There’s an old saying (I’m just full of old sayings, ’cause old-ish): “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” It means that even enlightened beings—those who can slip into meditation and get into the Zen zone fast—are still normal people who have to do everyday things. My version would be, “Before enlightenment, change Norman’s kitty litter; after enlightenment”—oh wait; I’m not enlightened yet.
My chances of becoming enlightened get further away with everything I put before meditation. Checking to see what’s happening on Facebook, Instagram, my email, the weather, and all this other stuff seems, for some reason, much more compelling than checking to see what’s going on in my own mind.
There is an explanation for that. App developers have been coming clean about designing software to be deliberately addictive. According to the 60 Minutes segment “Brain Hacking,” app makers employ scientists who study the brain’s addictive tendencies to learn how to make their apps something you just can’t live without.
Now you understand why it feels like you have to check your social media accounts before you do anything else. Plus you may be using your phone as an alarm clock; when you go to turn it off, all your apps are saying “Check meeeee… You know you want to.” And your meditation practice becomes something you’ll fit in later… Maybe.
Why can’t you have fun with your apps and then meditate? Once we fall down the social media rabbit hole, we may never actually get to the meditation cushion. Also, social media, email, and going online over-stimulates the brain. You’ll find it a lot harder to keep your awareness on a point of focus like your breathing, a Mantra, or a pleasant image if you’re still wondering why your friend didn’t like your post, or whether that handy glove really will get excess fur off your cat, or what Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson is up to now.
RELATED: How to find a better mantra
The challenge is to meditate before going online (or doing anything else that requires more brain power than sipping coffee). Here’s the tricky part: What if you use your phone to wake up and time your meditation? How do you turn off your wake-up alarm and set your timer without sneaking a peek at your apps?
This is exactly why we meditate—to learn how to control the mind’s impulsive, “gimme now!” nature. Just make a commitment to meditate first and check your apps later.
For thousands of years, the suggestion to people who want to attain inner peace and that enviably serene, swan-like spiritual grace, is to meditate first thing in the morning. It’s a simple plan with tons of benefits: Your mind isn’t really awake and thinking yet, so meditation is easier. You can set a Sankalpa, an intention, about what you’d like to accomplish. You can decide what you want to bring to this new, never-before, never-again day. You can even start reinventing yourself and your life!
Or you can check Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever app is trying to take control of your mind. And that can determine how you feel about yourself today. When it comes to who determines how I feel, I’d rather it be me than someone trying to hijack my eyeballs for money.
They can do that when I’m done meditating.
Suzan Colón is the author of Yoga Mind:Beyond the Physical: 30 Days to Enrich Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life From the Inside Out