings pull it. This is an ideal way to keep the mind addicted to constant stimulation, and to keep the body stressed.
This is how we lose that feeling of control in our lives. We no longer feel free to be the way we want to be or would like to be. We long for some kind of rest from this incessant stimulation but at the same time we feel we can't resist it, we get drawn into it like some powerful drug. We have squeezed out all the space for silence and stillness. We feel burnout and dissatisfaction. We have no breathing space.
Present moment awareness has never been more challenging.
With awareness, the fruit of meditation practice, we can stay grounded, we can establish our desired or preferred pace and sense of control. If we don't take control over our own lives, something or somebody else will. We can be sure of that!
A simple way to start. We hear our phone bleep or chirp with another message. Instead of dropping everything immediately, we choose to finish our cup of tea, finish a task we are engaged with, finish a conversation we are having, or we just decide that we want to have some empty space, to do nothing, to be quiet for a while. Even fields benefit from lying fallow. We go to our device when we are ready. We choose when. This simple practice may be uncomfortable at first. That's the sign that we need to do it! In time it will become gently liberating, setting us free from an avoidable tyranny.
Another thing to try. We can turn off our devices from time to time. We focus on what is here, now. We seek no other stimulation, we gather in the scattered busy mind and bring it home to the body. We rest, on purpose, with a quiet mind, a patient mind, a mind that can be still, rather than busy creating dramas, stories, and a large heap of unhelpful fiction and candyfloss.
Simple things to practice, but they help to create space where we can really connect both with the external and internal environment. Perhaps we need to spend time offline in order to get our lives online. We need to let the field be fallow.