What are we seeking on our Cell Phones?
On a gorgeous spring day, Dave and I took the opportunity to sit outside at a local coffee shop and soak in some Vitamin D. When I sat down, I checked my cell phone—Facebook, Instagram, news—I even had Dave take a picture of me basking in the sun. I caught myself moving into the virtual world, and consciously decided to look up from my phone and stay present in the physical world. Next to me a young man was in his own world typing intently on his computer keyboard and listening to music with ear buds. On the other side of me was a woman with a boy who was about four years old. She too was intent on her cell phone, as was the boy's Dad when he came to join them. I found myself captivated by the boy. He sat up straight and was so present. When a fire truck went by, he stood on the bench with a look of sheer joy and excitement that vibrated through his whole body. That little boy was fully present in the moment as it happened and it was delightful to watch him. I was saddened that his parents had missed that moment.
When children are young, they are great teachers about being in the present moment. When they are happy it shows, and when they are sad, they let you know. There is no artifice, no trying to move out of pain in the present moment, and no checking the cell phone incessantly to take a break from reality for awhile.
I have experienced the siren call of news and social media on my phone and caught myself reading articles and scrolling through posts for long periods of time. Like a drug, the content on my phone pulls me away from the present and shifts my focus outside of myself. And it removes me from the people who are physically present in my life, right here and right now.
In my morning meditations, I practice being present with what is. I focus on my breath and keep returning my focus to my breath when thoughts and feelings move through. I practice deep acceptance for whatever is happening in my life. The challenge is to take this practice in to each and every moment of each and every day. What I have realized is that I am rarely satisfied when I make unconscious choices—whether that’s getting pulled into my cell phone or some other unconscious behavior like mindless eating. I can choose to use my phone, just like I can choose to eat, drink or shop. When I choose, I am making the decisions that guide my life. When I react unconsciously, I cede my personal power.
So my practice with my cell phone is to become aware when I unconsciously pick it up and notice what’s really going on. Am I trying to avoid something? Am I bored? Do I really want to consciously engage with the content on my phone? My practice is to be conscious in relationship with my phone, so that, as William Ernest Henley wrote in his poem Invictus, "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."