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From Miyajima Island

Hint:  given the topic of this post see if you can resist hitting any links until you get to the bottom of the post

I keep an iPad and several books by my bed.  I like to throw in a few minutes of study before I go to bed.  I pick something interesting yet not totally stimulating.   I find that two pages of a book in Japanese are enough to push mind a little forward and also overwhelm me and help me to sleep.  I also like to follow Japanese lessons on japanesepod101.com.  The information is useful, the grammar lesson are great but after fifteen minutes of reading a pdf or listening to a dialogue, I’m ready to drift into la-la land.

Driven to Distraction

But the iPad is a little dangerous.  I can check my lessons there or follow Japanese links. But the pretty little Facebook button calls and I have to just check it for a little bit.  Maybe there is a fascinating (or not) link to an article, and then I’m gone.  What was my intention?   What happened to my time?

Going Old School

I’m not abandoning my electronic toys.  The convenience and tools are just too elegant and fun.  These days I am enjoying reading about daruma, these funky Japanese dolls that are actually based on the story one of the founders of Zen in Japan.  I love that I can read the wikipedia page that’s loaded on to my iPhone.  I love that I can tap on to a Japanese word and get a definition.

But I’ve noticed these tools can turn into toys that encourage your “monkey mind.”   I’m not a Buddhist, but I play one on the internet. 🙂 “Monkey mind” means that you grab at whatever catches your attention in the moment.  One moment you are eating a banana and the next moment you are picking bugs out of your friend’s fur in a tree.  One moment you are setting out to study Japanese Zen schools of thought and then the next moment you are listening to “Tied to the Whipping Post” on Youtube.

Monkey on Miyajima Island. The fence is actually to keep the humans out of the monkey territory. Now, who has the monkey mind?

You don’t have to spank your monkey mind.  Exploring, goofing off, wandering aimlessly all have valuable roles to play.   But lately, if I find my self too iDistracted I resort to the following:

  • Read a book.   There are very few apps on a book.  Follow one mind.  If you “have no time” take five minutes a day to read.  Skip over parts that don’t interest you.  I just pulled out Marius B. Jansen’s The Making of Modern Japan.  800 pages.   So far. So Sekihagara good.
  • Write in and review your samurai notebook.   Follow your own mind for a while.  What are your thoughts, plans, goals, noticings? Review your notebook and enjoy.  Even if your notebook is filled with interesting quotes from other people they are your gatherings.   Reviewing your notebook reminds you of where your mind has been.  It anchors you.
  • [Practice what you preach alert]  Meditate.

Well, if you made it to the bottom of this post it means you got past the iDistraction and “monkey mind.”  Congratulations.  Gotta go see my friend about a banana, his fur, and something about a whipping post.