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On Sundays, my husband and I have private Days of Mindfulness if we are not attending one with a sangha.  This is a chance to enjoy more silence, meditation, Qi Gong, walks, naps, reading and mindful eating, sharing and living together.  Yesterday my two themes were resting my bronchitis and looking more deeply into my use of technology.  I read the first three articles in the new Mindfulness Bell – “The Horse is Technology” by Thich Nhat Hanh, “Intention, Innovation, Insight: A Day of Mindfulness at Google by Sister Chan Hien Nghiem and “I Love Technology by Kenley Neufeld.

Thay says that technology can become a “horse” that carries us away, a tool that we’ve allowed to drive us rather than as useful way to relieve our suffering and that of others.  He describes a day of mindfulness he and the monks and nuns held at Google, to try to help them use their slogan of “Intention, Innovation and Insight” to connect to the four nutriments (contact, attention, feelings, perception and volition). “Some of us use technology to consume, in order to forget the suffering in us, the same way that we sometimes use edible food, not because we need it, but because we want to forget the suffering in us.”

That is sometimes true for me, that being on the computer, checking to see if someone has emailed me can be addictive, a way to seek stimulation, excitement, something moving me from outside. I have successfully resisted getting an I-phone, so that I can keep my calls and internet use to a minimum.  But don’t we also need contact, stimulation, ideas from other people? My need for reading is very high, perhaps higher than most people’s need to read, especially spiritual books and novels. I do need quiet, time alone every day,  these lovely morning hours when I write whatever is on my mind, establish a strong spiritual connection with my higher powers, with the Buddha, dharma, sangha, meditate and do Qi Gong.  I spend a great deal of time practicing to relieve my suffering and finding words that will help relieve the suffering of others. When I am disturbed, I now know to be quiet, to meditate, to look at the source within myself of my little suffering and share it with someone who can help. I can sit and absorb nature, enjoy doing nothing, take long walks in the woods, swim, bike, staying connected to beauty.

But I also get tired of mindless chatter, especially being ‘stuck’ in a superficial social situation. Picking up a good book can be a signal that I want to be alone, focused, learning. Perhaps – as with most things, it is a challenge of the “middle way,” of balance.  I’m not at all afraid of being alone any more, of looking deeply into my own suffering. I don’t feel that I really suffer very often at all. This little bout of bronchitis is hardly much suffering. It’s annoying, keeps me from the level of energy where I feel creative, useful, so I need to find deeper acceptance and love of myself and others. But suffering? When I have such a loving husband taking care of me, a sangha, many friends and the dharma, which tells me that “this, too, shall pass.”   Although I have suffered greatly in my life and learned wonderful lessons from suffering, I’m no longer a woman who suffers much at all. I’ll miss my children very much when they move half way around the world in two weeks, but I know I’m never really separated from them.  What more could a woman want in life than what I already have and am?

So, I’m at a place in my life where I mostly need to focus my attention more on those who are suffering.  That’s where the technology can be a powerful tool if used not to distract, avoid or drown our suffering but be a real means of communication with others. I loved Kenley’s article – “I LOVE technology, I value technology, I embrace technology!” Very upbeat and positive, a dynamic article that speaks to the youth of the 21st century. The article by Sr. True Dedication talked about the great “dharma sharing” Thay and the monastics had with the Google executives, sharing ideas for how to design technology that can help relieve suffering! Wow! Great ideas for furthering Thay’s talks, creating “mindful eating zones” at Google, creative ways to reach people through technology with the energy of mindfulness.   Ideas like this are the kind of  stimulation I need to become a better practitioner and someone who can be of better service in relieving the suffering of others.

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