On a long flight from New York to LA my plane was outfitted with individual monitors. With the swipe of a credit card you could have your choice of television programs, movies, games like poker, Bejeweled, solitaire, chess, maps to track the plane’s progress, weather reports, music, talk radio programming…

My first reaction to seeing the screens, which were not guaranteed when I made my reservation, was “Oh boy! This flight is going to be fun!” Once settled in my seat I looked up to a blank monitor. Mine was the only screen on the entire plane not working!

Nooooooooo!

My reaction was a little intense for a minute. My body went into full fight-flight mode. Could I sue the airline? Demand an upgrade to first class? The degree of frustration was a wee bit alarming. Where was this coming from?

Our society is so conflicted, now more than ever, it seems. Mindfulness is preached as the soothing balm to the pressures of every day life. Yet we are made to feel we will miss something of life and death importance if we don’t have a smart phone that can search for the latest restaurant while we simultaneously talk over dinner plans with our spouse.

Now I love my gadgets, I do. I love that I can listen to heart thumping music as I run, look up the exact location of Bahrain, and check my calendar from one handy device. Do not even think that I am advocating going gadget-less.

I just think I am not alone in struggling with the proper balance between using these wonderful tools and giving in too much, allowing them to use me. When I lost the solitaire app on my iPod I resisted the urge to re-install it because I spent too much time on that thing. I’m still going through withdrawal. What is the anti-dote to too much technology?

Mindfulness is an ability. It is the ability to open the entire body, all the senses that are available to us, mind, body and spirit to the miracle of Being. Right now in this moment I am witnessing the sunrise over the San Gabriel mountains. The sunlight slants into the East facing window. Everyone in the house is asleep; it is quiet. Once in a while a birdie sings. I made coffee. The taste and smell of it lingers. The air is cool on my cheek. Restful, I am content.

A voice in me says, “You should do this more.”

The child in us loves the distractions, the toy-ness of our gadgets, the call to get gratification now! It takes a strong adult to remember to step away and focus on what our Spirit longs for: Our full, un-distracted, attention.

Sunrise over the San Gabriel mountains photo by Josh LeClair via Flickr

This article was originally published in Fenruary 2010.