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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strenthening Our Inner Firewalls

Our always-on electronic devices have connected us to a pulsating web of information, social chatter and the possibility of endless distraction. Many writers have lamented the addictive nature of the never-ending stimuli brought to us by our smartphone apps, Facebook updates, texts and emails. In last Sunday’s (2/10) New York Times Maureen Dowd decried the “intoxicating lure” of instant electronic gratification, while Frank Bruni blamed “the Internet… and social media and cable television” for upending our belief in moderation, and replacing it with a culture of extremes— from food and diets, to sports and politics.

In Digital Dharma I discussed the “shadow side” of the Internet, digital realities and self-reinforcing online communities. In a communications environment where everyone has a voice, and multiple “truths” run free, being connected to everyone all the time can easily overwhelm our brain’s defense systems. In a world of what William Gibson described as “deliriously multiple viewpoints, shot through with misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and a quotidian degree of madness,”[i] we need to cultivate the power of discernment – conscious attention and conscious inattention. In a hyper-stimulated media world, silence clears the “memory buffers.” Mind clarification must precede mind expansion. Our gullible consciousness responds to any software we put into it.[ii] 

These moments of silence are the “inner firewalls” against the waves of cultural spam that threaten to inundate us. From this place of deep quiet we can begin to perceive the whole web of illusion, beyond appearances and habitual concepts, to the true state of non-duality which modulates all reality.  As media scholar Marshall McLuhan told us 60-years-ago, pay attention to the underlying medium, not the message.

Mindfulness meditation is, in effect, a process of observing the instruction codes of our consensual reality come and go, without actually downloading them and running their embedded programs of thoughts, emotions and attachments. From this place of unity consciousness, we can be both a “node on the network” and an observer of the network cloud, with all of its lightning and data storms. In earlier posts I suggested some “cyber-mediations” and offered “ambient awareness” as one way to help us with “Twitter overload.” They seem as timely today as when I first wrote them.

[i] William Gibson, “The Road to Oceana,” New York Times, June 23, 2003; (p. 100 in Digital Dharma).
[ii] Discussed in more detail in pp. 132-135 in Digital Dharma.

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