Can Technology and Mindfulness Get Along?

I started meditating in January. I’ve managed to stick with it daily thanks to the app I use. It teaches a technique for stressful situations called notation. You untangle yourself by answering questions like: Is this a thought or an emotion that I’m experiencing? Can I describe it as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral?

This is how I discovered that technology and mindfulness don't have to exist in separate silos, and I learned I could create an escape hatch as needed.

This technique helped me us technology for a mindful, Clark-Kent-like escape.

This technique helped me us technology for a mindful, Clark-Kent-like escape.

Parenting Example Ahead, But Technique Works Generally. Don't Blow Off As a “Just for Moms” Situation.

Grocery and dress shopping with my 5-year-old daughter was hard on the best of days. On the day I'm describing, I had a migraine, and my girl was in one of her tennis ball machines moods that afternoon. She was full of questions and demands, varying her speeds, unpredictable, throwing up lobs every so often. Her temper tantrum had long ago pushed me into a blank zone beyond coping.

I tried to use my Headspace approach: Is this a thought or emotion that you’re experiencing? It wasn't working. I just felt overwhelmed and frustrated.

Suddenly, I was able to look at the situation as if I wasn't stuck in the middle of it.

This hilarious little girl is suddenly a small crazed human. embodying the Buddha's words, "suffering is attachment." She’s a vision of every person who has ever wanted anything.

mindful parenting

I took this quick photo of her that was funny and also incredibly, deeply, true. 

I imagined myself trying to explain the Buddha’s teachings to her in the middle of the store. Well, Alice, as the Buddha so wisely noted, the root of all suffering is attachment. Now please hand me the one with the purple puffy sleeves, because it is a size 5/6. HA.

I had made myself laugh.

Laughing = oxygen.

I had started to come back to life in the smallest way.

"It was the same pretty as the one I got, but it had a rose."

"It was the same pretty as the one I got, but it had a rose."

She chose one that looked the most like a wedding dress, and we left the store. But we were far from done with our struggles. We still had the car ahead of us, and the tragedy of saying goodbye to the dress she didn’t get. “But you got a dress!” Alice, I’m sure you remember our conversation about the Buddha, right? Cherishing what we spoke about in the 3rd aisle of Ross’s?

The technology + mindfulness escape hatch was happening through the combo of the photos and the voice in my head.

 I could empathize with my girl while feeling the absurdity of our situation. Here I was, stuck inside a horrifically pounding head, trying to find space to calm down. Here she was, trapped inside her suffering. The pain of decision-making! I knew it, too. The scale of her emotions was so tempestuously, Liberace grand, but the nugget was universal.

The hatch really cracked open when I broke out the Voice Memos recorder on my iphone and interviewed her. The interview freed us both. She’s breathing! It helped me breath, too. I started to explore her story from a new angle. We were in it together. The funny bits are best. I’ll remember that for the next time.

Using a mindfulness technique, I learned to:

  • Tune in to an awareness around thoughts and feelings as they hit.
  • Get some oxygen to my head when I needed it.
  • Find my own funny escape hatch using my smartphone's camera and audio recorder
  • Create something tangible to share with others, building a bridge off the island.

Give it a try and see if it works to get you out of your next stressful situation. Worst case, you’ll be creating something new. Ideally, you’ll find yourself laughing.

All the tools you need are right on your phone.

Originally published April 9, 2015 on Medium. Transferred to Sept 2, 2017.