To the Man on His Cell Phone in the Temple

Dear Sir,

Sundays are my time to reconnect with myself and the greater purpose of my life, and one of the ways I love to do that is by attending services at the local Buddhist temple.

And I bet you’re looking start your week off in a Zen state of mind too since I encountered you at the temple today.

Sadly, instead of having my spirit lifted up as usual during the service, I was acutely reminded of the first of our Four Noble Truths…that life is full of suffering.

After an hour and a half of silent meditation, the other 80 or so people in attendance and I turned toward the front of the temple to listen to the spiritual teacher give his weekly lecture.

That put you and your cell phone directly in my sightline. At first I couldn’t be sure what you were doing. Maybe you were simply silencing your phone so as not to disturb the group?

But alas, you were checking and responding to emails…for the next 30 minutes.

The glare of your cell phone screen was unavoidable, as was the reflection in your glasses as you furiously typed away. I grew increasingly frustrated with the distraction, and it pained me when our teacher would glance your way disapprovingly while he spoke.

If you had put your phone away and listened to the lecture, you would have realized the topic for the week was mindfulness and being focused on the present moment.

The irony was not lost on me, nor the other attendees I saw rolling their eyes and sighing.

All I could think was, “Why are you here?”

Really, what was the point of you coming to the temple if you weren’t going to pay attention?

I have no idea what was so important in your emails that you had to respond the them immediately. Look, I’m all for being productive and getting things done, but there’s a time and place for everything.

You never even feigned interest in the lecture.

Wouldn’t it have been kinder for you to excuse yourself into the main lobby instead of click-click-clicking on your phone’s sliding keyboard while the rest of us tried to soak in the presentation?

Eventually, I closed my eyes so I could enjoy the teacher’s words even if I could not watch him as I would have liked.

This situation reminded me of a retreat I once attended where one of the monks said, “Your practice is your practice.”

She explained that your practice (the type of Buddhism you follow) is your practice (your daily actions, routines, and habits).

I love the idea that your practice is your practice, and I believe it holds true for any religion or spiritual belief system.

What you believe is directly reflected by what you do.

You might not have realized it, but your actions today showed that your personal dramas are more important to you than forming a loving, respectful bond with your Sangha (community).

As our teacher wrapped up his lecture, he encouraged the group to turn to their neighbors and introduce themselves because there are many newcomers this time of year.

I introduced myself to you and as nicely as I could said, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to be distracting, but it was difficult for me to concentrate with you being on your cell phone.”

Perhaps it was too much for me to expect you to apologize or offer up some kind of excuse.

“Ooohkaay! I’ll make sure not to sit by you next time!” you replied in a haughty tone that seemed to suggest I was being unreasonable.

And then you abruptly stood up and pushed past the other people and out the door.

I sat for a moment after you had left.

Your practice is your practice.

I’m writing to you now not to shame you or show the world that I’m a better Buddhist. Like many spiritual followings, we share lessons through stories…and there is most certainly a lesson to be learned from this story.

I learned that I must be mindful of my actions because they are the true indicators of who I am.

And I hope you learn something as well before next week’s service.

Wishing you love and light…and terrible cell phone reception,


Click to tweet: “Your practice is your practice.” via @SageGrayson1

Do you think people’s actions are a reflection of their beliefs?

In the comments below, share a time when the actions of yourself or others seemed out of alignment.

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  1. says

    Not only is that incredibly rude but it’s awfully sad. Life isn’t found on that tiny screen, dude, it’s being lived all around you. We were at a live music show last night and the girl next to me was checking her FB. I too wondered why she was there. I am so glad you said something to him but from his response it seems clear he did not get it.

  2. says

    What that man did is so unbelievably rude to me! Using your phone when someone is giving a lecture is un-respectful, be it a spiritual leader, a teach at college or your mom trying to talk to you about your day. I don’t understand why it’s become so hard for so many people to LISTEN. I’m hoping for bad reception next time too 😉 xo

  3. says

    Oh..I have people on their cell all the time when I’m helping them check out books at the library..and we have a sign up about Not using your cell phone. Then they say they know..but they keep right on talking. Thanks for the note, too.

  4. says

    Wow, how rude of him! I agree with you completely. Why on earth was he even there? The way he responded to you speaks volumes about his state of mind. It’s really too bad. It sounds like you handled things very well!

    • says

      Sometimes I feel really old fashioned when it comes to technology. Why are so many people anchored to their cell phones? The point of going to temple is to RELAX! If that guy doesn’t give himself time to chill out, then he’s going to make himself sick.

    • says

      The situation just reminds me to be aware of my surroundings so I won’t annoy the people around me. It’s funny now, but so frustrating in the moment! Thanks for commenting, Sara. :)

  5. says

    So right, Sage!

    So funny that you say this. Literally MOMENTS AGO I was tested. I wrote a blog post about how people use Facebook in a way that hurts their relationships. Someone felt the need to not only unfriend me (which would have been fine and essentially unnoticed), but to write a comment stating that my article was exactly the kind of “crap” they hate. Talk about exemplifying my point.

    Your practice is your practice. You are what you do. I’m really trying to be above my emotional reaction, that’s who I want to be. In moments when people act like respect and tact are irrelevant, those are some challenging times to practice what you practice.

    • says

      Hey Ashley!!! I totally didn’t know you have a blog. I’m definitely going to check it out. :)

      Wow, people are crazy! I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook because although I enjoy staying connected, I feel like people are always trying to “one-up” each other. It’s also too easy for folks to blast out something nasty without thinking about it.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • says

        Absolutely! I love your blog, I’m just terrible at commenting. I’m new to the game (with this serious attempt at more professional blogging anyway), so I should probably get better! Please do stop by when you have a moment, it’s a work of love.

        If you’re up for it, I’d love to connect on Skype or something. I think it would be great to learn more about how things are working for you with this blog and hear about your life coaching. It’s something I’ve been considering for a career but don’t know much about. Let me know if you’re interested!

        Thanks YOU for posting 😉

  6. Debbie says

    Your comment about his cell phone reception at the end made me chuckle out loud.
    Thank god he wasn’t wearing those awful google goggles too or filming it.

  7. says

    Wow, I don’t even understand why this person would bother going if they weren’t going to get anything out of it? I understand and respect you for not wanting to shame this man or show him in a negative light. I also agree with you that everyone practices in their own way…. but when your practice is distracting and disrespectful to others then I definitely think that telling them that is appropriate. I think you handled it very gracefully and kindly but sadly I think the message was lost on this person.

    • says

      I still can’t figure out why he was there either. Why not just leave after the meditation if you’re not going to listen to the lecture? People are weird…and kind of self-absorbed.

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