I went to a great meditation and teaching last night. It was actually my first group sit here in Austin, and I’m so glad to have met this wonderful sangha. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and I’m excited to go back for more practice and learning.
One of the main points of our discussion was how suffering is caused by clinging. We grab onto thoughts and feelings as they come to us. We get zoomed in on them and think that these thoughts and feelings are our selves. “I am sad. I am angry.” The self and the feeling get tightly connected, and that causes suffering.
We also talked a lot about how to take refuge from this suffering – specifically taking refuge in awareness. I picture this as taking a wider view of myself. In game-terms, I think of it as looking at the world through a 1st-person camera (self-oriented) vs a 3rd-person camera (self-aware). When I’m aware, I can pull back and see a bigger picture of myself and the world. I can recognize “Oh, there are some anxious thoughts coming up. They are not my entire being.” Having that awareness and sense of spaciousness can be a salve even for physical pain.
This awareness is a bit of a trick of letting go. Instead of clutching tight to the feeling, I have to be able to say, “This thought is not the entire world.” Yes, there is suffering, but it’s just something that’s happening. It’s just a sensation. It’s just true.
Naturally, I started thinking about all this clinging and suffering and self with respect to technology and games. Our phones are not designed to help us let go. In fact, apps are created for the exact opposite reason: to capture your attention and keep it. Apps want you to zoom so far in that no world or emotions exist outside of the app itself. CNN needs you outraged, Instagram needs you to have FOMO, Twitter needs you to believe that these next 140 characters are the most important ever written in the history of characters. The app needs you to believe these feelings are the only thing in the world and you should feel them really strongly! For a lot of people, myself included, this is a big cause of suffering.
But what if we had apps that helped you let go of thoughts? What if we built games that gave you a wider sense of yourself and your place in the world? Rather than upping your anxiety with thinking harder and gripping more tightly to your emotions, I want games that help you notice what’s going on in your mind and heart and then let it let go. Games that zoom you out. Games that don’t want your attention for themselves, but for yourself.
This is the future I want. Freedom from our phones. Freedom for ourselves.
Personally, I get clinched around twitter late at night. Leave a comment and let me know where you get caught in the self, suffering, zoomed-in loop on your phone, please!