Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meditation and web surfing

Steve Silberman who often writes for Wired has an article “Did You Get The Message” in Shambhala Sun March 2010. The theme is mindfulness and the internet.
A section in which he interviewed me is included below.

Another friend who has embraced technology as a way of exploring the nature of mind is John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros and other Zen books. For years, John has been evaluating various ways of including online life in his students’ field of practice. I recently shared with him a concern that the web could act as a jungle gym for 'monkey mind,' the restless part of our ego that hops from one potential source of gratification to the next, chattering internally all the while. How is it possible to stay grounded in the face of perpetual distraction?

It may just be a matter of acquiring new skills, John observed. People first learn to meditate while sitting, then while walking. Eventually they learn to cultivate the mind of awareness while talking or preparing a meal. Why should websurfing be any different? At the same time, he said, "The Zen take would be that there isn’t a ‘right way’ to be online. There’s a kind of freedom deeper than the right way—an awareness that’s always happening while all this other stuff is going on. I woke up with a splitting headache the other night, but this awareness knows it wasn’t really a problem. It’s calm and having a good time, noticing, ‘He’s got a headache,’ or, ‘He’s online now and he thinks his attention is scattered.’ The relationship between this foreground creature that you think you are and this vast background is the question. When there’s a relationship, most people feel their experience is more nourishing.”

For the whole article—

1 comment:

David Weinstein said...

No right way to be online, no right way to meditate, no wrong way to be online, no wrong way to meditate. Interesting how they feel differently to me. 'No right way', 'No wrong way'.

Being distracted, having a headache, it's not really a problem, and, if it is a problem, that's not really a problem. That 'deeper freedom' gives us the freedom to have problems.

Seems like the internet, with its endless opportunities for hopping from one potential source of ego gratification to another, with its viruses and pop ups, is a perfect reflection of my mind. I love allowing it to run free, swinging from the jungle gym. I find myself in the most amazing places.

When I was at the University of Nevada, I worked with Washoe, a chimp who was being raised by a professor and his wife. She was being taught to use sign language. At the time, Washoe lived in a trailer behind the professor's house. She was moved to other larger quarters, as she grew. Many years later, after having children of her own, and many years of living in cramped quarters, she and her family were released into a very large enclosure which afforded them the ability to run and jump and swing in a way they never had before. When the door to the new space was opened, all the chimps ran out and started doing their thing, but Washoe walked over to the person in charge, and expressed her gratitude by signing 'Thank You', before running out herself.

The internet is actually a pretty small jungle gym compared to the one in our heart / mind, and when I find myself swinging freely from that jungle gym, I feel gratitude too.