I strolled into the sauna this morning to find a man sitting peacefully in a cross-legged position, his eyes gazing slightly downward. Feeling the good vibes, I sat down nearby and joined him in noble silence.
Just as I was settling in, a light tapping sound intruded. My sauna-mate was actually texting from a tiny mobile device nestled in the folds of the towel atop his lap.
My left brain screamed that texting while meditating is an oxymoron without the oxy. A nanosecond later, a miracle: I and all my past incarnations saw with exquisite clarity the dawning of the most game-changing revolution meditation has seen since the Buddha awakened under the Bodhi Tree 2,500 years ago. Sauna man, in his own sweaty way, was teaching us that it's time to silence silence and allow electronic media -- texts, tweets, Google alerts and the Like(s) -- to facilitate a truly holistic meditation experience.
This Buddhist Big Bang created out of nothingness nothing less than a radical new form of meditation. Let's call it mediatation™ . (The TM stands for trademark, not transcendental meditation. Maharishis, mantras and David Lynch are so 20th century. And yes, I know it's not very Boddhistatva-ish to trademark a revolution, but I may decide to use a small percentage of my royalties to fund mediatation™ retreat centers across the universe, or at least across Santa Monica Boulevard.)
Letting go of noble silence in favor of noisy media isn't as heretical as it may seem. It's actually the fulfillment of the Buddhist call to embrace impermanence, to let go of the notion that things have to be a certain way.
Still, the transition will be disorienting for many. Herewith, some tips to ease the transition from meditation to mediatation™:
1. Space. Pick a comfortable place for your practice. Create a small altar and festoon it with cutting edge electronic gadgets and logos from high tech companies that inspire you. Instead of lighting candles or burning incense to foster relaxation and symbolize impermanence, use your Twitter feed or email inbox to represent the ever-changing stream of experience.
2. Posture. Sit comfortably with your spine in an upright position. Gently lay your mobile device on your lap, making sure the screen is clearly visible and that the keyboard is within comfortable reach of your fingertips. Turn on your voice activation app but keep the volume low.
3. Scan. Continue with the traditional body scan if you must, but add a media scan. Specifically, bring yourself up to date on all the documents, texts, Facebook notifications and Google Alerts you've received since your last mediatation™session.
4. Breathe. The rhythm of the breath is still the foundation of your practice. Read incoming texts and listen to voicemails on the in breath; type or speak your replies on the out breath.
5. Forget about the old-fashioned technique of watching your thoughts go by like scenes from a movie. Instead, use your Netflix app and watch an actual movie such as The Social Network, Her or anything by Monty Python.
6. Each time you notice you've gotten caught up in daydreams about, say, what kind of bagel to have for breakfast, bring yourself back to the breath, or the Tweet.
7. Don't push away painful feelings or voicemails. Be present with them in the moment, whatever they are. Or at least save them on your Cloud.
8. There's no need to waste energy trying to stop texting -- that will only increase your suffering. You'll find that when you give yourself permission to text unfettered, you are expressing the connectedness of all things. It may be helpful to name your experience -- to say, out loud if necessary, "Ah, texting" or "This is what it feels like to text."
9. When you feel guilty that you're mediatating™ incorrectly -- and you will -- don't punish yourself. The guilt is your feeling; feel it. And keep in mind that everyone who meditates the traditional way also believes they're doing it wrong.
Just as talkies took moviegoing to a higher level, adding multi-media platforms to our daily practice will shine a light on the path to Nirvana. Before long, you'll be basking in the benefits of mediatation™ and the practice of sitting quietly and disconnectedly will seem as quaint as...
Sorry, an important email just arrived; metaphor to come.