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As a result, Weiss says, people have intimate insights about themselves that they can use, with the help of others in the group, to develop new behavior. “This is a living, breathing kind of mindfulness, one that’s cultivated in dynamic, interactive, real-life contexts. I would not have believed that people could effect this kind of change without doing a lot of deep dharma practice, but I have seen this have a strong impact on the whole of the organization. And we have people continuing to participate in our mindfulness programs. We have eighteen people signed up to do a three-day silent retreat.”

As a teenager growing up in Lubbock, Texas, Soren Gordhamer felt cut off from the places where meditation was being taught and retreats were happening. “It was technology that connected me to dharma, to wisdom teachings,” he says. “In those days, I was listening to tapes, but the point is, people were able to teach me at a distance. I’ve never forgotten that. And with the web and social networking, the experience of shared wisdom has just become richer and richer.” For Gordhamer, Wisdom 2.0 is about how new media makes it possible for more people to be exposed to teachings about mind-and-body awareness in increasingly interactive and dynamic ways. That’s why he invited Tami Simon, founder of Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company in Louisville, Colorado, to participate in Wisdom 2.0.

Sounds True made its mark selling tapes and then CDs, but almost overnight that world has been transformed by the smart phone. “Now people are holding in their hand a kind of mailbox that has more interesting mail than they’ll ever receive at home—phone messages, text messages, a whole new mix of news and information, and it’s also a stereo and a television,” Simon says. For many people, particularly in parts of the world such as Asia and Africa that never adopted the laptop on a wide scale, the smart phone has become the universal interface with the world. Compared with distributing teachings and instructions through physical media, she says, “making downloads through phone apps is incredibly efficient and effective. We can reach many more people throughout the world than we could through previous means.”

Simon, like Gordhamer, is also encouraged by the rise of two-way communication media. “For our first twenty-five years, we were a one-way street—we sent out messages from our teachers. Now we are hosting online interactive teaching sessions, which are economical with as few as a hundred participants. It’s powerful when teachings are interactive on a large scale, when a teacher is on stage in California and interacting with people from dozens of countries across the world. Real transmission definitely takes place. It’s very rich and nuanced.”

Simon sees similar potential in the electronic book. “For years, you listened to audio on one device, you watched video on another, you had two-way communication on yet another, and did your reading in still another. Now that whole experience, particularly with books of teachings and instruction, can be contained in one place.” If you want to, she says, you can hear the power of the author’s voice, or see them teach, or even send a question, take part in a discussion, or become part of a community surrounding the book.

It is this ability to connect that makes Gordhamer such a fan of the new technologies, and why Wisdom 2.0 champions them—while also warning about their dangers to young people brought up in a digital world. Looking back on his childhood, Gordhamer waxes poetic about long car rides in the wide open spaces of Texas, when he could just look out the window and take in the space. “Now on that car ride, I would be looking at a screen. I know my own son spends a lot of his day looking at screens. I can’t exactly criticize that—my friends and I have helped to create it—but we are also concerned about the need to foster an inner life for our children.”

In response to strong interest—much of it coming from tech leaders who are challenged by how to encourage balance in their own children’s use of technology—Gordhamer has scheduled a conference devoted to how children and teens use technology. It will be called Wisdom 2.0 Youth: Sowing the Seeds, for Parents, Educators, and Teachers, and will take place September 17 in Mountain View. “It’s been exhilarating having this conversation about how to integrate our inner wisdom technologies and our outer technologies,” Gordhamer says. “Now we need to look at the legacy of what we are creating: how do we embody the qualities that we most want to pass on, how do we create a culture, in our schools and our families, that fosters genuine connection rather than distraction and disconnection. I honestly want to know. I have many more questions than answers.”

Barry Boyce is senior writer of the Shambhala Sun and our editor in the mindfulness field. He is editor of The Mindfulness Revolution (Shambhala Publications) and guides the website, Mindful.org.

Originally published in the July 2011 Shambhala Sun magazine to read the rest of this article. Click here to browse the entire issue online.






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