When the American-born Korean Buddhist monk Hwansan Sunim first moved to South Korea 20 years ago, most people he saw on the subways of Seoul read books to pass the time. After two decades, Sunim recently began to take the subway again -- and he was shocked by the change in atmosphere: Everyone had their nose in a smartphone.
"I found it disturbing -- the atmosphere is weird, the look on people's faces is also a little weird. I feel like I'm the only one on the train -- or at least the only one awake," Sunim recalled in the introduction to a recent guided meditation as part of his YouTube series, Son Meditation for the Modern World. What's more, Sunim says, "it has an effect on me... If I start losing focus on meditation, I'm holding my cell phone in my hand. I don't remember pulling it out of my pocket -- it's almost like a sleepwalking episode. When I try to meditate on the subway, I have to concentrate quite a bit more."
Sunim points to the subway as an indication of our collective culture of distraction -- a form of addictive behavior, he believes, that ails modern society. Though as he points out, it's not exactly new: "Various kinds of addiction have always been with us. A part of every society and culture in the world -- part of the human condition."
The answer, as always, is enlightenment. Sunim takes us through a series of guided meditation and teachings that can help us to relieve ourselves of the burden of addictive tendencies.
Watch the above video for more.