Source: The madness of mindfulness
When I first got a smartphone I noticed how stressed I was in using it. Checking my email and text messages at all hours of the day I became a nervous wreck. My belief was, now that I had the phone, it was expected that I respond quickly to any communication and to always be available. For the most part, this is true. Many years ago I realized how this
Many years ago I realized how this affected me and I learned to have the proper perspective in how to use it as a tool. At first, I loved that I could select my own ring tone (until I got dirty faces because it invaded everyones airspace). The same goes with sounds for text messages versus application notifications. These notices became maddening. Now I usually try to keep the phone on vibrate to avoid this problem altogether. However switching to vibration mode and silent mode has also gotten me in trouble as I keep forgetting to set it back to vibe me (missing many phone calls as a result).
As the technology has improved over time though, new ways to use smartphones have become more viable and convenient. Generally, these types of apps are meant as tools to assit you with something you would like to do or track in you life. Hence one of those uses – mindfulness and meditation apps. However, as with all of these apps, fitting them into our lives can be tricky.
Mindfulness and meditation apps can be used to track how often you practice and to encourage you to practice more often. It also allows you to connect to like minded people and to share your thoughts with them. I like to use the fixed length timer option of the app I use because it encourages me to meditate longer. This helped me to get past my practice of stopping my meditation when I experienced a thought or a feeling that I was uncomfortable with. Outside sounds do not bother me anymore. I am getting better at staying with emotions and pain. At one point I even meditated daily for over a year straight. What an accomplishment!!!
But, eventually, I ran into problems with the app (that are common to computer applications of all types). I lost data, the app rang bells at all times of the day, etc. Instead of complaining about it, I did what I usually do when I am not able to control circumstances (at least eventually), I accepted them and adjusted.
Now I only track my meditations occasionally on the app I use as my happiness or unhappiness is not based on what the app tells me. I no longer use the timer for a fixed about of time all of the time but enjoy untimed meditations as well. I use it as a tool and not as a weight. There are so many options out there these days. Finding the right tool may take some patience. Patience is something that needs to be emphasized as a spiritual practice!
The overall gist of the article did bug me though. As a result there are some points here I’d like to make not related to use of smartphone apps.
- It is our reactions to the outside world that needs to be looked at and not necessarily the outside world itself. It is an inside job. What was the authors primary need? – to find a mediation app or to seek relief from being overwhelmed from the stress of parenting. Looking for a quick fix from an app is not reasonable.
- Mindfulness and meditation, when practiced, can help up with being less stress overall and (god forbid) more productive but this is also missing the point, and short-sighted. You mostly get what you put into things (karma is complicated). The buddha’s teachings are much more than to be used as an escape. All of the Buddha’s Teaching are about how stress is caused and how to end stress thru developing the skill and wisdom of dealing with it.
- Let me repeat myself, a regular and consistent mindfulness and meditation practice can “enable a state of ‘being present in the moment, with our full attention, undistracted and not being overwhelmed'” but in order for that to happen you have to practice.
- I appreciated that the article raised the issue of having false expectations. As my practice has evolved, I initially cherished being more present, productive, and less stressed (and continue to do so). This in itself is enough for me to continue practicing it but now I feel that ultimate freedom is possible. The Noble Eightfold path is about evolving. If I have false expectations then I am going to feel stressed about this at some point. Hopefully I will reflect on the true causes for my stress, seek to gain the wisdom to see this clearly and then learn to take the appropriate actions to end it.
Some final constructive criticism. There have been rumblings about “fake news” recently. Related to this is the explosion of opinion and feature articles about subjects that authors have no true understanding about publish. It is very clear that author of this piece does not appear to have a clue about how mindfulness or meditation actually works and is doing a disservice to others by being critical of something not understood. This is a sign of the times. Everyones’ opinion matters even when they are ignorant of the subject they have an opinion on. Hopefully, readers of the article will not use it solely to judge the merits of starting a mindfulness and meditation practice, nor of using apps that support this practice.