I dream that I am teaching as usual at the Dharma Center and the atmosphere is quite somber. Those present in body and the folks joining via Zoom are like plastic figures. The scene is reminiscent of the diorama I made in elementary school. The tableau consisted of plastic dinosaurs grazing in dirt and moss I arranged around a mirror representing a lake. Nothing seems real, and modern day reflections in the mirror do not match the time period depicted in the scene. It is similar to the juxtaposition of real people at the center and digital images the screen. Which is a true reflection of now?
I begin speaking to all the reflections at the center—and I begin to weep. I have an uneasy feeling and notice my mind is split into two worlds. One world breathes with me and dances in the energy of connection. The other looks like a movie that I am supposed to believe is real. Both worlds collide in my mind and I feel divided, disconnected, and somehow diminished. When I wake up from this nighttime dream, I am exhausted.
This dream is not unlike my experience now at the Dharma Center. Although we are meeting in person, even more people join us online. My mind toggles between two worlds and my attention is quite divided. When I see a person in the flesh, I can use all my senses to experience the presence of that living being. When I look at someone on the computer screen, I see a digital representation and need to filter through memories I might have about that person in order to bring them alive. This wreaks havoc within my mind.
I know it is all about my mind, the way I perceive, and I am doing my best to see the situation as empty of my projections. I do not think I am succeeding. I wonder how the Buddha would have taught about dealing with digital technology. I suspect he would laugh and say it is simply the logical extension of samsara in binary code. The ego has always preferred the convenience of separateness in the name of connection. This offers us the illusion of safety.
This delusion also convinces us the world is more connected than ever, even though the headlines reveal the opposite. There are more divisions and we are more divided. Perhaps we are experiencing the perfect storm, where the results of all our self-absorbed separating behaviors create conditions to ripen our awareness. Storms can be cleansing: Climate change and changing minds, people emerging from the shadows, liberating the shame of being who they are, and all shades of color being beautiful like the sky after rainfall. This tempest is my prayer.
I also pray we become so digitally annoyed that we overcome the habit of socially distancing (this existed long before Covid). May we turn off our smart phones and tablets in favor of face to face exchanges. May we wake up and rediscover the preciousness of touching the earth and embrace each other with loving kindness and mutual respect.