The Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is delight­ed to launch a new blog series in part­ner­ship with Ask Big Ques­tions, an ini­tia­tive out of Hil­lel Inter­na­tion­al aimed at get­ting peo­ple to talk about issues of heart, soul and com­mu­ni­ty. Each month, Ask Big Ques­tions will fea­ture a JBC author on their blog, shared here on the JBC Pros­en­Peo­ple blog page, and in cam­pus pro­gram­ming reach­ing over 10,000 col­lege and grad­u­ate students.

Lodro Rin­zler is a 2013 – 2014 JBC Net­work author and a con­tribut­ing colum­nist for such pub­li­ca­tions as The Huff­in­g­ton Post and Marie Claire. The for­mer direc­tor of the Boston Shamb­ha­la Cen­ter, Rin­zler teach­es and lec­tures through­out North America.

Tech­nol­o­gy is a tool, like a ham­mer. You can use a ham­mer in a pos­i­tive way, plac­ing a nail in a wall and hang­ing beau­ti­ful art, or in a neg­a­tive way, bash­ing someone’s head in. The ham­mer itself is not good or bad, it is our inten­tion in using it that makes it so. The same can be said for technology. 

Con­nect­ing to oth­ers through tech­nol­o­gy can be an over­whelm­ing­ly pos­i­tive thing. Take, for exam­ple, pro­tes­tors tweet­ing injus­tices half a world away, such that news chan­nels can fol­low up in order to receive on-the-ground updates. I teach med­i­ta­tion class­es, and thanks to video shar­ing tech­nol­o­gy, I can offer that tool for peace and pres­ence to thou­sands of peo­ple I would not have access to if I was lim­it­ed to meet­ing with every­one in-per­son. Per­haps more poignant­ly, I recent­ly wrote an arti­cle for the Huff­in­g­ton Post detail­ing my expe­ri­ence with depres­sion and sui­cide that went viral, lead­ing to many many peo­ple shar­ing their own sto­ries and find­ing sup­port in appro­pri­ate channels. 

On the flip side, tech­nol­o­gy can be used in a hurt­ful man­ner. Take the new ways of cyber-bul­ly­ing that we did not have to deal with a gen­er­a­tion ago. Rumors have always been around but now we can prop­a­gate them anony­mous­ly and in ways that mil­lions can read. Plus, the Inter­net nev­er sleeps so we can pro­cras­ti­nate non­stop. Whether it’s Wikipedia, Face­book, or online shop­ping, we all have some way that we pre­fer to avoid our work or our present reality.

In my work as a med­i­ta­tion teacher I always begin by ask­ing peo­ple what their inten­tion is for med­i­tat­ing. Med­i­ta­tion is hard and peo­ple tend to get dis­heart­ened unless they are very clear about why they want to do it. And I’m a firm believ­er that in all of our activ­i­ty we always have either a con­scious or uncon­scious inten­tion. One leads us to a joy­ful exis­tence, the oth­er leads to trouble.

I’ll give you an exam­ple. You might want to go out with friends on a Sat­ur­day night. Also, you might drink, and like­ly dance and/​or talk to mem­bers of the sex you’re attract­ed to and maybe even make out or some­thing. That’s cool. Real­ly. I’m all for it, if you con­scious­ly intend to do those things, after actu­al reflection.

More often than not we go out with friends, launch into a new rela­tion­ship, or jump ship from one job to anoth­er with­out a clear under­stand­ing of why we’re doing what we’re doing. We nev­er pause and devel­op a con­scious inten­tion and, as a result, things tend to get messy down the road. 

To return to our exam­ple you could have had a rough week and you go out straight from work. No time to pause and reflect, and try to live with a con­scious inten­tion. So you drink too much to for­get the jerks you work with, then because you drink too much you end up trip­ping over your­self while danc­ing, mak­ing a fool of your­self around peo­ple you want to make out with, and con­tin­ue to drink to avoid deal­ing with any of these rough emo­tions. You end up sick and regret­ting the whole experience.

Let’s step back and do the same sce­nario but with a con­scious inten­tion. You leave work but you decide to take a respite first. You go for a walk or sit in a park. You take some time and reflect on your job, allow for the tran­si­tion from work to fun hap­pen, and then con­tem­plate, What is my inten­tion for tonight?” After a few min­utes of return­ing to that ques­tion you real­ize that you just want to con­nect with the friends you’re going to see because you don’t get to see them enough. You head out and instead of get­ting wast­ed you enjoy a few drinks with them, relax togeth­er, and recon­nect. Whether you dance or meet oth­er peo­ple or not it’s all okay because you’re liv­ing in line with your con­scious intention. 

When you live your life in line with con­scious inten­tions, as opposed to uncon­scious ones, you live a hap­pi­er, more con­nect­ed life over­all. To return to our dis­cus­sion about tech­nol­o­gy, you can catch your­self when you’re about to click tabs over to spend some time on Face­book and ask your­self, What’s my inten­tion here?” Have you been mean­ing to check out pho­tos of your friend’s wed­ding? Or are you just look­ing to mind­less­ly dis­tract your­self? The more we ask our­selves why we do what we do, the more we can put tech­nol­o­gy to use in ways that help us make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the world.

If we can learn to be very con­scious with our inten­tion about why and how we engage our tech­nol­o­gy, as well as the rest of our life, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions are infinite.

Lodro Rin­zler is the author of the best­selling The Bud­dha Walks into a Bar …, the award-win­ning Walk Like a Bud­dha, and the new books The Bud­dha Walks into the Office: A Guide to Liveli­hood for a New Gen­er­a­tion and Sit Like a Bud­dha: A Pock­et Guide to Med­i­ta­tion. His columns appear reg­u­lar­ly in The Huff­in­g­ton Post and Marie Claire, and he has been fea­tured in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Bloomberg Busi­ness­week, Real Sim­ple, Tri­cy­cle and the Shamb­ha­la Sun. He is the founder of the Insti­tute for Com­pas­sion­ate Lead­er­ship, a lead­er­ship train­ing and job place­ment organization. 

Lodro Rin­zler’s advice col­umn appears reg­u­lar­ly in the Huff­in­g­ton Post, and he has been fea­tured in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, Bloomberg Busi­ness­week, and Real Sim­ple. The for­mer direc­tor of the Boston Shamb­ha­la Cen­ter, Rin­zler teach­es at the New York Shamb­ha­la Med­i­ta­tion Cen­ter and lec­tures through­out North Amer­i­ca. He is the author of The Bud­dha Walks Into a Bar. He lives in Brooklyn.