Sunday, January 30, 2011


For this month’s Daily Practice, I thought I’d share a practice with you that I have been doing for close to 20 years: Telephone Meditation. Then I thought that rather than limit it to just the telephone, I’d expand it to include e-mail and texting (which, though done on a phone, is still a different medium for communication).

First, let’s review Telephone Meditation. For many of us, the phone is at times a distraction, at times a task-master and oppressor. When the phone rings, many of us have been conditioned to jump and answer on the first ring. Yet, we often find ourselves distracted during the phone conversation when we do so, because we haven’t stopped or turned away from what we had been doing when the phone rang, and we aren’t really fully present to the person on the other end of the line. We are caught in a kind of in-between place, and whenever we have called someone who is in a similar situation, we can find ourselves irritated with the half-hearted attention we are getting from the person we called.

So, next time the phone rings, stop what you are doing, and take a breath or two or three, depending on how slowly you breathe. Just stop, breathe in, breathe out, mindfully pick up the phone and answer. You will be offering your full presence to whomever has called. You will have stopped being a slave to the phone.

The practice is similar whenever we hear our phone signal that we’ve received a text message, or when our computer ‘pings’ the arrival of an e-mail. Stop what you’re doing, take three breaths and then read the message or e-mail. Again, you will be more fully present, undistracted, and free.

If you wish, before answering any of these “invitations” to communication, you can recite the following gatha, a variation on the “Listening to the Mindfulness Bell Gatha:”

Listen, listen.
This sound brings me back to my true home.
In the here; in the now.
This is the ultimate in which I dwell.

AND, when it comes time to make a phone call, send a message or e-mail, take a few breaths, and recite to yourself the following gatha before making the call or hitting “Send:”

Words can travel across thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,
As lovely as flowers.

And please, share how – if at all – your communication is effected by this simple practice this month.

poep sa


  1. Hmmm, I wonder if anyone is doing this practice along with me this month???

    Speaking with the yoga teacher trainees here in Brazil, almost the whole afternoon yesterday was about the importance of 'right speech.' Important enough for the Buddha to make it the first of the three limbs related to ethics in his Noble Eightfold Path.

    So, anyone have any thoughts about this practice they'd like to share?

    poep sa

  2. This practice is crucial to my life right now. There are problems in my workplace that are directly related to communication. I, personally, feel quite inadequate as to how to speak compassionately about certain issues that seem to be insurmountable and still effectively begin to bring about workable solutions. I have written this month's gathas on cards to take to work with me and plan to use them as part of all communication that I engage in there and at home with my family, as well.

  3. i am engaging in this practice frank jude
    i wonder if my comments show up sometimes on this site?
    with my sister communication is difficult to say the least, my hackles rise when she says certain things, she mistakes things i say, and in the past things have gotten way out of control. this month, thanks to this practice, (now know this month is only what 6 days old but) and to this extra awareness, i have been breathing more before i pick up the phone, centering myself and being more mindful of the conversation and the fact that i am on the phone and talking with someone, OR not picking up the phone, reading emails and not responding immediately, choosing to talk rather than email, which often is worse for me because i do not hear the tones in my sister's voice. so i notice agitation, i breathe, focus on my breathing, have a few minutes of meditation and then have a conversation which is calmer and so much nicer in general

    i will let you know as the month gets older thanks again
    much love

  4. Sara,

    Yep! Your comments are here. I've commented on some over the months.

    This comment of yours is really interesting, and I too look forward to hearing how things go with you over the month. I'm especially curious to see if your sister's communication changes in response to YOUR changes.

    Keep us posted!
    poep sa

  5. Thanks for the reminder of this simple but powerful practice. I appreciate the opportunity to incorporate this "electronic media mindfulness" into my day. See you in Athens next month.
    In Peace

  6. Count me in, Frank Jude. Does it count if I just avoid my phone altogether though?

    I suppose that this is why you included email / other forms of communication too.

  7. I'm in and inspired by the opportunity to integrate mindfulness into my everyday, conditioned way of being.

  8. I have to say I find this very challenging. I really hate answering the phone and some emails. Although overall email is easier to be mindful with. Especially sending email. So I guess this practice is even more important for me to work with. I don't feel very successful with it, but I think I'm not clenching up so much when the phone rings now! This practice can be hard work!

  9. i needed to read this at this exact moment. my friend mentioned you in an email, so i googled you and boom, here i am at this blog. moments prior, i had an incredible urge to call a friend and transmit negative energy to him. i stopped myself, took a breath, observed sensations, asked myself whether i was reacting (of course i was) to something triggered in me and opted not to. then i read your blog. how validating! i hope i remember it...

  10. Celeste: I guess the most obvious question is what's behind avoiding the phone? Aversion, after all, is one of the three major causes of duhkha! But yeah, I think the inclusion of all new technological forms of communication allows for you to join in the practice in any event.

    Susan: It's always helpful to remember that the Buddha DID say that mindfulness goes against the stream of our conditioning, so as simple as it is, it is rarely easy!!!

    "Psycho-therapist": Glad to have you join us! Sounds like good timing, too! The word "sati," translated as "mindfulness," actually means "remembering," so a good case can be made for saying that the practice is remembering to remember! AND, of course we forget; but once we remember, we are already mindful, so never a reason for irritation or frustration! We can always begin anew!

    Thanks all for responding. Let's continue to practice, and see just how the practice effects our communication this month.

    poep sa

  11. so here we are on the 12th and i am noticing annoyance at my sister when she rings in for the 7th time every day. i am still breathing in and out and reciting the gatha each time before i pick up the phone...things are calmer between us...but i still get annoyed with the amount of phone calls...
    interestingly when i am on face book, which is A LOT OF TIME, i have turned off the chat part, because i want to focus on one thing at a time, i noticed that when a friend wanted to chat i got annoyed and did not want to chat, so instead i popped off rather than engage in something without being fully mindful.