“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

This week I got a smartphone, and the salesman at the AT&T store’s mouth dropped as I explained that I have lived for the last 2.5 years with a phone that can ONLY call and text. While syncing my new phone number, the salesman was both nervous and excited for me to step into the 21st century. In this blog, I will reveal the most valuable lesson I learned from life without a smartphone. I will also offer a simple exercise to help you and your family develop a more harmonious life with technology through acknowledging the presence of others.

My “dumbphone” contained a few fancy gimmicks like a calculator, calendar, clock, and camera, but that was it. No uber, no group chat, no google maps, no podcasts, no music or social media, and literally no internet. When people hear about my lifestyle, their reactions are split between respect and shock; flabbergasted isn’t too far off. The common question I get is, why did I live the last 2.5 years without a smartphone? I believe what people mean to ask is who in their right mind would live without one? And to this question, I can answer a person who values simplicity.

 I lived as a zen monk for many years in my early 20’s, and monastics tend to take simplicity to a militant extreme. Simplicity and silence keep prayer strong, which is very practical if you are a monk. During my time as a monastic, there was a practice called “Noble Silence.” Periodically the air in the monastery was filled with a sacred silence that all who walked its grounds honored. During “Noble Silence,” connection was rare and powerful, a glance, a nod, and most beautifully, and my favorite, a smile. These moments of connection were rich, endearing manifestations of goodwill and faith. Living in Chicago without a smartphone encouraged me to offer my neighbors the same zen-like smile I practiced during “Noble Silence.”

Every day in the monastery, “Noble Silence” would end at lunchtime, where an appreciation for humanity would be rediscovered, with a particular awareness for those immediate to us. As we journey out of the pandemic and masks continue to come off, I invite you to approach life as though “Noble Silence” is uplifting. The most valuable lesson I have learned from 4 years as a zen monk, 2.5 years without a smartphone, and 1 year through a pandemic, simply put is: walk tall, make eye contact, smile at your neighbor, and say good day; put more simply, be BRAVE and DARE to notice.

The next time you feel down, don’t hide; place your smartphone in your pocket, take off your headphones, and try going for a walk. While out, offer a smile to your neighbors, and soon enough, the world will unexpectedly open itself to you in marvelous ways. I have found that a smile can unite a community, bond a family, and bring joy to the world. Suppose you intentionally do this once a day for a week. In that case, you too will discover the tremendous zen-like pleasure of a smile in the art of human connection and don’t worry, you can keep your smartphone!

Big Love,
-Thomas Nimrod, M.A. Pastoral Counseling

More about Thomas…

For the last five years, I worked at Misericordia Home as a fitness instructor and ministry coordinator with adults with developmental disabilities. I completed my internship as a mental health counselor at Replogle Center for Wellbeing and Counseling, working with young adults with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and life transitions.

My goal as a counselor is to establish a trusting and authentic relationship with my client. Once a respectful space is created, I look to witness the inner world of my client and work to contribute and integrate a life-affirming narrative to the client’s life story.

To schedule a session with Thomas, contact [email protected] or (847) 919-9096 x1

To contact Thomas directly, call (847) 919-9096 x 47 or [email protected]