fast Buddha for speedy times

Updated On — 28th May, 2021

You are most likely one of the majority of people who may agree with a finding in a recent major poll that found that most folks feel their lives are much busier and speedier than they were even five years ago.

It may be so that busyness does not conflict with our ability to practice mindfulness – as Jon Kabat-Zinn says — wherever you are you are there.

Yet I think it may be true to say that it is more challenging to practice mindfulness during busy, speedy times in our lives.

It may even be ultimately more rewarding that practicing mindfulness in a serene life.

There is a Chinese Zen saying from many centuries ago:

Monk goes to meditate in the mountains and has a little enlightenment
Monk goes to the city to meditate and has a big enlightenment.

Welcome to the culture of speed when:

  • 14 and 15 year olds appear to be feeling more and more stressed out at school – I know I am the parent of one.
  • We now have so-called energy drinks that can help us if we feel that we cannot keep up with out often hectic lives!
  • Some people even have a norm between friends to just leave a missed call rather than take to time to leave a message.
  • The use of texting abbreviations has entered the spoken language, which seems odd IMHO, FWIW (in my humble opinion, for what its worth).

There is just too much information coming at us and we don’t have efficient filters in place in our minds to deal with it all.

The information the Internet and email presents easily overwhelms us.

I sometimes feel a love/ hate relationship with email-while I seem to love to receive it I feel conflicted with the need to keep track of it all and respond somehow.

And folks are complaining sometimes that in order to feel like they need to catch up that certain technologies and practices are just too slow.

The term multi-tasking was originally coined to refer to capacities of computers. Now we are even sometimes reprimanded on the job for not being able to multi-task well. What is that saying about us?

On a cultural level, then, we have an almost unquestioning embrace of new technologies in the belief that by getting more things done faster somehow we will be more efficient and happier.

But is that the case?

Certainly I am not advocating a neo-Amish downsizing or getting rid of our smartphones. It’s a complex issue and requires a nuanced response as mindfulness practitioners.

So … what would be a nuanced response to this cultural need for speed as mindfulness practitioners?

One place to start might be to use the Buddhist diagnosis of what ails humanity as the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion.

When we are waiting in line at the bank, do we feel a subtle sense of aversion? Our culture seems to want to destroy boredom at all costs.

It’s as if we have this fear of boredom because we think it will slow us down and thus impede in our quest ultimately to be happier?

If this is true, to what degree is this delusional?

So we go after speed (greed) to avoid boredom (aversion) in order to be happy (delusion).

Even in a session of meditation, we may feel the classic Buddhist hindrance of restlessness and want to escape it by rushing away into some fantasy.

It may be fruitful to see this need for speed both culturally and personally as a kind of defense mechanism.
If you feel there may be something to this notion in your own life, simply ask yourself what are you defending against?

And if you dare venture into the Buddhist philosophical territory of annata/ no self, ask yourself what ultimately are you defending?

Can we be with the speediness in our lives mindfully? What would this look like?

Fast Buddha for speedy times?

Fast Buddha is just there, open, non-clinging, responding appropriately, keeps up but knows when to set boundaries IMHO.

Can we mine the inner treasure of mindfulness to bring forth appropriate and compassionate responses to the many challenges that contemporary life throws us?

 

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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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