5 Rules to Stay Zen (and Keep Your iPhone)

The art of mindfulness—staying present—can be difficult in today’s technology-driven world. Sometimes, however, these tools can help you to your Zen.

The art of mindfulness doesn’t just happen while you’re sitting still, sending love and light to the world. It’s an ongoing practice of staying present and keeping things simple, one activity at a time. Our supersized, deep-fried, worldwide web culture might challenge our oh-so-Zen intentions, but our technological tools—from mobile apps to ancient astrological charts—can also be our greatest teachers. That is to say: you don’t have to escape into the quit-my-job-and-join-a-yoga-ashram fantasy to be more mindful. We can opt to embrace the gifts of our techno-world as gateways to peace. If you choose to live your life on the power grid, here are five highly effective ways to integrate the Art of Zen with our Age of Technology. Zen Rule #1: Do one thing at a time When I teach meditation, I often ask my students to imagine their brains as a computer, closing one tab at a time (job, family, errands, etc.) until there is only one blank screen. It’s a highly relatable and effective imagery—and a reality we need to reinforce in our 40-hour-a-week work life. Ironically, mobile apps can mindfully monitor our technological intake and help us avoid sensory overload. Tools such as Anti Social, Concentrate, and Self-Control offer assists for focusing on one task at a time. Work-assessment apps can turn off social media, your favorite shoe-shopping site, set timers for focusing on one single activity, and monitor our online consumption. So go ahead and scour your favorite Etsy store—just don’t mix and match with Amazon, E-bay, and work email. Zen Rule #2: Live simply You’re so awesome for always remembering to take your canvas shopping bags with you to the grocery store… But what about that jet-fueled flight you took to Thailand for a yoga retreat? Apps such as Oroeco assess our overall carbon footprint, recommend reductions, and then share our savings on Facebook. That’s a bragging selfie post we can all like! Zen Rule #3: Devote time to sitting Meditating all day is for monks and people with good vacation-benefits packages. But if you’re like me, your meditation time and place can shift with your daily schedule. Whether I’m waiting at the dentist’s office or riding a noisy train, I can easily slip into a super-chill meditation with an app such as OMG I Can Meditate! rather than try to outwit my impatience and frequent over-scheduling. It’s also so much more satisfying than indulging guilty sneaks at gossip rags. Zen Rule #4: Develop rituals Reinforced, regular practices such as yoga and chanting are coveted mindfulness-boosting rituals. But what if your only access was an in-person community class? From YouTube videos to iTunes albums, our techno-age offers virtual access to auspicious Indian gurus chanting ancient mantras to rock star Wanderlust yoga teachers leading full-length classes—all available at any time. (Note: Last time we checked, educational recordings were not available on 8-track or cassette.) Zen Rule #5: Do it slowly and deliberately We all have our favorite escapes for numbing out from the day. Sometimes we sporadically scan our social feed. Other times it’s a focused quick fix on Words-With-Friends. But there are also online apps that reinforce favorite mindful practices that you can access anywhere. Rake sand through a virtual Zen garden. Create a colorful kaleidoscope during a long airplane flight. But if you’re really interested in the Master of Virtual Mindfulness, the superlative de-stressor and instant anger-buster: Look no further than the Bubble-Wrap app! The next time something presses your operating buttons the wrong way, take my advice: Plug in and pop off! Written by Julie Balter for OMG. I Can Meditate!  Photo via Stocksy