I left Dhamma Patapa a little over a month ago and the most dramatic shift I’ve noticed is the number of distractions available to me. Now that I have access to all forms of technology I’ve discovered that my samadhi (concentration) has taken a huge step backwards. I started thinking about my childhood growing up in front of a television. What a wonderful luxury it was to watch cartoons and sitcoms on television. I was even more excited when we got cable so I had 10 times as many channels including ESPN. Throw in Nintendo and Sega Genesis and I could spend hours in front of the television every day.
More recently I’ve noticed the power of television to entertain children. You can take a child who needy, loud, and in constant need of attention and sit them in front of a television or video game and their glued in. They will be fully engaged until you take this technology away. It could be multiple hours. I don’t have kids of my own but I’ve worked with kids quite a bit and know what a luxury it is to have some peace and quiet every once in a while but what are we really doing?
Now I’ve left an environment that was absent of technological distraction only to quickly jump into all of my old guilty pleasures: watching movies, searching the internet, combing social media, and yes, writing a blog. The difference is now I have a tool, meditation, that allows me to see that these technologies are often just distractions for my mind. Instead of just observing sensations I’m feeding my conscious mind with a stream of inputs so I can’t feel anything. Is this what happens with children? Do we captivate their conscious mind so they aren’t even aware of everything else that’s going on in their body?
I’ve also discovered that interacting with a lot of different people can also hinder my samadhi. It’s as if hearing too many opinions and ideas keeps me from hearing the ideas that are growing from within. I start looking for shortcuts to answers rather than following each step of the path myself. When I’m interacting with other people who are just as distracted as I am should I really be looking to them for shortcuts?
In my youth distinguished between two types of truth. There was societal truth which was what adults were prioritizing for my education. Some examples are the value of a college education, proper dining room etiquette, the value of money and title in society, and the value of sports for my personal development. Then there was natural truth which was what I learned outside of the influence of society. I certainly wasn’t aware of this growing up, but one of the reasons I was drawn to backpacking and outdoor activities is that it felt a little more real to me. It was grounded in a deeper truth that what I was being taught by society. Now I might say that the vibrations I felt in the wilderness were more pure.
I’m not trying to say that technology and societal truths are bad. I actually think about 85% of them are wonderfully helpful. I do think there is a problem when we don’t have a means to filter through which pieces are good for me and which are not. As much as I hate to say it, I think I need to cut back on the number of movies and sports I watch. Maybe that will give me more time to meditate. Or maybe I’ll just be content observing that I’m choosing to distract myself when watching movies and sports.