March Paragraph Diary 3

At Home

I talked about ‘slowing down time’ in my paragraph post a couple days ago. One reliable way to fail at slowing down time is information overload. Recently I took a stab as lessening my info overload by deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone. It worked: time did indeed slow right on down. That is, my attention settled back into my immediate physical and mental surroundings in the moments all too often taken up by quick-checks of my various social feeds. I more often responded to these gaps in the action by, for example, scanning my body and adjusting my posture and breathing. Or looking more closely and for a bit longer at the linguistic landscape around me. Or reviewing my mental to-do list. Nothing beatific really, but I can confidently say the texture of my day just felt better. I then re-upped both apps and lo!, behold! I slipped right back into that ongoing subtle compulsion to deflect the mere hint of a sensation of ‘an emptiness upon me’ with the escape gesture par excellence – the swipe n’ scroll! As this happens (and this ain’t the first time I’ve run this experiment) Now I’m reminded that the English word “emptiness” is the typical translation of the word suññatā in Pali, which signifies an important idea in Buddhist philosophy. Suññatā is a complex and multifaceted concept but one aspect of it describes, according to one of my favorite Buddhist scholars Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “…a mode of perception in which one neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from what is present, noting simply, “There is this.” That’s what I’m talking about! That’s the texture of experience that the phone addiction tears through. Sure, I can be “present” with my social media feed as the object of attention. But there’s something about it. Now I’ve deleted the apps once again, and the correlation endures. Some textures are back. And the day’s cognitive residue feels lighter when I get in bed and it seems partly due to not flinching in the face of 100+ subtle suññatā moments by filling them up with other people’s thoughts. Don’t get me wrong…the thoughts of “other people” my feed feeds me are as wonderful and valuable to me as ever. There’s so much there there. It’s mostly pretty high quality stuff that I have no intention of fully ignoring; my feeds are so damn good! But now…it’s just all there waiting for me when the time is right – when it’s my desire to intentionally render a time and a space to sit down, open my computer, and take it in. Maybe more gently, and maybe more deeply, at home. So that standing in a line, momentarily bored, an emptiness descending, can also do its magic bringing texture back to life.

6 thoughts on “March Paragraph Diary 3

  1. Suññatā comes from the Sanskrit word Shunyata which in turn is the origin of the word shunya which means zero in most Indic languages. I was just thinking to myself how different the bliss you describe is to the general ‘western perception of ‘zero-ness’ as in to be zero at something. Surely a no go zone in most professions but particularly in ours.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I relate 100% with what you are writing, I even thought about deleting my social media accounts all toghether (but I’ve already done that in the past and it didn’t work).
    We also have Thanissaro Bhikkhu in common… 🙂


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