Dear Still Water Friends,
In September, 2013, Thich Nhat Hanh offered a half day of mindfulness at the Google headquarters. He also met several times with executives and engineers of Google and other Silicon Valley companies to talk about the life-destroying and life-enhancing uses of technology. On November 10th, back home at Plum Village, he gave a Dharma Talk to his community about what he had learned.
In an old Zen story that Thich Nhat Hanh has often told, a bystander calls “Where are you going?" to a man galloping past on a runaway horse. As he rushes away the rider calls back, “I don’t know. Ask the horse.” In past talks, Thich Nhat Hanh has said “the horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We are always running, and it has become a habit.” In this talk, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The horse is technology.”
Thich Nhat Hanh identified especially two aspects of runaway technology. In the Silicon Valley the focus is so much on staying ahead and making money that almost everyone is carried away by their work. They don’t have time to take care of themselves, their families, or mother Earth. Also, generally, the products that the technology companies produce also carry people away: “We consume not because we need to consume, we consume with the purpose of forgetting for a while the suffering inside of us.”
Thich Nhat Hanh believes, however, that it doesn’t have to be this way:
A corporate leader can learn to go home to himself first. To listen to his suffering. To understand his own suffering. To have compassion for himself. To take care of himself. And after he is able to do that, he can help people in his family to do that. His family will be his support. Then he will bring that practice to his corporation. He will try to help his associates to do the same. They will practice helping all employees in the workforce to do the same: to go home and take care of themselves and their families. They come to your corporation not only to have a job and to make some money. You can inspire them to have that kind of volition, that kind of intention, that kind of motivation. . . . You inspire them: “Dear friends, you come here not just to have a job and to feed your family. You come here to join us to help people suffer less. We work in such a way to help people go back to themselves, to take care of themselves. And in order to do that, we have to do it for ourselves.
You are invited to join Still Water at Crossings this Thursday evening. After our meditation period, we will watch a segment from Thich Nhat Hanh’s "The Horse is Technology" talk. Our dharma discussion will focus on our own use of modern technology. Are we overwhelmed by it? Are we using it as a way to distract ourselves from the suffering that is in us and around us?
If you would like to watch the full 80 minute video, it is available online at http://plumvillage.org/video/the-horse-is-technology/ . A four-minute overview of the Google half-day of mindfulness is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pd5Ndg0oJA.