"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, ... was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'… It's a social-validation feedback loop ... exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology… The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway… It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains."
-- Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook
It's been over two months since I've gone off of Facebook and other social media platforms (Instagram, WeChat Circle, etc). I have almost forgotten about Facebook's existence until it came up in conversation. I do not miss it at all, and have been much happier without it. What’s more, contrary to the fear, I have not missed anything important in life. Leaving Facebook has absolutely been the "best thing since sliced bread" regarding my relationship with technology :) Would like to offer a few reflections here.
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
-- Thich Nhat Hanh
In May and June, the Journey has led me through Bhutan, Thailand, China, and Japan, spending from 1 to 3 weeks in each country.
None of it was my "plan". I had not intended to travel abroad since returning to China in February. But as karma ripens, the journey continues, even if not on a bicycle :)
The cycling part of the pilgrimage might be complete, because now the pilgrim feels ready to walk. Here are some reflections from the past two months.
The pilgrimage around the world has led me to many sacred places. A few of them hold a special place in my heart. Those are the communities that I wish to return to again and again, knowing that I will be welcomed home even if I don't know anyone there. Sathira Dhammasathan is one of them.
Sathira Dhammasathan (SDS) is much more than a thriving nunnery in the middle of Bangkok. It is an urban oasis, a Dhamma park, a second home for all, located "in seven acres of trees, with lotus ponds, winding paths and meditative nooks. It is a tiny drop of water, radiating peace and serenity amidst the oceanic mega-city of Bangkok."
If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.
- Ram Dass
Affliction is Bodhi (wisdom).
- Zen saying
It has been seven weeks since I've returned "home" to China, after two years on the global pilgrimage, and ten years of living abroad.
"Being home" is to share the same space with my parents every day, as we drove through China. "Being home" is to live for a month with my maternal grandparents during the Chinese New Year, caring for them as they are advanced in age. "Being home" is to see our hometown in Inner Mongolia, a place I've only occasionally visited since leaving before the age of two. "Being home" is to get to know China again, a familiar and foreign place, full of possibilities and paradoxes. "Being home" is to continue the heart connections with my global family, and to deepen in daily cultivation.
Before two American monks embarked on their 800-mile bowing pilgrimage in May 1977, their teacher saw them off, saying, “Be the same on the highway as you were in the monastery.” I've been holding onto this same advice as I "return home".
In my case, the global bicycling pilgrimage is my "monastery", where things are sacred, simple, solitary, and structured. And coming back to China is my "highway", where things appear to be complicated and chaotic. The challenge now is to maintain a pilgrim's mind back in the "real world". In some sense, it is much easier for me to be out there on the "highway", but that's the whole point of a pilgrimage -- a rehearsal for life.
Below are some reflections from 7 weeks "back home".
Thanks to the hospitality of dear friends, I am now writing from a balcony on the Asian side of Istanbul, looking across the Bosphorus Strait toward Europe. It's so close that one could swim over. Some say, "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet". Here, the twins are not only meeting, but have also been learning to live together for centuries, through low and high, in grief and praise. It is quite a fitting and striking setting to reflect upon the past three months of journeying through continental Europe.
A pilgrimage around the globe by bicycle, in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time.