“We have a question: How best can we serve the convergence of Buddhism, global culture, and emerging technology?” asked Vincent Horn, cofounder of Buddhist Geeks in a recent Tricycle article . It’s a great article, exploring both the vast potential and the pitfalls related to online meditation and other mergings of ancient wisdom and the latest technology. The Buddhist Geeks recently had a conference on the matter in San Francisco, that great beacon to both spiritual and technological vibes, featuring such luminaries as Jack Kornfield.
I’m a funny one to write about online meditation, because until recently, meditation connoted unplugging for me, and I liked that. I’m a person who sometimes finds about friends’ gatherings at the last minute because they did all the inviting via facebook. I got a kick out of another friends “engagement party.” He wasn’t getting married, he was inviting people to engage with him personally instead of reading about his life on a screen.
So it’s bigger than just online meditation, the larger umbrella is technology and human relationships, including our relationship with ourselves and our conciousness.
A few definitive pros to online meditation:
*“Meditation on the internet can be very comforting for people who thought that meditation would be an arduous or impossible task. When you have all the information you need to get started on the computer screen, everything becomes much more possible”
*You do not have to go anywhere to join a “global sangha.” Sangha is the traditional word for a group of people sitting together and supporting each other in meditation. Any number of things can prevent us from physically attending a group meditation: A busy schedule, family commitments, illness, geographic distance. I read about a man who has deepened his relationship with his father by meditating with him online, since they live far from each other.
*Technology is very NOW. Meditation reminds us to be in the present, accepting all that is occurring in an open, non-judgmental way. Sooo…I guess that includes the internet. I think at this point we’re operating with blinders on if we try to pretend there’s no overlap between our lives, including our meditative lives, and the technological and online world.
And one important con:
Online relationships and activities don’t replace human connection. A friend recently told me that not only do we need to hug, but we need to do so for at least 20 seconds to get certain neurochemical benefits. YES, the hug has also been scientifically quantified. “Are we worshipping the graven image of our own neurochemistry?” Richard Eskow asked another Buddhist Geek at the conference. It’s great that neuroscience and technology are backing what we have long know on both intuitive and experiential levels: Meditation and human connection are important, and they make us feel more content and peaceful. It is that intuitive and interactive knowledge that brought us to technology, and not the other way around. Online meditation can enhance our life, but we still need intuition and physical connection to shape and create that life. Otherwise we’ll be feeling a kind of empty that is not the “emptiness” meditation seeks.