What Are You Doing?
I look out the front window of our home and notice some kids walking home from school. A young boy, toting a backpack nearly as large as he is, stares down at his smart phone as if it is some kind of guidance module. I pray he does not stumble and fall. Two girls, a few years older than the boy, watch their phone screens and each other, never seeming to look where they are going. I wonder if this new generation of humans have developed self-walking bodies.
I reflect about all the thoughts to which we pay attention while we are doing anything. It is almost like watching a smartphone in our mind while hurtling down the road at 60 mph. We can divide our attention just so long until that distraction causes some kind of accident. Buddha taught us to pay attention to where we are and what we do in every moment. One contemporary teacher said it this way: “Whatever you are doing, do.”
Being aware of our doing is a practice of mindfulness. Focusing on just one thing is a kind of shamatha, or “calm abiding” meditation. When we are mindful of our actions, we become more relaxed. Thoughts become focused. Jiddhu Krtishnamurti suggested we watch a thought with such refined attention we are able to notice the end of a thought—and experience spaciousness. This does not happen with the seemingly endless scrolling of screens and mind.
Maybe we could develop a smartphone app capable of reaching out of the screen and smacking us when we are not paying attention to what we are doing. We could call it “Buddha Don’t Care”. Our original buddha nature does not get involved in the dramas of social media and our distracted mind.
Smack! Stop reading this and look around!