Recently one evening at home I sat down to watch a movie. After a while I became uncomfortably aware of how hard I found it to just sit and watch the film, without checking my phone for texts or popping on Facebook. This I must confess was something of a shock and embarrassment as I have been practicing and teaching meditation for over 20 years and spend my time encouraging people to explore being more mindful. I then began to reflect on my experience of restlessness during the film. Was I drawn away from the film because I had easy access to my mobile phone and lap-top, or was the restlessness within me? It was probably a combination of both those and maybe other factors.
With the advances in modern technology we now can now access vast amounts of information at the touch of a button, but at what expense to the quality of our lives? With so much information being bombarded at us we can lose the ability to just simply sit and watch a film or listen to a piece of music, read a book, or eat a meal without the desire to share the experience via the internet in some way. The quality of mindfulness, of just being aware and open to the present moment without trying to add to it is something we can learn to do: allowing the bare experience to be there, fully attending to it in a relaxed open awareness, tasting an aliveness, a vibrancy from the naked awareness of our lives unfolding moment by moment. This is not always an easy thing to do. I recently came across an article where the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was asked by a New York Times reporter “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded:
“They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
I found his response interesting. He had healthy created boundaries for his children so that they did not spend all their time on the internet or playing games on their phone or computer. Speaking to friends who are parents they tell me that they try to do the same. I am beginning to wonder whether we as adults need to do this for ourselves? Speaking as someone who is a self-employed yoga teacher, it is not always easy to establish a clear line between working and resting. As wonderful as modern technology is (and I am a man who loves his Ipod) it is very easy to slip into a habit of spending your evenings responding to emails. I have made a little promise to myself that I am going to switch off my lap-top and phone in the evening and try and just be open and present to my experience. I am not advocating that we should throw our technological devices away, but maybe next time we reach for our mobile, we could try leaving our phone in our pocket and just be with life, as it is. The world is not going to collapse because you have missed a Facebook update. Maybe if we were not so busy trying to communicate via social media, we could stop, look and maybe talk to the person sitting next to us?