A critical part of mindfulness is paying attention to our experience in the present moment.
In fact, every definition I’ve ever heard of mindfulness includes this element in some form. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
The very first step is recognizing what your present experience is. Paying attention to and noticing whatever we are perceiving, thinking, and feeling in the present moment is a crucial aspect of mindfulness. There’s a risk — particularly as mindfulness becomes more popular in the West — that we will end up merely practicing mindfulness as if that’s all there is and being mindful is the end goal.
Moving Beyond Noticing
Within traditional Buddhism, mindfulness is not the only thing. It is only one part of the overall path. I get the feeling that there is often a misunderstanding as people get introduced to mindfulness: The assumption is that the goal is to simply become more and more mindful…and that’s it.
If you want to address your problems and interactions with technology, start by noticing how you feel and what you’re thinking while you interact with technology. This is important as a first step.
However, this is the beginning and not the end.
Noticing is a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing the problem. If all we do is notice and never turn that noticing into action, then we won’t improve. Noticing has been so focused on in the West because we do so little of it, but we need to be careful not to just stop there. We have to move. We need to go further and come to a greater understanding of everything.
Tap Into Mindfulness
The mindfulness teachings I’ve encountered didn’t specifically address our current relationship with technology. It was also assumed that practicing mindfulness on its own would help people with their relationships.
That may be true, but it may not be the most effective or targeted way to address problems.
Moreover, when I saw people who had developed specific tech-related teachings, they tended to focus on noticing but stopped there. They would teach things like “Look at your email and pay attention to how you feel when you look at it. Make note of your thoughts and emotions. The end.”
I noticed my own frustration with this and felt like I wanted to go beyond just noticing. As a result, I developed the Tap Into Mindfulness exercises based on my combined experience in both traditional mindfulness meditation and martial arts (which you could think of as an applied mindfulness).
In self-defense training, you learn how to pay very close attention to a punch when it’s coming at your face. You learn to become incredibly mindful and still so you can be focused and not wrapped up in fear. It takes a lot of practice to see that punch coming at your face. There is a lot of noticing that you work on. But you don’t stop there. There are all kinds of actions you learn to do in addition to the noticing, and that’s why I’m calling all of this “beyond noticing.”
With all of the problems we seem to be having due to our use of technology — the stress, distraction, and disconnection between people — I felt like we needed to go beyond noticing.
That’s what Tap Into Mindfulness does. It gives people practical ways to develop and practice how to act based on what they’ve noticed in order to become more mindful and less enthralled by technology. It’s all by supplementing mindful noticing with action.
This is the next stage of mindfulness’ development in the West.