During my years in the monastery many things in the world outside were rapidly advancing and changing.
When I entered the monastery, mobile phones were those huge clunky things about the size of a brick, with a large antenna sticking out the top. Only the upper class elite could afford to own one. I think I had only ever seen them in the movies.
By the time I left the monastery they had become the small device not much bigger than your finger. They fitted easily into your pocket, and owning one was as common as owning a wrist watch.
Now that I was getting back to modern life in the outside world, my family felt that my first priority should be to obtain a mobile phone. Personally I was indifferent to having a mobile phone. After all, I had got through all 33 years of my life so far without the need to be in constant communication with someone. But my brothers couldn’t image how I would be able to survive without possessing one of these little gadgets. So I followed their advice and accepted an old phone from my brother that he no longer needed
My sister-in-law took me to a mobile phone shop, where she spent about 10 minutes with the attendant, before furnishing me with a tiny square microchip thingy. She attempted to explain to me something about SIM cards, pay-as-you-go plans, telephone service providers, and the like. While I politely made an effort to follow what she was saying, in reality she may as well have been talking to me in Chinese.
In any case after she had set me up with everything I needed, I now had a working mobile phone, with which I could call anyone I liked, at any time I wanted, from anywhere in the world. At least that’s how I felt, now that I had the awesome power of technology in my pocket.
The thing was… who on Earth would I call?
When I looked in the “Contacts” option of my mobile’s menu, I found nothing. No names. No numbers.
Right, I thought, so I don’t actually know anyone to call.
Never mind, at least I had a mobile phone, just in case. At least now I would be able to function in this modern world.
Somehow, knowing I had this piece of technology in my pocket reassured me. Although, at a deeper level I knew that this feeling of reassurance was an illusion. What was I being reassured about? Was it the feeling that because everyone has a mobile phone I felt more “normal” to also have one? Was it the feeling that in any moment I could call someone for no real reason other than to distract myself from being fully present and engaged in the moment? There was something alluring about my new toy… the feel of the plastic, the touch of the buttons, watching the display light up, hearing the sound of the different ring tones available. All this somehow made my superficial ego feel more “complete”.
This was my first encounter of how personal technology creates for us a need that in reality never existed before.
It is the glitzy sparkle of shiny new things that temporarily makes us imagine that we are happy. The illusion of material things has become so strong with personal technology that we quickly and easily lose awareness of the joy that resides naturally within us. Like a drug, the attraction of technology tricks our senses into thinking that it is serving us, when in reality we are becoming slaves to these man-made devices.
Without our connection to the spiritual part of our being within us, we look for meaning and happiness in the external things of the world. When we buy a new mobile phone, we have a moment of happiness to distract us from the deep sadness of not being truly connected with ourselves. When that happiness wears off, and we start to feel that deep subconscious sadness again, we look to the next distraction to make us feel better.
Even a former monk, who has spent his life knowing the Divine within, can easily become seduced by the shiny glare of material possessions.
So after owning my mobile phone for a couple of weeks, in which time I had added my family as contacts (I now had someone to call!), I experienced that first pang of desire to update my phone.
The year was 2007, and the first Apple iPhone had just been released. My brother, being the Apple fan that he is, had acquired the new iPhone, and showed it to me. After seeing that it had so many different “apps” for various functions, my first reaction was to wonder What else would you do with a phone, other than “phoning”?.
I mean a phone is a phone, right? For making phone calls, right?
Well, apparently phones were no longer only for phoning. In fact, as I would gradually realise in due course, the “call” function was rapidly becoming the least used operation of a phone. What a bizarre thought that was.
Nevertheless, something in me was attracted to this stylish-looking new iPhone, with its flat touch-screen and its sleek desirable appearance. It made my compact little mobile seem old, out-dated, and boring. In spite of my spiritual awareness, I unwittingly found myself desiring to own an iPhone.
Now why on Earth would I want one of those? my rational mind asked.
Ok, I had by now conceded that being able to call someone from almost anywhere was quite useful. But I had no idea what any of those “apps” did, even less why I would need to use any of them. But, as is always the case with the illusion of material possessions, my mind soon found ways to justify why I would want that iPhone, and the numerous apps that came with it.
The illusory power of new technology was subtly working its spell on me, by creating within me a need where before none had ever existed.
Fortunately I wasn’t totally lost to the pull of these material illusions.
I was able to hold my mind in check, and maintain my awareness of the spiritual reality at the centre of my being. However, I was finding that it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to not let the distractions of worldly things obscure the awareness of my spiritual nature. Being always surrounded by so many things to please the senses, made it a constant challenge to stay connected with Spirit.
My training in the monastery had become even more valuable within the context of my new life in the outside world.
Even now, six years later, it is a continuous effort to live in the consciousness of the Higher Self. I have fallen many times, but always I get back up and come right back to living in the joy and grace of the Divinity within me. I still feel that sneaky pull of desire to want to get the latest mobile phone, but from the spiritual centre of my being those illusions evaporate.
My mobile phone continues to serve its purpose as my tool, and I will indeed update it from time to time, but I do not let myself become a slave to the imaginary need for something new and better.
If you want to read the previous posts in this series about leaving the monastery CLICK HERE.
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