I am wondering a simple question: In what conditions can we surf the internet mindfully? For what purposes is this possible or impossible?
I think it is akin to going to town for alms for monks. One should be aware that by doing so one might come into contact with various perceptions which may be agreeable or disagreeable and are a danger to the training. One should resolve on guarding the senses and maintaining the perception of abandoning (not tolerating arisen thoughts associated with ill-will, greed, delusion) so that one does not regret it later.
One should also reflect on one's intentions before, during and after doing a deed with mind, body or speech. Thus one should remain mindful of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha in general, not only when using the internet.
"Man finds himself in a perilous position…A far greater danger threatens [than the outbreak of a third world war]: the approaching tide of technological revolution in the atomic age could so captivate, bewitch, dazzle and beguile man that calculative thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way of thinking. What great danger then might move upon us? Then there might go hand in hand with the greatest ingenuity in calculative planning and inventing, indifference towards ‘meditative’ thinking, total thoughtlessness. And then? Then man would have denied and thrown away his own special nature – that he is a meditative being. Therefore the issue is keeping meditative thinking alive."
Martin Heidegger Speech commemorating German composer Conradin Kreutzer in 1955
As an employee or contractor, I'm paid to spend time working.
I keep a timesheet, in which I log the times when I start and stop work, and a brief description of what I did when I was working. I start and stop several times during a day.
And it's a habit, I've been doing it for years -- it's part of how I use a computer when I'm working.
The point is that I know when I am "on the clock" (i.e. working, at work, logging time) -- and I don't want to steal time from my employer (by doing non-work activity during working hours).
If I want to do some non-work then I can (by "clocking off"), but when I'm on the clock I use the internet for work-related activity.
This is the best example I can think of of "using the internet mindfully":
- Knowing when I'm supposed to be working (e.g. "now" or whenever it is I'm on the clock)
- Knowing what I'm supposed to be doing (e.g. because I've agreed the deliverable with someone else)
You could try a similar approach e.g., "This is an hour during which I'll use the internet to study Buddhism", etc.
I think it's also important to reflect after you used it: "Did I use it well?"
If the answer is "no", if you feel remorse about how -- or how much -- you use it, if you develop a bad habit, then it's good to deal with that.
For example there are many ways to modify your computer's configuration, to block its access to any given web sites. If I find I spend too much time on a web site, if it becomes a bad habit, if it's unprofitable, then I block my computer's access to it.
In the high spiritual stages this is possible. Before that, internet can only pull a person down to complete thought identified state. But in principal, a meditator must try to be mindful every moment in his/her daily life.
The best way is not using internet in most part of the day(If it is possible). If the internet using is necessary for long periods of time then a person must bring gaps to his/her internet using. Few minutes or few seconds of short meditations can make a difference. Otherwise internet would completely pull a person to unmindful state, would constantly feed greed, anger and delusion in a person and would make it impossible to make progress in the path.
To sum up, the best is not using internet in the most part of the day and the second best approach is bringing gaps to the internet using and doing short meditations whenever it is possible.
Some extended explainings: Googlyana - a Dharma practice approach on internet-realm
Internet realm is a place where many very sensible beings decided to rest. It's a little aside of the whole spectrum of Dukkha but still contains everything for a beneficial practice. Many beings which appears in this realm have no good possibilities for practice and often seek it as a window for their normal recluse beside business as usual....