Thoughts on Meditation and Technology
My talk at the Wisdom 2.0 conference
I don’t know anything about Meditation and Mindfulness. I thought it was total B/S a year ago. Today I cannot miss a day without meditating often for more than an hour and I am totally addicted to it. Soren Gordhamer asked me to share my thoughts in a short talk at Wisdom 2.0, here is what I am planning to talk about. I had the exact same conversation with Monk Matthieu Ricard at the World Economic Forum this year and was fascinated by his wisdom.
I don’t know why most people think meditation is a waste of time for weirdos or monks. It’s no longer the case for me. Why would we do workouts for our body muscles and never take care of our mind?
In Silicon Valley meditation has become such a trend that if you do not meditate, you get peer pressure to start.
Look at how the Wisdom 2.0 conference grew from a few hundred people (I was there and spoke) a few years ago to thousands of participants eager to learn more.
Friends and tech thought leaders such as Evan Williams or Arianna Huffington are very public about their practice. Meditation sessions in the office whith the entire company team every morning are common. I have about ten friends who did the 10 day Vippasana meditation course and tell me it changed their lives, Ben Casnocha is one of them and has a great write up about his experience. It’s just impossible to avoid conversations about meditation in the tech community. I went to Summit Outside last summer, there were monks and meditation sessions I loved. Yesterday I randomly said hi to friends at The Battery and they were talking about meditation, it’s a very common topic of conversation here.
There is a whole ecosystem of apps being created around meditation. I used Headspace to get started about nine months ago then quickly practiced on my own. I bumped into the founder of Calm, another app. I became a daily user of the Lift app which helps you prioritize what you really want to do during your day. I have become fascinated by the space so much that I invited the Headspace founders to talk about it at my own conference LeWeb.
I find it very interesting that those who invented social networking tools such as Twitter are trying to solve the problem they created themselves: distraction.
I have posted about 50,000 tweets since Twitter was created and interact daily mostly on Facebook and Twitter with thousands of people. My brain is constantly bombarded with interesting thoughts from friends, comments, mentions and more from around the World and I love it. I get a ton of emails every day to deal with as well as text messages. I played with my Google Glass early. Sure my brain needed a break.
Meditation created an entirely new space in my brain.
I could not even imagine the space meditation created for me. There is a place of calm in my mind that I can access now anytime and it feels great. I could only access that space when I was seated eyes closed in meditation, now it’s with me all the time. Meditation is doing nothing indeed, but that doing nothing opens a new world in your mind which allows me get quiet and get ideas I would have never had before.
If by any chance I end up waiting for a plane or someone I was immediately bored or would constantly check my email. Now I get to that space and just enjoy every minute of it, I am never bored.
Meditation taught me to have less needs. When I meditate I need nothing. I can be with myself for an hour or more in silence, watching the constant flow of ideas get into my mind like clouds pass in the sky. That’s one of the first benefit, I get “bombarded” much less by that flow of ideas and I am starting to be able to let them go one by one. Even if they are disturbing thoughts, sadness, guilt, regrets, they all go away at one point and don’t matter. I am simplifying a lot the way I live and try to get rid of a lot of things and ideas that were unnecessary.
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life” WU-MEN.”
It’s much more difficult to get me angry about something. As I get aware of the ideas that come into my mind and let them go I can now see myself becoming angry about something or someone and I can “park it” and somehow control it. Okay sometimes I fail, I know, but I generally feel that I am becoming a much better person.
During each meditation session I always think about who matters to me the most: my family and my friends. I have a feeling that I understand them better now and got closer to them by thinking about them daily more and being aware about it.
I can concentrate better and spend hours without looking at my iPhone or email. That’s very new for me and it’s liberating.
I used to rush to read and answer some emails in the morning, now I rush into meditating. It’s a beautiful thing. I try to catch a few ideas from my dreams and think about them, I think about how I want my day to be like and what really matters to me. I can avoid distractions much more. I then try to have another meditation before going to bed and reflect on the day. Is it how I imagined it would be? Did I do what I wanted to do?
“Meditation is a way of living, listening, walking the path of life more than a technique” John Kabat-Zinn
I started six tech businesses and invested in more than twenty others. I have been always rushing into the next thing my whole life.
For the first time I pause.
I think about death and what I want to get done before it happens. Who I want to be. What are my values. Where I want to spend my time and with whom. What I have lived and experienced and what I have not and want to. How I can help comes to mind, too, believe it or not.
It might sound negative but it is not, I am just becoming aware of myself much more instead of just following the flow of my life I try to get much more in the drivers seat. It’s like when you read and answer your emails, it’s a to-do list others impose on you. I don’t want to live like that anymore, I want to decide what I want to do much more.
I am now completely addicted to meditation, it is changing my life and changing me. It is a good addiction. Some of my friends think I am getting weird meditating every day and I could not care less. I did not understand it either earlier and I do not blame them. I just try to get them to practice as well because it would be so good for them.
I have just registered for a 10 day Vipassana retreat early April and I cannot wait.
Update: here is the video of my talk