This morning, I did something I usually bend over backwards to avoid doing: I looked at my phone before meditation.
I’m ordinarily repulsed by the very idea of seeing my notifications before I have to. I think what got me today is that I didn’t look at it last night after Shabbat was over, so it had been about 40 hours since I got a notification. The horror!
I allowed myself to think picking up the phone on my desk would put me at ease. I’d see a few trivial notifications, feel relieved that I didn’t miss anything, put down the phone and have an absolutely blissful sit. Oh, the stories we tell ourselves in order to give in to our cravings!
You can imagine what happened instead. I was finally able to snap out of it after 10 minutes, put the phone back down, and go sit, but “blissful” is hardly the word I’d use to describe it.
Here’s what I observed: Breaking the notification seal in the morning creates a pinprick-sized stress vortex in the center of my brain that feels identical to the one I get when I drink too much coffee. Maybe it’s adrenaline. There’s some tiny but insistent voice saying, “Go. Move. Run. Get out of there.” I don’t know about you, but I do not want to start my morning that way unless I’m being stalked by a wild animal, which is exactly what this mental alarm system feels like it’s designed for.
In our high-tech society, that ancient stress signal doesn’t correlate with actual danger. Whatever it’s about, it can almost always wait! Waiting to look at the phone should be considered part of the daily meditation practice. The inevitable deluge of information should be contained by the practice, not the other way around.