oneness doesn’t satisfy your hunger. you become satisfied by being freed of your hunger.
by Matt Kahn
in february 2014 in vietnam i was parked on a side of the road. i sat on my motorbike and with breeze i swiped my six inch screen. i clicked on a map to memorise my upcoming turns. i zoomed from an eagle eye view to an ants view. then back and forth until data got saved.
when seconds to done, from the opposite direction in the corner of my eye, i saw a speeding bullet. two guys on a motorbike raced my way. one with his arm flying at me. no time to react i observed. the drivers aura hugged my bike while the passenger snatched my phone out of my hands. they were godly efficient, job done by professionals.
hours later, in a ray of confusion depression rained down on me. i lost my appetite to explore the city. to eat. to meet. to sleep. and even to live. all was dead except my object of desire.
unplugged from matrix, my phone was gone. and i had no time to say goodbye.
i laid in the dark. i drank the past.
i imagined my fling over the phone. i imagined my photos to travel in time. i imagined my music to feel more at peace. i imagined my map to know my way.
the more i imagined the worst i felt. but i kept consuming. i kept dreaming. i saw pictures running in my head of things i had lost. it played in repeat. it screamed with fear, you’re not gonna get those moments and things back ever-ever again. i then sunk in the bottom of the bottomless well with no rope to pull me up. with no switch turn on the light.
worry closed my heart. and closed mind. i sunk again. and i sunk some more.
it was stolen. my enabler to a life of ease and comfort. my samsung flagship. my delight in life.
days went by. i now baked in the dark with my vision gone black. no pictures of nothing in my minds eye. just my corpse and feelings of misery of what once was. then suddenly, an ocean of tears filled the bottom of the well and brought me back into life again. and in a silence of noise i heard a voice, “you are addicted.” it echoed in my cells with a vibration of truth.
and then, the angelic voice invited me to say, to admit — i am addicted.
the minute i released the truth of words in my vocal cords i saw the light behind the dark. and it hit me like a dynamite. it blew me open to see the unseen.
i wasn’t present and i thought i was. that was a blow into my face. but i felt freedom i had never felt before. i felt, fuck the phone, i don’t need it no more.
i then jumped realities. i welcomed the opposite of another extreme. a life with less distractions. a life without a phone. a life with deeper connections. and this, it felt good to me.
at the time of robbery i had a life of a bitter nomad.
my friends were scattered far and near like colorful pins on the map of the world. i wanted to know what’s up with them. so i kept the connection alive with them. i wrote. i called. and before i enjoyed the moment with self i shared it with friends with a screen on my face.
year by year, my world got smaller but my screens got bigger. i realised then, since the birth of handheld toys rarely was i present with people, places, things.
quarter of the time i eyeballed my phone.
drip n’ drop messages. text and voice. click n’ shoot camera. photos and videos. plug n’ play audio. alternative and spirit. zoom in n’ zoom out maps. cities and countries.
and half of the time i thought of my phone.
maybe she’s texted. maybe i’ll take a photo of this or that. maybe i’ll listen to xavier rudd. maybe i’ll check where am i headed.
maybe. maybe. maybe.
helpless, when a beep came through, my phone flew out and i was gone. all people, places, things in my surrounding ceased to exist for an unknown time.
notifications, electronic and mental, ran the show of who hunts who. was it me? or was it my phone? who was the prey in the hunting game?
and oh god, the internet. this was the best and the worst of all. the invention that flipped the meaning of life, the connected world, upside down. the more i surfed billions of bits of endless data the more i wanted to ask and know. so i asked my questions. i got some answers. i then asked some more. and i got some more. then again and again. i read and read with hectic clicking guiding my way. the loop, made by self-made gods, made me an addict of overconsumption.
then, gradually, all my thoughts led me to this — who was the product? who was the slave?
i drunk the truth, who else but me.
my precious attention was the object of desire of big corporations who paved and paid their way into my psyche. their addictive patterns collected insights from my private domain. sneaky fucking bastards, i say.
they did well. so damn good. my phone was it, my all or nothing. my romantic affair. my hoarding device. my race against time. and my encyclopaedia. with a tap of a button it satisfied my wants with patience enough for a quick response.
i knew then, this was toxic. the online world was disconnective. i needed some healing. and stealing, it brought me that.
i came to see, all i needed was heartfelt connections. and the i see youse. you know, the avatar style. to mingle with the community of the offline world.
a month into my phoneless life i raised a bar when in march 2014 i abandoned money. with no phone and with no money i exposed myself to the unexplored. to a world i had never heard or seen in my limited view.
as time went by, i noticed, i took more risks.
i had entered a business of aimless wonder. of vocalised questions. of vulnerable connections. of eating the strange. of sleeping wherever. of commuting however. of navigating by paper. of spontaneous planning. of mimicking my wants and needs. of looking people straight in the eye. of smiling to strangers to acknowledge their presence. of growing in hope, faith and trust in an unexpected movie called life.
i loved it all. with one choice at a time, in the offline world, i connected deeper with people, places, things. with no devices in my hands, i felt heard and seen as never before. i felt, i see you.
so i kept my stride in forward motion.
as time went by i saw how the story of smartphones was a tarantula in a spiderweb of all products and services that fought for my attention in rapid speed for 365 days for 24/7.
wherever i went i met a wanting game.
it wasn’t just ads on streets n’ paper, and on 5 to 40 inch screens. it wasn’t just data-hungry corporations fishing for my attention. the hunt was everywhere, even embedded in a spiritual arena.
the deeper i dived in spirituality of books, of audios, of conversations, of meditation, of mind altering drugs my hunger to want reached to extremes unbearable to manage by mighty self.
my attention became about hacking my genetics. in other words, i was stuck in just another neatly decorated approach to get more of what i want and less of what i don’t want. but back then, i was blind to see. on and off, i flew in space. i felt unstoppable. and unlimited. i felt like god.
since twenty-fourteen for 3 years a row, spirituality was my illusionary ticket to oneness. my primary object of desire in the playground of invisible objects. i wanted higher vibration. i wanted the perfect meditation. i wanted mystical experiences. i wanted to control my mind. i wanted to follow my heart. i wanted to let go of things i hated. i wanted to hold on to things i loved. i wanted quality connection. i wanted more love.
want. want. want. i was stuck in the wanting game.
when i didn’t get what i want i blamed something or someone. like, “i would’ve had that perfect meditation if i could bypass my thick analytical mind.” and, “i would be high vibrational if i am not surrounded by low vibrational people, places, things.” and “i would be healed when i could go to that retreat.” and, “i would have better relationships without energy parasites.”
yeah, what can i say?
i lived in object consciousness. proudly, i walked from a material prison straight into a spiritual trap only to see, if i hunt, my hunger grows. if i hunt, i am never freed. if i hunt, i get what i need, not what i want — temporary peaks of joy followed with a mountain of dissatisfaction and frustration.
this got me asking, material or spiritual, where’s the difference?
i was still in the business of chasing objects. visible or invisible, but still objects, where my needs and wants were mixed with confusion. and my attention latched to an addictive nature.
i need that phone. i need that drug. i need that ninety-minute meditation. i need it now, or else, if i don’t get it, watch out, i lash out.
i noticed, i wasn’t alone in this. i met an army of people in the wanting business.
let’s feel this.
“i am tweeting to escape misery.”
“i am drugging to escape misery.”
“i am meditating to escape misery.”
where’s the difference?
isn’t it all a want-want-want? attention flooded with an object of desire.
oh the rainbow of social media — tweets n’ posts. oh the land of drugs — prescriptive n’ psychedelics. oh the guided n’ silent retreats. options too many for lifetimes ahead.
addictive. distractive. and some, highly demanding.
for decades i wanted to escape the misery i drowned in. and i think, there’s nothing bad in wanting to get out. it’s human nature to get more of what i want and less of what i don’t want. and as a human being i only know how to feel different when life happened differently. but this approach proved to be a vicious circle. i also noticed, the greater my spiritual-hunger the greater my toxicity for my own conditioning.
at the end of 2016, just two months after i arrived home and i left again, the inevitable took its pay. i shut down. my life collapsed. and my vast pigeon-holed guidelines of gobbled up spiritual practices felt useless in the game of transformation.
i see now, spirituality was like my smartphone. i was addicted to get what i want with patience enough for a quick response.
i was told by the guiding light, your mind and heart are not on the same page. my body asked for integration. it couldn’t keep up my dictators speed. in fact, all of me asked to slow the fuck down. to stop the race against time. and that’s when darkness came to rescue. it did the unwanted. it took it all.
even if i wanted to, i couldn’t speed up no more. i couldn’t read. i couldn’t meditate. i couldn’t let go. i couldn’t hold on. i couldn’t raise my vibration. i couldn’t manifest this n’ that. i couldn’t do none of that hocus-pocus stuff.
entirely stripped from identity, first with a bitter taste of resistance, in the absence of all i had to admit – i don’t know how to love, but without a doubt i knew, i will love again.
this was my ground zero were, unwillingly, i played in the dark.
my puffed up spiritual ego fought for its existence for months at end. it cried and yelled and kicked its feet with fleeting anger. and i didn’t know how to surrender. but something surrendered on my behalf when slowly and surely, one breath at a time, my illusion of control crumbled to pieces.
i was told, there’s a better way. i needed some healing. and darkness, it brought me that.
for months, in the tip of my pain, mostly in self-isolation, i crawled in a peculiar land of non-reasoning were any moment began to serve as a reminder – i need more love not less. so i said to myself, i will learn to love the loved and unloved parts of me. may that never happen, i will at least become better at it.
i learned, it doesn’t matter what comes and goes, what people say or do. it matters what i say to myself when life happens. and since 2016, especially when drenched in heaviness, i say to myself, “i love you. i love you. i love you.”
i guess, before something new can enter my field, something else needs to go. in my case, life made it easier for me. i took all my objects of desire, and it left me with a question aimed to my holistic self, “how may i serve you? how can i love you so you feel honored and protected in this body?”
i heard, be kind to yourself. and don’t use spiritual teachings against yourself.
i see now, addictions and distractions, they are everywhere. material and spiritual. visible and invisible. and its all okay. i allow it to be.
my experiences say, i don’t get freed of my hunger by chasing my prey. so my attention is on, what comes comes anyways. let it come. let it shatter me open and break me apart. let it show me what i need, and i shall drink the dislikes and likes with one zip at a time.
today i say, thank you for not giving me what i want. thank you for giving me what i need. thank you.
and i call it, the muscle of openness.
to me, materialism and spirituality rooted in wanting are brothers from the same mother. i see no difference in drinking n’ drugging n’ gaming n’ consuming n’ tweeting n’ manifesting when my attention is deployed with demanding nature.
okay, i guess, that’s all for now.
so let’s do this. lets dig details from my daily life, you know, to put things into better perspective.
i was without a phone for 2 years through 16 countries. i was without a SIM card for 3.5 years through 30 countries.
my life got better. my focus got sharper. my attention flipped from materialism to spirituality. then from spirituality to a question, “how may i serve you?”
today, in 2019, i have an iphone 5s. it’s greyscale. i have no colors. no notifications. no sound. no alarms. majority of the time internet is turned off. my average screen time a day is less than an hour. when at work, its in another room. when at home, i use it at late afternoons. and when i walk or commute to work i might listen to a podcast or a book or music.
that’s luxury when i think of times of only landline phones. or times of no phones at all. the urgency we’ve created in the online world feels disconnective in the offline world.
and let’s do more details.
apps i use are — bear and keep for raw thoughts, spark for personal emails, toggl for tracking time, ibooks for brainfood, itunes for the love of music, phone for occasional calls, codebook for passwords, smart-id for secure logins, instagram for creative boost for 15 minutes, whatsapp with few selected, maps for pinning favorites, epic browser for emergency search. and that’s about it. rarely i take any photos at all.
and i don’t believe in control and force. but i do believe in focus and attention. and being kind to myself in choices i make.
that said, there are times when i get hooked. when i break my self-made rules. especially when i fall in love with a foreign girl. it’s when the honeymoon effect marries my eyes with a screen with my hunger to connect. it might be intense beyond words. i then easily over consume. and all i can do is to be kind to myself in moments like these.
i allow my hunger. i allow all my thoughts. i allow all my feelings. negative or positive. i sit with them. i feel them. i talk with them as if my thoughts and feelings represent a five-year-old child in need. and then i ship them. as i said before, it doesn’t matter what comes and goes, what people say or do. it matters what i say to myself when life happens. and that’s me being a parent to my inner child.
it’s not control and force. its focus and attention.
all that said, my spirituality 101 is face to face communication. my second best are phone calls. my third best are emails, text and voice messages. no drips n’ drops though. and if you really want to stand out in the online world then my all time favourite is snail-mail in the offline world.
and here’s my pingpong opportunity in it all — my friends, dozen of them with whom i connect on monthly bases, are scattered around the world across different time zones. face to face is not an option unless we meet up. and calling feels daunting in this. i am not a planner but i make exceptions. only few though.
they are my family. and my attention, it feels heard and seen with them.
also, it’s good to know. i am an it geek. i love technology. for twenty hours a week i am a project manager in a tiny company where we build mobile apps. the rest of the week i mostly write at home. i use mac with programs like bear and scrivener with nothing else open while i create. including no internet. it’s how i honor my creative work with small breaks of walking n’ stretching n’ cooking n’ eating in-between.
this feels good. my body, my mind, my heart, they feel heard in this.
i have noticed, with less addictions i use my brain in beautiful ways. and with less distractions i listen better.
simplicity is my medicine. and focused attention is my meditation.
in 2019, i feel i am plugged in the matrix of heartfelt connections. and it feels good. it feels damn good. fuck yeah.
ps. give yourself a gift and listen to a podcast hurry slowly by Jocelyn K. Glei.
okay now, here’s today’s question to your heart.