Monday, July 27, 2015

Five meditations to develop better cell phone self-control

One of the challenges of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom is that students get distracted by their cell phones. And they're not alone. A recent Gallup survey shows most people (me included) check their phones at least a few times per hour.

I, for one, could benefit from more self-control in this area--better "cellph-discipline." And I'd like to help my students do the same.

One way to do that is through mindfulness meditation. I've been working on mindfulness skills for a year and a half or so, and I'm still a beginner, but it's become an essential part of my life. It's relaxing, relieves stress, and trains your mind to be more aware of your body, environment, emotions, thought patterns, feelings, and habits.

Here are five ideas for using meditation to retrain your brain to better manage your digital life:

1) Susan M. Pollak's cell phone meditation is a variation of the "thoughts as sounds" meditation explained by Mark Williams and Danny Penman in the book that got it all started for me: Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace In a Frantic World. You start by meditating on the sounds around you. When thoughts arise, just observe them as if they were sounds. But in this version, you first turn on every beep, whistle and ringtone notification on your phone.

2) Thich Nhat Hanh cell phone meditation, from Lindsey Lewis. She writes: "Instead of grappling with our phone to answer it right away as soon as we hear the first ring, we turn it into an opportunity for peaceful contemplation. Ring 1: we pull out our cell phone. Ring 2: we notice who’s calling. Ring 3: We notice our breath. Ring 4: We answer."

3)  And here's a similar, simple one from a Reddit user: When your cell phone goes off, or when you feel the urge to check it, don't. Instead, observe your feelings and thoughts as you leave it where it is. Click this link for more details.

4) A similar one I'm trying is a variation of Williams and Penman's "meditation on difficulties." Intentionally bring your cell phone up in your mind and simply observe all of the thoughts that arise, and/or the physical sensations that arise--your heartbeat, tension in your jaw, nervousness, etc.

4) Or try this variation of the "meditation on form" of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche: Gaze at your phone, focusing on it's physical shape, color, or form. As thoughts arise, simply watch them pass by like clouds floating across the sky and bring your attention back to the shape of the phone.

5) And a third I'm trying out: During any form of meditation, whether anapana (meditation on the breath), vipassana (body scan meditation), thoughts as sounds, etc., just leave your cell phone in front of you to encourage thoughts about your social media, games, etc. When they arise, just acknowledge them and gently bring your focus back to whatever you were meditating on.

Cell phones and the internet are powerful ways to communicate, access information, and build social networks, but I feel like they've come on faster than I've been able to wisely assimilate them into my life.

I'm looking forward to using mindfulness and other strategies to better manage this digital whitewater and help my students to do the same.

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