A Surprising Antidote to Technology Overload: Meditation
Like most people I know, my phone is rarely beyond my immediate grasp. Even with a strong desire to change, I find myself getting up from my computer to take a pause from the screen, only to look at my phone in transit to the next room. As this notably addictive trigger has only grown stronger, I’ve begun to ask myself, “What is the antidote to my technology overload?”
I’m clearly not alone in suffering from this problem. Just take a moment to witness the local park from a distance and you will undoubtedly see parents staring down at their phones while kids play on swings and slides. In nearly all supermarkets you can expect to see shoppers unconsciously pull out their phones while they wait just moments in line. Or take a short walk by yourself and see how long it takes before you feel that impulse to pull out your own phone and see what you are missing.
Not so many years ago, only doctors and a few other specialized professionals were truly expected to be on call. Now nearly everyone has constant access to our work email, including into the night, on weekends and even during vacations. As someone who works in technology myself, I certainly feel the pressure to stay connected, and that’s part of the reason I compulsively check my phone.
Of course, it’s not just about correcting compulsive behavior. Many of us are feeling mentally fragmented and truly overloaded by technology. So, how can we regain our diminished experience of presence? Is there a way to find balance when our technology and commitments have us overwhelmed and exhausted?
My wife has an interesting solution. On Friday nights as she prepares to spend time with family and friends, she puts her phone away. At first, it felt strange to her to leave the house without phone in hand, but she quickly found that she had a much better time without it. That helps for one night, but what about the rest of the time?
One possible answer: meditation. Yes, meditation. The primary component to mindfulness meditation is a focus of attention on immediate experience, allowing for increased recognition of mental and physical events as they occur. When one practices for a longer period of time, experiences of the present can begin to have a deeper sense of openness, curiosity and acceptance.
Interestingly enough, our mobile devices can actually help us take on a mindfulness practice. The secret is to catch yourself right before you take a peek at your phone. What was the thought that just went through your mind? Do you feel something may be wrong and needs your attention? Are you bored in this moment and feel a need to ‘check out’ what’s new in your social media feeds?
By taking on a mindfulness meditation practice, whether it be a few minutes a day, a half-hour a few times a week, or just catching oneself in the dozens of moments just prior to reaching for our phone each day, we can begin to unwind the impulse of the technology’s compulsive nature and return to experiencing the fullness of the world around us.
Kid and phone image from Dmitry Naumov/Shutterstock