iPhone Zen? Thich Nhat Hanh on How to Stay Mindful Yet Connected

Two favorite Q&As from Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life's Burning Questions

How to be mindful with technology

Q. I can't imagine living without my camera or my cell phone. Is it wrong to be attached to these conveniences?

It’s wonderful to have a camera — and it’s wonderful not to have a camera. Mindfulness helps us to see the pleasure in owning a camera without exaggerating that pleasure. Mindfulness helps us to be at peace when we don't own a camera.

I think we have the tendency to want to see things as lasting for a long time, we want to keep things with us, and we also want to share with people we love the things we have lived and seen. These are all justifiable reasons for having a camera, but when we see a newer, more expensive camera and want to throw ours away and upgrade to this better camera, that is not good.

Because of that weakness in us to want to consume, manufacturers continue to produce more and more goods, and we pollute the world with the castoffs. And in order to consume a lot, we have to be very busy working all the time, leaving no time to love, to build up brotherhood and sisterhood. We have to practice a simpler style of living so we don't feel the need to consume too much. A simple life can bring a lot of happiness.

How to be mindful in a fast-paced world

Q. How can we practice consistent mindfulness in a world that seems to demand hurrying and rushing wherever we go? Is it possible to be mindfully busy and mindfully hurried?

Beginners find mindfulness easier when they do it slowly. But if your mindfulness is more advanced, you can do things more quickly. Just make sure you are being mindful.

You can walk mindfully, but you can also run mindfully. It’s a matter of planning. It should become a habit to plan in such a way that we have plenty of time to do each thing and we don’t have to rush. Suppose you have to be at the airport at ten o'clock. Try to plan so that you have plenty of time; if possible add another hour in order to have the pleasure of doing walking meditation at the airport. When you drive, instead of thinking of your destination, enjoy every moment of the drive. When you make your breakfast, transform breakfast preparation into a meditation session, a practice of mindfulness. Try not to think of what you’re going to do after breakfast. Enjoy every moment and you’ll bring joy to the whole family. The secret is to dwell in the here and the now and to be happy in that moment.

Of course, we all have a lot to do; even monks and nuns have a lot of things to do. But we have learned to do them with joy, and not to consider the things we do as hard labor. That is an art to be cultivated, and every one of us can do it. If we know how to consume less, we don’t have to work as hard, we don’t need a bigger salary and a more expensive car to be happy. If we know the art of simple living, then we have much more time to live our lives happily and to help other people.

book cover

From Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life's Burning Questions (2009) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California www.parallax.org.

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Sonia Gallagher
Sonia Gallagher's picture
User offline. Last seen 5 years 41 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 04/17/2009

Great article and very up to date. I have really had to cut back on my blackberry time while I am at home and I've got to admit it was very difficult for me at first.
When I did develop a habit of just not checking my email when I got home, my relationship with my family improved dramatically and my personal stress levels decreased.
Who would have thought it was as simple as putting the phone down?!

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