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In one week, I’ll be heading to the Atlanta Soto Zen Centerto sit my first 7 day retreat in honor of Rohatsu, the Japanese Buddhistholiday commemorating the Buddha’s enlightenment.  My plan is to pack light, no checked luggage,just a backpack filled with loose fitting, dark clothes, maybe a few extrasocks (you can never have too many socks), my kleen kanteen and a journal.  One thing I will be leaving at home is my belovediPhone.


For generations, Buddhists have gone on retreat as a way toescape the demands and temptations of the everyday world in order to committhemselves to mindful, diligent practice. Retreats provide the opportunity to leave all the stress of normalwork-a-day life behind and embrace the dharma.   Viewed in this way, retreatssound great, almost like a 7 day – 6 night spiritual vacation.

 

But some of us love our Blackberries and some of us are hugefans of our Palm Pres.  For my part, I’mpretty attached to my iPhone.  Let’s justsay that if you see me anywhere at any time, my phone is probably not far frommy hand.  I like having the ability tocheck e-mail or surf the web at any moment, no matter where I am.  The way I see it, my phone doesn’t negatively affect my life in theleast and so I don’t consider it to be a part of the “stress” of daily life.  If I’m honest with myself (and I’m prettysure not alone), I don’t see the iPhone as something I *want* to be rid of for aweek.

 

But, for the retreat, I’ll be leaving my phone at home andtaking a basic cell phone for emergency purposes only… and my plan is to leavethat turned off for the majority of my time on retreat.  The thing is, retreats aren’t spiritualvacations.  Going on retreat offers usthe chance to leave both the demands and the pleasures of normal daily life behind inorder to commit to dharma practice full-time, and this means stepping away fromboth the those aspects of life that cause us the most stress and as well asthose aspects that we enjoy.  This is exactlywhy I’m looking forward to going on my first extended retreat.  At home, I could turn off the television, thecomputer and iPhone but I wouldn’t be able to commit myself to that level ofpractice for a full week, no matter how I tried.  I’ve been trying to integrate dharma practice into mydaily life for years, the chance to spend a week dedicated to meditation andmindfulness is one I couldn’t easily pass up. And so, I’m happily leaving the iPhone at home and trading my 3G accessfor a more simple way of life, if only for a week. 

 

I’m curious to see how others have dealt with thisissue.  In today’s world of near constantaccess to entertainment and communication, do you choose to leave yoursmartphone (or ipod, or any other mobile device) at home when you go on retreator do you take it along as one small piece of the “outside world” that you justcan’t give up?

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