Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 39 – Buddha with a Smartphone with Ethan Nichtern


In this episode, Sharon sits down with author and Buddhist teacher, Ethan Nichtern. Together they discuss with their live audience, life with a smartphone and how technology affects our spiritual development.

Ethan highlights the use of technology as an escape mechanism and reminds us to be aware of when and why that is happening. Explaining our ability to turn the potential downfalls of technology into a weapon for positive change. How do we negotiate the extra layer of complexity that technology adds to our lives? Do the comforts it provides pull us too far out of the moment?

“To not have some way of working with one’s own mind, with seven billion people and technology and the ways messages can spread, feels more and more disrespectful. . . If we are going to have a device and we are going to connect to people, we need to know how to use that device.”

Show Notes:

00:50 – Sharon starts the hour by briefly discussing the concept of balance in our body and our practice and how it affects all things and dives right into a guided meditation.

7:40 – The crowd is asked to share about their relationship to technology. A few share about their smartphone addictions, the need to look at Facebook constantly, and the irritation that arises from constant notifications, and alerts we receive. Sharon gives some insight and shares a confession of her own on her relationship with her smartphone and technology.

16:35 – Guest, Ethan Nichtern, speaks of both the ancientness of Buddhism and it’s modernity.  The abuse of technology is discussed in the context of the Buddhist precepts.

“Be curious about how you escape”

22:15 – How can we reverse the negative potential of technology into a tool for good?

“A weapon in the hands of a master can be a force for good. It can become a way to slice through confusion.”

31:45 – Ethan discusses the idea of co-emergence. How the mind determines whether something comes as a positive or negative based on our perspective.

34:18 – What are the signals within ourselves that we miss when we use technology against our best interest.

42:00 – In the age of mindfulness and meditation in vogue, Ethan explains that part of the practice is not transcending discomfort but sitting with it. He reminds us that these discomforts are part of our growth and development.

53:50 – Thoughts on how the connection with others can bring us into the present moment and away from our distractions.


Ethan Nichtern:

For more from, Ethan, check out his website

Ethan Nichtern is a Shastri, a senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. He is the author of the acclaimed book The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path (Farrar Straus and Giroux, North Point Press), which was recently selected as one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2015, and one of Tech Insider’s “9 Books That Define 2015.”

He is also the author of One City: A Declaration of Interdependence (Wisdom Pubs, 2007), and the Novella/poetry collection, Your Emoticons Won’t Save You (Nieto Books, 2012). He founded, and is now a board member, of the Interdependence Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Secular Buddhist practice and transformational activism and arts.

For the past 14 years, Ethan has taught meditation and Buddhist psychology classes and workshops around New York City and the United States. He primarily studies in the Shambhala tradition under Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, but has also studied Theravadan and Soto Zen Buddhism. He is also an avid yoga practitioner.

He was formerly on the part-time faculty at Eugene Lang College at New School University and has lectured at Brown, Wesleyan, Yale, NYU, FIT, Antioch and other universities, and as well as at many Shambhala and other meditation/yoga centers and conferences around the country and world.

Ethan has been featured on CNN, NPR, ABC/Yahoo News, The New York Times,, Business Insider, Nautilus, and Vice to discuss Buddhism and meditation in the 21st Century. His articles have been featured on The Huffington Post, Beliefnet, Shambhala Sun, Tricycle Magazine, BuddhaDharma Magazine, Reality Sandwich, as well as other online publications.

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