On Digital Life – Integrity & Mindfulness

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Blog

The image above was created by Dall-e (a wild new AI image generator), which I had fun playing with in the first few days after it was released to the public. I got an email invite, clicked on it, and was amazed at the possibilities… and then I started reading news stories about how AI already is and will continue to affect our global society. Now I share concern with many who have been learning about this topic lately and have been inspired to pause, reconsider my rush to the new, and look more deeply at my own relationship with the powerful emerging technologies of our day.

But what to do? How to be in this world that is changing so rapidly, and increasingly driven by debatable human creations that seem likely to cause as many problems as they solve? One response to such questions that inspires me comes from a teacher I respect and admire:

Let’s be kind, let’s be compassionate, let’s be moral—and truthful. Let’s accept our fear and work with it, accept our grief and regret and be guided by them. Let’s also accept our rage, but moderate it into quiet strength. And let’s come together. I don’t think there need be a manifesto here, or a great “this-is-the-way-forward idea.” Just be natural. If you’re looking to support nature, be natural. Let light from the heart guide you, because we can gather together around that light (Ajahn Sucitto, Heart Light in Dark Times).

One way to be natural is by aiming toward a degree of digital minimalism. Sometimes the glaring light of the digital inter-world can make the light from the heart harder to notice and follow. I see digital minimalism as an approach to being fully in the present societal conditions while causing less suffering than would occur by simply following the massive tide of contemporary digital social habit and activity.

To me, it seems that false assumptions underlie much of how we use technology. One is that we all have unlimited time, energy and space for clicking around the inter-world. Another is that time spent searching and scrolling has no impact, or no negative impact, on our bodies, heart and minds. Since Middle Path Healing Arts focuses on supporting well-being for indvidiuals and small groups, I’ll leave aside the false assumptions on the societal level and consider simple ways each of us can at least set some boundaries in the current situation.

I don’t know about you, but the truth is I feel terrible when I spend nearly every minute clicking, scrolling, keyboarding and watching videos. I feel well when I give significant time to being outdoors in nature, and with my nephews, playing old-fashioned board games or riding bikes. I feel well when I meditate and practice yoga and have face-to-human-face conversations with my husband, family and friends. So, I apply a few common sense approaches that help me live my priorities.

4 Ways to Make Boundaries with Technology

  • Take whole days off from using the computer and/or the smart phone
  • Refrain from taking the devices into the bedroom or bathroom
  • Prioritize interactive live-online and in-person classes over recorded ones
  • Unsubscribe from email lists that aren’t nourishing

I hope these ideas may be of support to you as well and, for balance, will also note that I haven’t cleared my inbox to zero and it seems unlikely I ever will. Some degree of digital clutter is okay with me. My intention is to align actions with heart. I still receive a fair number of solicitation emails from small wellness businesses and non-profits, and am glad to because I love supporting people and their organizations doing important work I cannot do. I still post on social media, and will continue, so folks who may be interested can find our practice community. I know that our offerings have integrity because I (yes, a human) read each comment that comes through this site and consider it as we continue to adapt our offerings in response to our changing circumstances.

That said, I also still practice mindfulness of my fingers on the keyboard, my thumbs on the touchscreen, and I listen to my body when it says, through so many wordless sensations, “Stand up! Stop looking at that funny little black box!”

It’s also the case that every word on this site was written by a human and we read all the responses to our forms. If you reach out to us and leave a comment or ask a question, I will see it and if you have asked a question, will respond to you.

Let’s practice together, listening, feeling and and looking, moment-by-moment, in a natural way, for the subtle, freeing middle path, ancient and well-worn, still follow-able in the 21st century.