A study out this week reported that one in three teenagers sends more than 100 text messages a day. I've been trying not to have a knee-jerk, "why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" response. After all, communication is a good thing, right? And texting is just the latest in a series of tools that has included cave drawings, carrier pigeons, and telephones. But when does sending the next text message become a compulsion, like having just one more pistachio nut? And can you be totally in the moment when you're busy reporting on it?
It's tricky. I don't text much but I do get hundreds of emails every day. Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with my Blackberry. And often a hate-hate relationship. But I feel I need it to keep all the plates spinning.
I can hear what my mother would have said. She was all about appreciating the moment - and the world. Right before she was about to peel an orange she would say, "At this moment, this orange hasn't seen the light of day." In the morning, she often looked out the picture window and said, "Good morning, dogwood tree." Although she loved keeping in touch with friends and family via computer, she would much rather look you right in the eye while talking to you, appreciating the nuances of body language and voice that are so lacking in text messages and emails. Her advice would have been to slow down.
Meditation is one way to help slow down. I know that it works. In my medical practice, patients often have elevated blood pressure because they get anxious at the doctor's office; it's called "white coat hypertension." I can almost always get their pressure to drop significantly by having them imagine a peaceful beach scene. And that's just meditation on a very tiny scale. Research suggests that meditation can alter brain function in positive ways and help patients with chronic illness.
A key component of meditation is getting rid of distractions. You can't text while meditating. For this week's CBS Doc Dot Com, I visited Dharma Punx NYC, an alternative Buddhist meditation and dharma community, and spoke with its leader, Josh Korda.