Everything is worthy of attention
Last week in Wales, I was walking on a country lane in the early morning. The exquisite green of the Welsh rolling hillsides dipped below pillowy clouds, swallows spun overhead, and the whole scene just invited me to see and hear and feel, letting experience suffuse the senses and enliven the heart.
And then I heard the familiar beep of an incoming text message.
I like technology. I appreciate the capacity to be in contact on the move, and to read, navigate traffic, find information, keep notes, listen to music, and more, all on a phone. Yet as I drew it from my pocket to type a reply, I noticed a certain impatience and tension. I was relating to the phone as an irritation keeping me from the countryside.
When we speak of the digital as a ‘virtual world’, we view it as somehow offering only a pale imitation of our so-called ‘real world’. But what is more real, a tree or a phone? How we answer determines how we relate. Is a tree more ‘real’ than a picture of a tree, or are they both simply momentary experiences registering in consciousness? Dharma practice invites us to pay a close and caring and curious attention to whatever we are engaged with, whatever its source. All phenomena share the same nature. What comes to our eyes is what comes to our eyes, whether the sight of tree or screen, whether the sound of birdsong or iTunes.
So looking down at my phone, I let myself relax.. Whatever is present deserves my care and attention, the phone no less than the countryside. I let myself feel the smooth surface and the weight of it in my hand, the glow of the screen and the pixelated detail of the display, the miracle of electronic engineering.
This is my life. This moment, this text message. I send it off, and watch as the message turns a satisfying blue. I darken the screen and slide it back into my pocket. The swallows are turning south, clouds are passing in front of the sun. The whole world is right here. Whatever arises is the truth of the moment. Whatever is here deserves attention. These words you are reading on this screen right now. This is your life. Take it in.