Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Plain Truth About Wisdom 2.0 and Addiction

Without a computer or iPhone for a week, I got in touch with the compulsive and detrimental nature of my connection with technology. Of course, like any addict, I have rationalized my behavior. All the time spent blogging, tweeting about mindfulness, it's all  in the interest of Wisdom 2.0, and the greater cause of spreading the Dharma. A nice cover, that did not hold very long, under the scrutiny of intense self-examination. With no room to hide during the retreat, the plain truth emerged, of my craving for constant emotional gratification, in the form of 24/7 validation. I thought again about Tami Simon's comment during the Wisdom 2.0 conference and her own inquiry along the same line. 

Who else is following me? Any messages in my DM box? or @MindDeep tweets? Any new comments on my blog? Any new emails? Any phone messages? Any text messages? Any comments on my Facebook wall? So many times throughout the days, I have checked, hoping for some candy like sweetness. Each online connection, feeding my desire to be loved, and appreciated, and acknowledged. Each one an easy way out anxiety and restlessness, and whatever other emotions may be lurking underneath. Each one delaying the hard work of meeting with myself.

There are prices to pay for such indulgence. First, is the chronic suffering from the ephemerality of these small pleasures, and the long string of disappointments when the candies are not there. Second, is the loss from broken mindfulness. The mind is not given a chance to settle enough past surface level of anxiety. So many opportunities lost throughout the day, of reaping the fruit from moment to moment mindfulness!

What is the solution? Not to give up technology altogether, although I do not exclude that possibility at some point. No, for now,  I would like to choose the middle way. Still blogging, tweeting, emailing, texting, phoning, facebooking, but in a much more deliberate fashion, and without the driven-ness. Using technology and social media in particular, in the service of mindfulness, not against it. The way to achieve that, I figure, is to condense the time spent online in one or two small windows during the day. And, more importantly, to be mindful of the urges to give in, in between, and to use those moments as yet another opportunity to go deeper into the workings of the mind.

Here, right now, I make the vow to curtail my use of the Internet, in the spirit of the three precepts of right mindfulness, right concentration, and right wisdom. 


  1. Your inquiry resonates in me. I wonder if there's any middle way related to technology and information. Humans are hardwired to attend any novelty. Technology feeds on such need and feeds as well on the inner needs of the soul you listed. Then we feedback into technology. We act as servomechanisms of technology, which grows through our distractions from our soul.

    Probably we can even "use" technology for mindfulness but it looks to me as biting the snake. In some tantric paths, practitioners used to get intoxicants or poison while keeping their full awareness intact. Not an easy way.

  2. Whether virtual reality or "reality", the teaching and the training practice always applies. The world we create is the one we live in. We are never beyond something, every moment is a decision and each decision has consequences, How sad, how wonderful. Good for you!

  3. Yes I get this, the looking for confirmation that we're worthy, because deep down this is the human dilemma of "never feeling good enough". I think this is what every addiction is about, comforting ourselves in some misplaced way. Our practice helps us see all this and work with it.

    And yes I do believe there is a middle way, a mindful way to use technology.

    Great insights as always!

  4. Ivo, you may be interested in following Joan Halifax on Facebook, and Twitter (@UpayaChaplains). She is a Zen priest who is very active in social media. Was one of speakers at Wisdom 2.0 conference.

  5. Helmut, agree with you, it is all about how we approach the world. Either in compulsive, out of control way. Or deliberately, without the strings from clinging. I know you can relate!

  6. ZenDot, you and I both, finding our way . . . Loved your blog post today, by the way! What an inspiration . . . I got lost in your meadow, for a while! May you be well, may you be at peace, may you be at ease, may you be happy.

  7. Your post deeply resonates. I followed W2.0 with a 7 day retreat at Spirit Rock.I never have a problem detaching from the FB/blogs/Twitter stream on retreat (this was my fifth), welcoming instead the sustained mindfulness. Upon my return Monday, I've felt a fairly strong aversion to dive back into the technology stream.

    My daily tech consumption practices have been an hour in the morning and then most of the evening after work. (I'm usually too focused on work during the day to Tweet or FB much.) What I'm profoundly aware of in this nascent post-retreat space is how much of my conscious life I'm giving over to the words and images of the glowing screen. Consuming, distracting, sometimes interacting but rarely deeply BEING.

    I'm setting an intention now to change my daily practice, swapping some of that consumption for F2F interaction, more meditation practice and maybe some focused book reading. It will take diligence to change, but I feel how richer my life could be.

  8. Hello Marguerite~

    Wow - such raw honesty! I relate to so much of your experience as well... I'm encouraged that people such as yourself still deal with all these deeper issues of the Heart. Ahhh - the need for validation - my best friend! :)

    I have found blogging to be quite humbling; having to pay attention to motive and agenda, as in, what are my motives for writing and do I have an agenda. I used to think I had something "special" to offer, now I realize I can only offer my Self - my expression of Being. Hopefully as authentically and honestly as you have here. Heart Smiles ~*~ Christine

  9. Hey Marguerite, great to connect with you at wisdom2.0 and thanks for your piece. We're a technology based nonprofit and since the earliest days of Inspire - back in the late 90s - we've been giving staff an extra paid week of "Reflection Leave" to spend time in reflection away from work, family and ideally technology. It's become one of the most treasuered aspects about working at Inspire and people value the opportunity enormously. I've also discovered that people innately know what it is they need to reflect about and so Reflection Leave can take many forms be it a week long meditation or yoga retreat, walking the El Camino de Santiago, or researching a family tree. One of our most loved staff Kelly Betts passed away a while ago after a battle with cancer - Kelly kindly bequeathed funds to Inspire to encourage nonprofit organisations in Australia to institute Reflection Leave as a standard feature of the working conditions. I feel a need to extend that to a much wider community - why not the commercial world and why not internationally -and welcome contact from people interested in doing so. Tks Jack

  10. Thank you, Jack! Nice to see you here, and to have met you at the conference. I very much appreciate the work you are doing with people in deep psychological distress. As I told you, I will be happy to help you with your efforts, to the best of my abilities.

    I also applaud your "Reflection Leave" initiative. What a beautiful gift to people in the workplace!