We don’t have to look further than B.F. Skinner to see that most of us have developed a habit of being overly obsessed with our Smartphones. We all get incoming messages that hint at a potential reward, most of the time it’s not a reward, but sometimes it is and this is what gets us. It’s called intermittent reinforcement and it’s how Skinner made his rats keep pressing the lever hoping for more pellets of food. When it comes to our Smartphone most of us wake up with it and go to sleep with it. When it calls for us during the day we come running. If you’re interested in getting a bit of freedom from it, read this quick story of how philosopher and teacher Krishnamurti helped a student become free of irritation. You’ll see the connection.
One day, Krishnamurti was eating lunch with his students when one student got up to close the window. Krishnamurti asked why he did that and the student replied, “the sound from outside was annoying and making it difficult for me to enjoy conversation with my friends.” To this, Krishnamurti replied, “You have a habit of irritation.”
The student quizzically responded, “Yes I was irritated, what should I have done about it.” Krishnamurti said, “Your irritation is a habit that expands beyond the walls of this room and windows and invades your everyday life and there is a way move beyond this.”
The student was interested in not being captive by his habit energy of irritation and so again asked the teacher what he should do about it.
Krishnamurti said, “It will take 3 days to rid yourself of this habit energy.”
Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it is like to be irritated. Notice in the morning, afternoon and evening. What does it feel like in your body? What kind of thoughts arise in the mind? Become intimate with the feeling of irritation, get to know it, befriend it.
Day 2: Spend the entire day noticing irritation in others. Look for it, what does it look like on their faces and their body language. Notice the tone of voice that is used and what kind of language comes out of the mouth. What behavior comes from this emotional space of irritation? Study it.
Day 3: Notice the recession of irritation in yourself.
The student decided to try it out and became intimate with the experience of irritation. He noticed many things throughout the day that triggered it, the tension in his body that ensued and the flurry of thoughts that flowed through the mind. As soon as he noticed these things, the irritation already began to subside a bit.
The next day he found a lot of irritation in others. He noticed their language was harsher and body looked tense. Thoughts arose in his mind at how silly everyone looks being so irritated by seemingly small things.
On that third day he was more aware of irritation arising in him, but these moments were interrupted by the realization that he didn’t need to be captive to the cycles of irritation in his mind.
We can take this same approach with our Smartphone:
Day 1: Spend the entire day focusing on what it’s like to be connected to your Smartphone. The moments you’re on it, the moments you’re not on it, but thinking about it, and what happens when it beckons you.
Day 2: Notice how family, friends, colleagues and strangers are connected to their Smartphone. Look at their faces when they’re on it, their body language, and how they talk about it. What is their behavior like in relationship to it?
Day 3: Notice a wiser relationship develop between you and your Smartphone.
Try this out as an experiment and see what you notice. Feel free to share.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Smartphone photo available from Shutterstock