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,
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