What You Praise Increases

Thich Nhat Hanh, a beautiful spiritual teacher said: “The greatest gift we can give another is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.”

And this is so true. Recently, I have been getting some beautiful comments on this blog. Often, when I get one, it makes me want to sit right down and write another, because it is being appreciated.  Because I feel appreciated. It is a sense of being enveloped in a gentle warmth, a sense of love returned. It is an energy exchange back to me for what I have put out, and in this way, the love increases. My creativity seems to blossom, my desire to share more increases. Love begets love.  Energy begets energy.

It has been said that “What you praise increases“.  When we put positive energy and gratitude out, whatever it is that we are grateful for, that something increases.  It grows, like a thirsty plant, for having been watered with love.

It seems to me, in this age of advanced technology, that people are not open to what is being said to them, or shared with them. They seem not to be very aware of what is happening around them. In other words, they are not offering someone else their attention, or embracing them with mindfulness. Everyone seems locked into their own little, miniaturized electronic, computer world….either walking around looking at their iPhone or walking with headphones on.

There was a great cartoon I once saw about this:  A young woman and a young man are sitting on a bench in a park, near an overhanging tree.  In the tree is a bluebird joyfully singing. The young woman is looking at the bluebird, engaged by its song, but the young man is oblivious to it. He has, instead, looked it up on his iPhone. Instead of the real thing, he went to his machine to have the experience of a blue bird’s song, even though the bluebird was singing its heart out right above him. I have even seen mothers not looking at or responding to their children, not meeting the eyes of their baby to reassure them that they are seen and are important enough to be related to. Why?  Because they are talking on their phone or exploring the inner world of their iPhone.  It is disheartening, and I wonder, with great concern, what kind of social empathy, or extreme lack of it, these children will have. Will they be socially dysfunctional, or stunted, lacking a sense of themselves as worthwhile beings, unable to connect with others, feeling isolated, unable to  feel love?  What will they develop into?

When we first bought our land/retreat, one of the things I wanted to get away from, at least in some ways, was the amount of technology in the world. I just didn’t want to be lost in that world, as now so many people seem to be.  It felt suffocating to me. Empty. Unreal. And lo and behold, we cannot get cell phone reception here – thank God!  We have to go up the road, heading into town to get it.  I do enjoy working on my blog, and getting emails, but one thing you will not see here, when people come to visit, is everyone sitting around the table, not talking to one another, all heads bent into their own little electronic world.  That is alien to us here.  It feels bizarre for us to witness this, when we do. It feels as if everyone has become a part of some vast machine, plugged into it, lost in data bases and wires. I am constantly reminded of the episodes on Star Trek, The Next Generation, that dealt with The Borg. The story plot was that people were abducted and made to horribly become part of a mechanical planetary, all-consuming hive called The Borg. It was a drastically menacing, galactic doom that kept expanding as it devoured planet after planet and incorporated the people there into itself. The people, no matter what age, were turned partly into machines themselves, and all were part of this unfeeling, mechanical mind, with no existence of their own. I look at all of this, and that is what it looks like to me:  The Borg.

Once, a long time go, before any of this technology had been created, I read a science fiction story about this gigantic planet that had been colonized. It was a rich and fertile place, with so much land and great potential as a planetary investment.  Not many people lived there, but those who did had vast, vast stretches of their own land, little kingdoms of their own. The planet was SO vast that people basically only communicated with one another through the kind of phone system where you could talk and see the other person’s face, like skyping today. However, despite this great potential of this planet, something seemed to be going very wrong. The colonists were not thriving, the planet was not thriving, and the energy was getting more and more problematic. No one knew what was wrong, so they sent in an investigator. What he finally figured out was that the people were getting more and more dysfunctional and distorted because they did not ever meet one another in person, or connect truly with one another human being.  Everyone had become too isolated and distant. It was too far to travel in order to have kind of real human interaction. There was no touching, nothing personal. Everything happened through a machine. Because of this, they were getting mentally ill. Interesting, yes? This now seems like a prophetic story to me. It has come true, I think, to quite some extent.

Another time, I remember going out to dinner with some family members, and there we were sitting at the table, about 7 or 8 of us, and no one was speaking to one another. This went on for some time. It was such an awkward silence. Finally, someone brought out their iPhone, and, I guess, feeling more comfortable having brought out this thing that they spent most of their time with, began to be able to relate to us, but only through using this mechanical thing as a prop, showing us this picture or that. Then, everyone at the table brought out their iPhones, and some conversation happened, but only because they were able to use it as their mode of conversation – to show us things on it.  We were grateful at least that some connecting was going on, but it still seemed so strange to me that it could only happen when everyone had this thing to use as their way of communicating and sharing.

Communicating, just person to person seems to be a lost art, something others are forgetting how to do, or feel comfortable with. It seems to me to be a form of unpleasant Narcissism, an addiction, where each person is only and totally concerned with themselves, with what they are doing, and not tuned into or aware of the other. Instead, they are plugged into a machine. Where is that beautiful attention and mindfulness that Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of, that allows others to bloom, like flowers, upon receiving it? That beautiful, authentic giving and receiving….truly hearing another, being present with another, learning and growing together?  It’s a different world, but, I am not sure if it is a healthy one.

I personally, do not want to become part of the Borg.

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