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Lions Roar : May 2014
distractions are everywhere, all the time. Little screens, middling screens, gigantic screens. Instead of Plato’s cave, we each create our own little cave and live in a world of flickering images devoid of real substance. We literally screen off our actual world, with all its ruggedness and rawness, and fit whatever is happening into a virtual world of sound, pictures, and videos we carry in our pockets. We are so easily distracted, we complain to ourselves. But what is really behind all this distractedness? It is easy to think the relentless external stimuli are the problem, but what we are surrounded by are just phenomena, nothing more. The objects of our world are just there, innocently, just being what they are. Noises are just noises, sights are just sights, objects are just objects, smartphones are just smartphones, computers are just computers, thoughts are just thoughts. That is why the Buddhist teachings talk more in terms of wandering mind than distractions. When we think in terms of distractions, we look outward and blame external conditions for our jumpiness. When we think in terms of wandering mind, we look inward for the source of our problem. We take responsibility. Monkey Mind The fact is that distractions won’t ever disappear. you may run away to a little cave and stay there all alone, but distractions will follow you wherever you go. you can’t get rid of distrac- tions, but through meditation practice, you can change how you react to them. It is like the story of Odysseus and the Sirens, who enticed seamen off their course and onto the reef to their deaths. To survive, Odysseus had himself tied to the mast and told his crew to seal their ears. Like the sirens, distractions pull us off course. The word “dis- traction” means to be pulled away. When you are distracted, it feels as if something outside of you has captured your attention. Distraction is also referred to as desultoriness, from the Latin root meaning “skipping around.” So another aspect of distraction is to be scatterbrained, mentally jumpy. Buddhism calls this “monkey mind.” In response, like Odysseus, we can bind ourselves to the mast of discipline by means of mindfulness meditation. left: A South Korean man uses a mobile phone to take a picture of The More, the Better, by the late Korean-American video artist Nam June Paik, at the National Museum of contemporary Art in Kwachon, south of Seoul. Previous spread: Taken at the Nam June Paik Art center, Gyeonggi-do, Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO By ANA NANCE / REDUx PHOTOByREUTERS/yOUSUNg-HO