April 3, 2018
Our Tuesday evening sitting this week was surrounded by beauty: The fading spring twilight; the outrageously colorful tulips left for us by our Episcopalian hosts; the smiling energy of those gathered. Within this beauty, we once again cultivated curiosity about how we make friends with our smartphones.
Looking back to week 1, we remembered asking What Is This? in relation to the phone itself - how it both serves and harms. In week 2, we asked What Is This? in relation to our ourselves - what happens in my body/mind when I interact with my phone? What seeds am I watering? This week, we asked What Is This? in relation to our intentions with our smartphones. How do we intend to use these powerful devices so they serve our wisdom rather than our craving, our awakening rather than our imprisonment?
One Plum Village tool for generating intentions is the gatha - short poems or phrases that help us see the sacred in the mundane. We have gathas for many everyday activities - using the toilet, washing our hands, starting the car, getting out of bed - but because smartphones are so new, no gathas have been written for us. We need to write our own!
We write gathas to address the circumstances of our lives. They are most effective when they illuminate discreet, bite-sized chunks of our daily life that we feel we have the power to transform. Therefore, I suggest several areas you might consider when writing smartphone gathas appropriate to your life:
To create an intention: You recite these gathas before you undertake an activity to remind you of your deep aspiration. You might try something like, 'May the touch of my fingers on the screen bring me back to awareness.'
To stop before acting: If we want to shake free of our habitual reactions, creating pauses is helpful. For example, 'When my phone asks for my attention, I vow to take three breaths before responding.'
To observe our actions: Watching ourselves non-judgmentally helps us loosen the power of thoughts and behaviors that trap us. We might write a gatha that helps with one specific activity: 'Using Facebook, I will pay attention to the sensations in my body.'
To reflect: Some gathas remind us to reflect on our past actions. Where did I get caught? What was I running from while using my phone? You might write a gatha like this to trigger your reflection: 'Getting into bed, I lovingly reflect on how I used the phone today.'
To renew your intention: Without repeated renewal, we tend to forget or ignore our intentions. Frequent reminders help. 'Waking up today, I promise to use my phone wisely.'
Have fun writing and practicing with your gathas! We’ll share our experiences when we gather on April 17th. In the meantime, if you’d like more gatha examples, visit this website.
With Gratitude, Jon