page-header-image

Category: Uncategorized

3 Lessons from Waylon Lewis on the Convergence of Politics, Spirituality, and Technology

Are spirituality and politics really so different?

Is sitting in meditation and standing up to take responsibility for the condition of the world part of the same practice? Can they– or should they– be separate?

And is mindfulness practice just about becoming more aware of your own thoughts and actions in daily life, or something much more? 

For roughly 17 years, Elephant Journal founder Waylon Lewis has been an advocate for social responsibility and mindful living. 

https://youtu.be/uwhNa8uzQn0

Nowadays, when you hear the word mindfulness, it’s almost strictly in the context of mindfulness meditation. Even the word ‘mindful’ is only used in context to the sensory awareness you develop through that practice (or just the effort to become more aware outside of that practice).

But in Buddhist tradition (to which Lewis hails as, in his own words, a “1st generation American Buddhist Dharma Brat”), mindfulness has long been about much more than just the practice of mindful breathing that’s become so popular in the West over the last decade. 

According to Waylon’s bio, his aim is to “bring the good news re: ‘the mindful life’ beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care.” And that mindful life– something the world needs much more of now than ever– is all about social responsibility, political participation, and compassion. 

3 Lessons from Waylon Lewis on the Convergence of Politics, Spirituality, and Technology

Recently featured on the TFM podcast, episode 20, Lewis talked with TFM founder Robert Plotkin about everything from social responsibility to the role that mindfulness practice plays in connection with politics and global issues, and how we can use technology for the greater good without letting it control us. 

These are 3 lessons from entrepreneur and Elephant Journal founder Waylon Lewis:

1. Mindfulness is about more than just meditation

For nearly two decades, Elephant Magazine, now Elephant Journal, has been a source for opinions and information on mindful living. 

Elephant has been voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, but Lewis says the publication is about much more than just that. 

From love and relationships to spirituality, health and wellness, Yoga, green, and politics, Elephant covers the gamut on topics which center around one single idea: mindful living.

How does all this connect to mindfulness practice? Social responsibility is a form of mindfulness because it’s about stretching beyond yourself to the world at large, developing compassion for others, and realizing that you have a role to play in how all this turns out.

In a world which is more connected than ever as a result of the Internet and, by extension, social media, it’s become more important than ever to not sit idly by and allow the events of the world unfold without at least making an effort to stay informed. 

Mindfulness practice isn’t just about your own stress and suffering but about better understanding how your actions affect the world around you. 

When you see mindfulness practice in this way, you become aware of how interdependent everything is and the role you have to play in trying to make things better. 

2. There is no separation between spirituality and politics

“If spirituality is just for naval gazing I don’t want any part of it.”

Elephant Journal is known for its unique stance on politics: they don’t shy away from it. 

Lewis says you can’t live mindfully and stay out of politics. It just doesn’t make sense.

“We’re actually about life, we’re about the world,” he says of Elephant’s stance on covering politics. “You can’t stay out of politics. Politics affect food, politics affect infrastructure, politics affect education, politics affect war, or peace, or equality. And we’re about all of these things.” 

It’s a common– and damaging– misconception that meditation is about “blissing out” or “emptying your mind”. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. When you sit down to meditate, you confront the issues you’re facing: your stress, your anxiety, your depression, heartbreak, sorrow, despair, jealousy, and anger. 

To sit and meditate is to dedicate yourself to figuring things out on the inside so that you can stand up and go about life more effectively on the outside. Waylon says he didn’t understand this at first when he was a kid.

“I grew up in the Buddhist community and when I was a teenager. I was busy playing video games or playing basketball or, you know, chasing after girls (pretty ineffectually). And I would walk into the meditation room and I’d see a hundred people meditating on a beautiful Vermont afternoon. And in my mind I’d be like, ‘what are you guys hiding from?’ Get out there and live; Carpe Diem.”

He continued: “What I learned later is that people actually are dealing with reality. Meditation is important. They’re sorting themselves out. You call meditation practice meditation practice for a reason. It’s practice for life. And if you’re not going to then get out there and be of service to the greater good than it’s just selfish, right?”

Lewis says that if spirituality is selfish, that’s the opposite of true spirituality. True spirituality is one in which you turn inward to sort yourself out so that you might turn outward and help others. 

In this way, there is no separation between spirituality and politics. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take a hard-line stance on a political issue, but it does mean that spiritual practice should naturally make you become politically active, at least in terms of informing yourself and voting when you have the opportunity. 

3. Discussing mindfulness online is inherently awkward– but important 

Waylon talked with Robert about the apparent contradiction in being an online publication about mindfulness and mindful living.

Lewis says, “There’s an inherent tension in being about mindfulness, living a mindful life, encouraging people to get outside and find their breath and all that kind of stuff and being online where 70% of our readers are reading on their phone while they’re on the toilet or walking and they really should be just, you know, looking at the trees and enjoying their life.” 

Elephant has at times been pegged as hypocritical for talking about mindful living online. But Lewis argues that’s exactly where discussions on mindfulness should be taking place.

“Well, you don’t want to talk about mindfulness to a bunch of monks on top of the Himalayas, right?” says Lewis. “You want to talk about mindfulness to crazy, speedy business people and college kids and parents. These are the people who need mindfulness and appreciate it the most.”

Mindfulness wasn’t just discovered. It’s been in the West for decades and, while recent scientific research sure has helped popularize it, that’s not the only reason it’s become a household term over the past few years. 

Now, more than ever we– as parents, students, and professionals– need to take steps to create balance by becoming more aware of our daily habits and how those habits impact our life. 

Technology and the pressures of modern life– and current events– are constantly pulling us this way and that and threaten to negatively impact our well-being. 

You need to be vigilant in not only balancing your technology use but changing how you use technology so that it becomes a tool that helps you live better.

Learn more about Waylon Lewis and Elephant Journal

Waylon Lewis is the founder of elephantjournal.com & host of the Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis

He’s been voted Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”. 

Check out his recent appearance on the TFM podcast (Episode 20).

His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available here.

Robert Plotkin Talks Smartphone Addiction with the Early Risers Podcast

TFM founder Robert Plotkin, was recently featured on the Early Risers podcast

Listen as Robert talks with host Schuyler Diehm about using mindfulness to break smartphone addiction and establishing a healthier relationship with tech.

You’ll learn:

  • Dealing with FOMO and the need to constantly check your phone
  • A simple mindfulness exercise for managing tech habits
  • And an important step you can take to start creating a healthier relationship with technology

Listen to Robert on the Early Risers podcast (iTunes).

Robert Plotkin Talks Tech and Stress with The Stress Mastery Podcast

TFM founder Robert Plotkin was recently invited onto The Stress Mastery Podcast with Bill Cortright.

Listen as Robert talks with Cortright about the effect that technology has on us and what we can do about it, to not only better manage stress but take back control over your time to become more focused and productive.

You’ll learn:

  • Why it’s important to Impose structure that influences how you use technology
  • Techniques for taking back control over technology
  • And tips for dealing with binge-watching

Listen to Robert on The Stress Mastery Podcast (iTunes) or via Thestressmasterpodcast.com.

How to Take Back Your Health Without Putting Your Smartphone Down

Our smartphone helps us stay connected with those we love and can keep us safe.

It helps us navigate uncharted roads, light dark rooms, manage our to-do list, and keep up with world events.

It entertains us and gives us the ability to find an answer to virtually any question at a moment’s notice.

And the power of the handheld devices in our pockets grows by the day.

But while the benefits of 21st Century technology, especially smartphones, is undeniable, the conversation about our smartphone habits and their effect on our mental and physical health is becoming louder. Continue reading How to Take Back Your Health Without Putting Your Smartphone Down

How One Toronto School Teacher is Teaching Mindfulness Through Music

For the past decade, mindfulness has arisen as a valuable tool for educators.

But mindfulness’ value in the classroom has only just begun to become clear.

Now, it’s inspiring others to find new and creative ways to teach mindfulness and other related qualities.

One such example is a Toronto instructor who is using music to help students learn about mindfulness, kindness, and teamwork in a fresh new way. Continue reading How One Toronto School Teacher is Teaching Mindfulness Through Music

How One School Transformed Student Behavior by Replacing Detention with Mindfulness

“Meditation calms me down and stuff.”

– 4th-grade girl, Holistic Me program

Should we replace detention with mindfulness?

That’s the question now posed to schools all across the U.S. as a result of the work by the Holistic Life Foundation. Continue reading How One School Transformed Student Behavior by Replacing Detention with Mindfulness

Robert Plotkin of Mindfulness for Technology Featured on the AATH Laughbox Podcast

Our very own Robert Plotkin, Mindfulness for Technology founder, was recently featured on the Association for Applied Therapeutic Humor’s (AATH) Laughbox podcast.

Listen as Robert talks with host Chip Lutz about how technology affects our brain and how to integrate that technology into your mindfulness practice.

You’ll learn:

  • A simple mindfulness practice for learning how to use your smartphone more mindfully
  • How the “reptilian” brain affects our behavior
  • And a powerful tip for managing your technology use

Listen to Robert on the Laughbox podcast (iTunes) or via Laughbox.AATH.org.

Scheduling Time to Respond to Emails

Staying on top of your email inbox can feel like a daunting and never-ending task. Although I don’t have any magic solution to this issue, the tip I’ll share today has helped me cut through the clutter much more efficiently, allowing me to stay focused on real work and thus have much more time during my work day.

Here is my suggestion: Put emails that you receive onto your calendar so that you respond to them at scheduled times.

If that sounds completely crazy to you, let me clarify. First, I have a few recurring appointments on my calendar for responding to emails in certain categories. These include:

  • Accounting- and bookkeeping-related emails such as invoices I receive from vendors.
  • Messages from potential new customers.
  • Emails related to marketing tasks.
  • Small miscellaneous questions that I receive from my clients.

The common thread between these categories is that the emails don’t require an immediate reply. Also, they aren’t typically part of a longer conversation — a single response will do the trick. This combination of qualities makes these types of emails work really well with my calendaring system.

Granted, this may not suit urgent emails quite as well. So if you think that calendaring your emails won’t work for you, perhaps it’s because you’re thinking about certain types of emails that aren’t fit for your calendar. Step back for a minute and consider whether you frequently receive the types of emails I’m talking about. Your categories may be different than mine, but if they’re similar in nature, then read on.

1. Pick Your Categories and Put Recurring Appointments on Your Calendar

Choose times that would make sense for you to respond to emails in those categories. Think carefully about the timing. Some categories might require you to have appointments every day of the week or even multiple times a day. Other categories might only require a weekly appointment.

Consider how frequently you really need to respond to emails in each category and put in the minimum number of appointments per day/week that you will need. Set up the appointments to repeat according to a schedule that you think will work for you.

2. Be Disciplined

Whenever you check your inbox, you must be very diligent about not responding to any emails within your calendared categories. Instead, add them to the next appointment for that category.

Personally, I use Microsoft Outlook, which makes it very easy to just drag and drop emails directly onto calendar appointments. Just open the appointment, drag an email onto it, and it will attach there. It’s that simple. You could also type notes next to each email in the appointment to give yourself some guidance or context about how to respond to it.

I’m sure you will find it hard to resist the temptation to respond immediately, so expect this to happen and remember that it will take practice to create the habit.

3. Stay Focused

When the time arrives for each of your scheduled email appointments, you must be disciplined about opening that appointment and staying focused on responding to all of the emails without switching to other tasks. Try doing it a few times and see how it feels.

In my experience, I typically feel very satisfied by how efficiently I can get through a large number of emails in each category. There are many reasons for this, and one is that I find it easier to keep my mindset focused on a particular topic (ex. accounting or marketing) and to respond to emails solely in that category rather than switching back and forth between different categories.

Another reason is that many of the emails in the same category often relate to the same topic or project, and as a result, I can easily keep all of the information about that topic or project in mind while responding to all of the emails.

Moreover, I’ve often found that by waiting to respond to emails, some of them become unnecessary to address by the time I get around to them. Maybe someone else responded to them. Waiting to respond can sometimes eliminate work that I would have had to perform if I responded immediately.

4. After You Respond to Your Emails

When you’re done responding to all of the emails in one of your appointments, it’s important to return to not responding to emails in that category until your next appointment. Begin the process again.

Give this a try and see how it works for you. Some aspects may not work for you immediately, but instead of giving up on the process entirely, tweak it to see if you can make it work better for your particular situation. For example, you may need more or fewer appointments. You may need to change your email categories. You may need to change your stance on which types of emails you will respond to. All of this will depend on your own situation, demands, and preferences.

I hope you find this helpful and your email productivity increases!

Series: What Mindfulness Means to Me, Trish Weinmann

In an effort to share a range of perspectives on the meaning of mindfulness and to facilitate a discussion about this important topic, we are posting a series of short essays by different contributors on “What Mindfulness Means to Me.” Below is a blog post by Trish Weinmann.

Continue reading Series: What Mindfulness Means to Me, Trish Weinmann

Series: What Mindfulness Means to Me, Elizabeth Wood

In an effort to share a range of perspectives on the meaning of mindfulness and to facilitate a discussion about this important topic, we are posting a series of short essays by different contributors on “What Mindfulness Means to Me.” Below is a poem by Elizabeth Wood expressing what mindfulness means to her.

Continue reading Series: What Mindfulness Means to Me, Elizabeth Wood

Electric Toothbrushes: A Tool for Mindfulness?

Electric Toothbrushes: A Tool for Mindfulness?

  I started using an electric toothbrush about a year ago after scoffing at them for many years. Now I love it. What I didn’t expect was that it would both provide some good mindfulness training and also encourage mindlessness.  Let me explain.

Continue reading Electric Toothbrushes: A Tool for Mindfulness?

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

The average cellphone user touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

Sign up to receive a free, 5 minute guided meditation that helps you gain control over your smartphone, instead of being controlled by it. 

You will receive our free 5 minute meditation soon!