A Cure for Compulsive Scrolling

I live inside a site-specific art installation. It’s amazing! It brings a fantastic array of shapes, sounds, colors, textures, drama, and movement together to create a fully immersive experience.

It’s breath-takingly beautiful, heart-breakingly tragic, perspicuously simple and mind-bogglingly complex. It’s tender and terrifying and mysterious and obvious all at once. It spans the whole range of human experiences.

Whenever I look at it, listen to it, feel it, whenever I feel like I’m really seeing it, I’m totally blown away by it.

Do you ever catch yourself pointlessly scrolling through TikTok videos. Or YouTube videos. Or your Instagram feed? Or your whatever feed?

“Feed me!” My mind is like that plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

I admit it: I let myself get sucked into my little digital device more often than I should. Maybe it’s a lack of self-control or a need to feel like I’m in control or I’m being controlled by “the algorithm”, whatever the hell that is.

Whatever it is, all too often, I think, “Hey, maybe something happened in the last 15 minutes that I don’t need to know about right this second – better check my news app”.

A lot of the stories that show up in the news originate here in Washington, D.C., one of the most arboreal cities in America, where autumn arrives late: right now the woods that run through our nation’s capital are still filled with brilliant red and gold leaves that are especially radiant when the sun illuminates them from just over the horizon at a sharp November angle in the early morning on its way to the center of the southern sky.

That radiance was on full display this morning when I went out for my daily mantra meditation walk. My usual route takes me through a neighborhood that runs right alongside Glover Archbold Park, one of many ribbons of mini-forests that run through our nation’s capital.

And what was the first thing I did when I got home from my meditation walk?

I checked my email. I checked my other email. I checked my WhatsApp groups. I checked the weather.

I checked the weather? I was just outside! I was just IN the weather!! What was my phone going to tell me about the weather that I didn’t already know? If I needed to find out what changed in the two minutes since I walked in, I could just look out my window!

I’m extra lucky because I have a great view from my window. And that really helps because when I catch myself mindlessly scrolling through whatever app has stolen my attention, I turn my gaze to my window and look out at the trees and the sky and notice how everything is moving, how the light is slowly changing, how the shapes of the clouds are constantly changing; how nothing remains the same for even a second; I think about how the world is in a constant state of becoming, how everything in the world is new at every moment.

And I think, “I live inside a site-specific art installation. It’s amazing!”

And I think, “The artist who did this must be even more amazing!”

Because it seems obvious to me that something so beautiful, tragic, simple, complex, tender, terrifying, and mysterious could not possibly have just popped into being all by itself by pure chance. I’m no expert on Probability Theory, but the odds that this amazing art installation came into being by virtue of an artist’s hand seem greater than the odds that it just happened to happen.

I’m no expert on mental health, either, but I know what works for me. So, my suggestion: if you feel like you’re getting sucked into the habit of compulsive scrolling, get outside. Or at least look outside.

Because when we look at the divine artistry of nature, it can remind us that we’re participating in this interactive art installation called “the world”, that we, too, are in a constant state of becoming new at every moment, that we are all individual works of art moving through a gigantic work of art that’s made up of, among other things, us.

Consciously participating in such an amazing site-specific art installation is a lot more interesting and far more satisfying than anything that's happening on our phones.

What's more, thinking of ourselves as participants in a divine art installation can re-orient our consciousness in such a way as to move us in the direction of the Supreme Artist, an artist who lives within us, around us, and beyond us. Such movement is what Krishna calls “the art of all work”.

Hoping the sun is shining on you,