March 29, 2011

Digital Warriorship

This book is dedicated to any person who wants to be ready at any moment for anything. To the person who has dedicated themselves to a life of examination, of practice. This is a dedication to warriorship, in its many forms, but particularly as it applies to the digital realm.
-Gwen Bell, Digital Warriorship

When the Buddha first sent students out into the world to go forth and teach the dharma, he instructed them to always do so in the language and idiom of the times. I know this instruction was in mind when Tricycle was founded in the early 90s as a magazine, and it is something we keep in mind today as our efforts are now both in print as well as online. Living in the information age, and seeing what a huge role the web plays in our lives, I am continually struck by the dual nature of the internet—a powerful source of learning that is also a hindrance, an aid to practice that is also a distraction, a great tool for connecting with people that also leads to isolation, and so on. Seeing this, I have become quite interested in the subject of mindful web use.

In our current issue, we published a piece titled "10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media," by Lori Deschene, better known to the online masses as Twitter's @TinyBuddha. It's a very simple, short offering—10 pieces of online advice from someone who has built a pretty large following for herself. In the wake of this, I started to more closely and intentionally examine other voices that have insights on the matter. One such person that I have been inspired by is Gwen Bell, a "Social Web Strategist, Yogini, Boulder-based world-traveling entrepreneur with foot on the yoga mat and hand on the laptop." (

Recently Gwen Bell wrote a book titled Digital Warriorship. Seventy pages in length and spaciously formatted in a variety of font sizes, it is a clear and concise book in which Gwen shares some of the experiences, contemplations, and skills that she has accumulated throughout her "digital path." The font and formatting choices are a style that I think would be difficult for many writers to pull of, but in her case it creates a very personal feeling, kind of like you're sitting with her and she's leading you through a thoughtful presentation.

As a meditation and yoga practitioner, Gwen applies age-old concepts such as Beginners Mind/Shoshin (having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconception when studying a subject), Drishti (a focal point), and Samskara (the inner patterns and accumulated impressions that create our character) to the relatively new terrain of social media and online presence. Framing much of the discourse around concepts such as "asymmetry," "reverberation," "tender center," and "digital zero," I found that, while the book is quite practical as expected, it's also surprisingly poetic.

If you're someone like me who is working to find your way in the digital world and feel you may benefit from reading the teachings of a unique practitioner technologist, I recommend checking out Digital Warriorship.


Gwen Bell from Jason Lange on Vimeo.

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Monty McKeever's picture

Thanks for the recommendation basho42! Much appreciated. I'm not familiar with Sudo, I'll definitely look into his work.

Marys's picture

I look forward to reading Gwen’s book. I am in front of the computer all day at work and at home I’m processing digital images, checking my email and Facebook and working on creating a new photoblog. I often think about mindfulness practice and its practical applications to bringing my awareness back to the present moment when in front of the computer.

Please be reminded of a beautiful book written by the late Philip Toshio Sudo, “Zen Computer”. Philip also wrote Zen 24/7, Zen Guitar and Zen Sex. Written in 1999 Philip was way ahead of his time talking about the connection of zen mind and computer mind.
Here are a few quotes from the book:

"The next time you hit ENTER ask yourself: What am I entering? Is it a command? A piece of data? Or can it be the gates of enlightenment?" Nod to your computer in a gesture of respect when you shut it down for the day. And…

"You need not belong to the church of Microsoft, worship at the altar of Apple, or convert to Buddhism to reap the benefits."

Philip also had the 7 rules of Zen Computer including: expect the unexpected, warm heart/coolhead, and (my favorite), know when to turn the machine off.
The balance of things is always being adjusted.