So it’s early April, your bracket is busted (thanks Wisconsin) and the championship men’s NCAA basketball game is tonight (after our meditation time) and the women’s is tomorrow. Growing up in the shadows of the NC basketball powerhouses made me a permanent devotee of the nuances of basketball strategy. When I was a kid, the one event I would be allowed to stay up late and watch on a school night—a U.N.C vs Duke basketball game. Much more important than my grades was watching the classic duel between Coach Smith and Coach K!
I came across an article this week in the Washington Post about the Maryland Terps basketball team (sorry for the loss last night). I thought it useful to pass along, for while it revolved around the sport of basketball, it is applicable to our lives as men who meditate.
The article is about the power of presence. Or perhaps the power of something not being present—our phones.
The Maryland women’s basketball team "voluntarily forfeited their cell phones for more than 72 hours last weekend." But what I found most interesting were the student athletes response to this non-present item.
“The players — or some of them, at least — discovered that they actually liked not having their phones. They didn’t spend any time reading about their opponents, or surfing media reports. They played card games together, and watched men’s and women’s tournament games on television. They did more homework, or had long conversations, or took naps.”“Sometimes you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs — like, what are we supposed to do? — but it helps us enjoy each other more,” Brown said. “Not that we’re forced to talk to each other or be around each other, but we’re more engaged, more in the moment....
“Phones are so much a part of society, that it’s ingrained in everything,” Moseley said. “The biggest thing our coaches focused on this season was being present in the moment. It’s hard to do that if you’re on your phone....
“Our generation, we’re on our phones a lot,” Malina Howard said. “You can get caught up in everything on Twitter and Instagram and everything else, and not focus on the games. I think it helps me focus, and it makes you enjoy the experience more. I think that’s one of the things I’ve taken away from this: just being present with my teammates and enjoying the moments and the memories that we’re making together.”
We all need our phones, for work, for family, for communication, for fun. But can we be more present with those around us without always looking at our phones? I find that temptation to always have it sitting face-up on a table near me—just so I can glance and see if there is anything important. There’s not.
Unless you were negotiating the Iran agreement (if so, good job) or you’re required to be airborne at a second’s notice (why are you reading this?), then you probably don’t have to check your phone every second.
Try consciously turning your phone upside down on a table next time. Not just hiding it in your pocket, but actually taking it out and placing it upside down. Telling whomever you’re with, or even yourself, I’m here with you and this object is not going to be present, I am.
I’m doing this as I write this…and it’s driving me crazy. Is there a text, a WhatsApp msg, a news update? Maybe this isn’t an issue for you, but recognize what is keeping you from being fully present, aware and alive in this moment. Are you fully engaged with the people you are talking to or are you engaged in another conversation with your device.
How can you remove barriers to your being fully present in an experience with both yourself and others? Maybe it's your phone, maybe it's a camera or a drink or a TV or any object that is more present than we are.
As one of the students said, “It’s hard to embrace this experience…if you’re not in the moment, in the room, present with whatever we’re doing.”