"Navigating a No-Phone Zone" by Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal for Friday, April 6, (http://j.mp/I4bNqJ) provides a great window into the experience of the gallery at the Masters with its "no phones" policy. That's as in no phones. They'll escort you out if you use one. Wow. And, cool! Mr. Gay describes the experience as "oddly satisfying." He says that fans "look at things - with their eyes. They solve questions - by asking nearby human beings. They come up with clever comments and somehow survive without offering them to the world in 140 characters." Love that last bit! He goes on to talk about having to make plans (meet under the big tree at 2 pm) and then having to stick to them! And he points out that, because they weren't looking at their phones, spectators got to watch, really watch, the event. They didn't miss key moments, or fail to make interesting observations from seemingly mundane moments, because they were too busy texting, tweeting, typing, or touching (the screen - not a person!).
This strikes me as a policy that promotes mindfulness. Right now, my personal working definition of mindfulness is: sustained, continuously re-focused non-judgmental attention to what is. In other words, it involves paying attention to some aspect of reality (one's breath is a frequent focus, but the Masters should work!) and continuously re-focusing on that reality when the mind wanders. Some Masters fans may be more non-judgmental than others: noticing the heat of the sun rather than constantly assessing whether it is "too hot" or even complaining about it. This sounds somewhat naive and detached from reality when I write it - as if being "real" requires being "judgmental" - but that's not my experience when I practice mindfulness. It also doesn't seem to be the result for highly-experienced practitioners. Rather, they seem more able to deal with the world as it is and less caught up in dealing with the world as they think it "ought" to be. (The next book I'm looking forward to reading in this area is The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them by Richard Davidson.)
However, as someone who loves me my smartphone, and because of my interest in education, I want to give a brief nod to an alternative view: smartphones actually make us smarter. David Perkins in Smart Schools talks about what he calls "person-plus" intelligence. (Book note: http://j.mp/Im4nts.) This simply means that your ability to understand and contribute is greater if you have access to tools and
repositories of information that you have mastered, and the same for me and everyone else. As an incredible tool to augment our intelligence, is it any wonder we're "addicted" to our smartphones. The trick, as with any tool, is becoming a skilled master of its use. Right time, right place, right manner.
So, mindfulness? Yes. Person-plus intelligence? Yes. It ain't easy being modern. But it is a lot of fun!