21st century meditation: the mindfulness of smartphone

Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in Buddhism | No Comments

They don’t call them Crackberries for nothing.

These days, especially if you live in a city and have a smartphone, it’s easy to be consuming content of one kind or another from the moment you wake up to the moment you drop off. Texting, listening to mp3s, navigating with gps to the corner shop, watching a video, catching up with people on Facebook, twitter, google plus, and whatever other networks you’re involved with. And I haven’t even mentioned email or talking on the bloody thing yet!

So I’d like to share with you a practice. It’s not specifically mentioned in the texts, but I’m pretty sure the Buddha would’ve mentioned it if he’d been around today. And probably tweeted it to all his followers and by now it would’ve gone viral. Someone would’ve recorded him saying it and laid it over some beats, whacked it on a video of their cat, and now it would be weaving its way across youtube and Facebook. And tomorrow we would’ve all forgotten it.

It’s called ‘the mindfulness of smartphone’. I would imagine Apple and Samsung would be warring over a partnership deal with me by now if I was the Buddha, but unfortunately I don’t have that level of brand recognition. So I’ll probably just have to give it away for free.

It’s quite simple. All you do is monitor how you’re using your phone. No, not with the ‘Monitor the phone’ app. With your mind.

I’m not suggesting you stop using it, or even cut down. All I’m suggesting is you watch how you use the phone, and notice what state of mind you’re in. Are you becoming more contented, or more hungry for experience?

Become aware of your body – is it tight or relaxed? How’s your breathing?

What kind of content are you drawn to? Is it enriching your life?

These aren’t value judgements. I absolutely love my phone. When I was at Rethink 2012 earlier in the week I lent my phone to my wife so she could use the satnav app. When I couldn’t get on the wifi and had to stop tweeting, I was wishing I had the phone. When I saw something beautiful, I was thinking of Instagram. When I met someone I wanted to keep in touch with, I wanted to immediately key in their details in my contacts. For me, these phones are like something off Star Trek. I keep looking for the ‘Beam me up’ app.

I don’t suppose this is particularly good for me, but I don’t think it’s particularly bad either. I’m actively choosing it. It’s legal. It’s my life. Why not? These are the times we live in. I’m drawn to the Stone Age (I used to live in a yurt), but I also love the Geek Age.

All I’m advocating is that we do it consciously. I want us to be aware and to choose. When we’re on autopilot, people sell us nonsense. They keep shovelling it in and we don’t know any better than to keep on swallowing. And big things happen while we aren’t paying attention. Like, for example, your life.

So let’s enjoy our moments, and do what we want to do with them, and feel how we want to feel during them. Waking up from the trance is all we’re trying to achieve. Mindfulness is the key to achieving it.

In the texts, they call it ‘Guarding the gateways of the senses’. What goes in through our senses has an effect on how we feel, how we act, and over time, who we are. By choosing wisely, we become well, happy, content, alive, free, relaxed, kind. All the good stuff. Bit by bit we change who we are, whether we like it or not. So choose what goes in.

Beam me up.

Nope, still not working.


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