March 4, 2021

Dear Smartphone: You can’t help me Avoid Feeling my Loneliness & Pain.

Phone sweet phone, with you I’m not alone…

Your smartphone.

The nifty little tool that has become your constant companion with its sweet promise of keeping you connected to everything and everyone you ever met.

Yet more often than not, it ends up insulating or isolating you from the very part of yourself that needs you most desperately. Your contracted, wounded self that can only ever truly heal through your own loving presence and awareness.

Yes, that unwelcome part of you that feels really anxious, unloved, and devoid of meaning—that’s the portal to freedom, and your phone and every other distraction is like a watchdog that makes sure you don’t see this doorway to liberation that is right there within you.

The first time I realized I was addicted to my iPhone was at a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Along with everyone else, I had turned in my phone, keys, and wallet when I arrived. We weren’t allowed books or journals and for the duration of the retreat we weren’t allowed to talk to each other or even look at one another. Boom. There. Just me. In my own company. For 10 days.

Initially, it seemed like a relief. A soothing silence. No obligations. No demands. Just meditate, eat, and sleep. Repeat.

Then the anxieties started to appear. The emotional discomfort. The loneliness. Oh, the terrible loneliness. The sadness. The grief.

On the third day, during lunch, I found myself lying on my bottom bunk in fetal pose, staring at the wall, so sad and no one to turn to. No one to hold me or soothe me. All alone and so, so, so wanting to pick up my phone and call a friend. Or at least text a friend who would surely tell me something to the effect of: you are not alone, the world is full of love, and God loves you, remember? You always say that? The angels and guides are around you right now, to heal you and guide your way. Then I would not feel so terribly alone and meaningless anymore.

Or short talking to a friend, there would be Facebook. Oh, sweet Facebook. Where I would scroll and scroll my awareness into someone else’s life and woes and then I would mercifully forget my own miserable rendition. Within seconds, I would be free of being with me and instead I would be with a friend or an acquaintance, learn the details of what he or she was having for dinner—which would surely be more than the meager cup of tea and fruit we got.

Then I would forget all about the piercing pain in my heart and the anxious fear in my gut and the aching doubt that my life really means anything at all. Or I could get lost and outraged by the terrible news of the world, or look at old pictures and let myself journey to happier times when I wasn’t balled up on a dumb bunk bed, alone, feeling sadness and despair rise up like a dark tide with no promise of ever subsiding again.

Curled up into this utter smallness, I realized how much I had come to rely on my phone to help my ego short-circuit something that really wanted to happen within—an invitation to be suspended fully in the void, the scary portal where the ego dissolves (a less scary word than dies) and we realize, I am not kidding, we realize for real, that we are all of it. I mean, all of it.

We are all the worst villains that ever lived as well as all the victims and everyone else too. That’s such a crazy concept to the ego that it and we just don’t want to know. Because it would change everything. Everything. When I hate you, I hate myself. When I love you, I love myself.

This we want so badly not to know that we would rather escape by endlessly being present to something else, someone else, just not our own selves.

Just not to my own self and my own pain and then I cried. I bawled. No, not out of longing for my iPhone, out of longing for God to love me and reveal to me my own Divinity, within me. But nothing was revealed—it was just me, in pain, alone, in the barest of rooms, missing one of the few daily retreat meals, and I bawled, sobbed until snot and tears were soaking my sheet and no one brought me a Kleenex.

I did make it back to the meditation hall for the next hour-long session. Pounding-cry-headache, puffy eyes, stuffy nose. I hate it when I can’t breathe through my nose, but as I began noticing my breath slowing down and I started yet another body scan, a quiet peace crept in and I wasn’t alone.

There were other struggling souls seated in rows all around me. Some were quietly sniffling as well. Slowly, slowly my own awareness, which is my Divinity, started illuminating the energy field of my body. Part by part. Patiently, my awareness loved me back into wholeness. The loneliness and the fear didn’t evaporate, but it was held. By me. My strong, steady Presence was there with those tender parts in me that don’t believe she’s loved or that her life has meaning, and like a sobbing child, these parts began to calm down.

The petrified and fearful energies within me started to relax and give into the blanket of steady love that I was providing by simply being there and not running off into cyberland or down memory lane.

Over the course of this 10-day retreat, I experienced myself as pure, radiant, orgasmic love energy imbuing and embracing every corner of my Being. I know without a doubt that radiant Divine energy is my true nature and that only my distracted, tormented mind with all its fluctuations stands in the way of me—of any of us—experiencing this all the time.

The distractions are many and oh, so clever. Some are disguised as noble pursuits: I have to be there for my kids, my friends and students, develop my business, clean my house, sort through stuff, get rid of stuff, buy stuff—or even running off to a yoga class, the noblest distraction of all, of course.

But then there is that less noble distraction that’s closer than close. All the time. In your pocket or your purse or right next to your bed when you sleep. The smartphone. Always there beckoning for attention with the promise of something really interesting for you: a text from that special someone; yay I matter! A growing number of likes on my recent post. Yay, I matter! An actual phone call; yay, I really, really matter.

And then, of course, also, the text that you didn’t want. Oh, no, I don’t matter! Or the text that never came; oh, now I know, I really, really don’t matter!

And we pick it up again and again to check for something, anything to signal a change for the better, and so we are steadily whipped around and interrupted and sidetracked again and again from what we were really intending to do.

I recently read that if you pick up your phone within the first hour of awakening, you are likely to be 30 percent less productive for the rest of the day and that Americans pick up their phones every 10 minutes on average.

So I decided to put this to the test. Really notice when I pick up my phone. Which is constantly! Terrible. So I started turning my phone off. All the way. Not look at it in the morning before my meditation, writing, tea. I had to get an old-fashioned analog alarm clock for my bed stand. On Ebay, I got the same alarm clock I had as a teenager in Denmark. I know, a bit nostalgic and shoppy of me.

Now, when I do have my phone on, the sound is off. I will look at it when I want to and check what I need to take care of. It’s hard. Still. People expect us to be right there. All the time. Well, I am just not. Not anymore. I am right here. With me and what I need to get done.

I really want to be conscious of where my time goes and I want to be conscious of my numbing agents. Because I don’t drink, it’s easy to think that I don’t numb out when my heart aches, but I do and my iPhone is absolutely a numbing agent, and when I pick it up instead of feeling what is moving inside of me, I really miss an opportunity to be with a part of me that really needs me. It’s like being a pretty bad, neglectful parent to myself.

I have really come to see it that way. My Divine, Present Awareness is my True Self (I know I just love to capitalize these wonderful words) and that True Self can heal through the power of Love because it is love. Whatever within me doesn’t yet trust that I am safe and loved and okay as I am; the part that is a stumbling work in progress, flawed and human; that sad, scared part of me needs my Presence.

But it’s not pleasant to feel sad, lonely, and scared. It’s pretty awful—especially, if we don’t believe that anyone is coming for us. Then the mission really becomes one of finding a bad babysitter who will hush the baby so we don’t have to deal with it.

Enter the smartphone. A really bad babysitter. A good instrument for taking care of business and communicating and even indulging in Facebook, but not a substitute for really good, loving parenting of yourself.

When we don’t source the Deep Present Love from within, our Love essence that truly has our back, we will look for it outside of ourselves. And be disappointed. Ouch. Over and over. It’s the nature of it.

No one can be a lasting substitute for our own Divine connection. Anitya, anitya; this means: impermanence, impermanence.

When we stop reaching outside ourselves for something impermanent to rescue us, we are left with one option: total surrender to the Divine within.


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