My Digital DetoxOct 14, 2017
Retreat. Unplug. Step out of the busyness.
Its hard to remember now what life was like before my iPhone. I don’t know when my free spirit became dictated by connection, but it happened.
Constantly being an arms distance from my phone not only means that I am always connected, it means that I am always working since most of what I do somehow relates back to teaching. It gives me the sense that I am being pulled in different directions, that I always have more to do or something better to do than be where I actually am.
My phone triggers me. I’m constantly getting messages, emails and texts from people who want something from me. I seem to never be getting messages from the people I want to hear from and I look anxiously at my phone to see if I somehow missed a text. I check my social media stats and compare posts. When that thing is within arms reach I can’t get any peace.
My meditation teacher, John Churchill, says peripheral vision is physically becoming more limited by technology. We rarely look up into expansive, open skies. We rarely have the opportunity to gaze out into the horizon and see for miles and miles. Instead we look down with a very narrow focus onto our devices. This is literally and figuratively changing the way we see. Our periphery is narrowing. Our physicality is changing because of our handheld devices – our sight is becoming more narrow and our backs curved. Our asana practice has taught us that our bodies change our minds. And surely these physical changes are no different.
During the bedlam of getting ready for a recent vacation, I realized I wanted to throw my phone into the Pacific.
I decided I was going to take a break. I’d never been to Maui before and I wanted to really be there. Not in cyberspace. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity right in front of me because I was distracted by a phone that I have with me basically every waking moment of every other day of my life.
I bought walkie talkies, dug out my wrist watch (which I was wearing upside down for some time before I even realized it), packed my actual camera, and set an away message on my email. I handed over the logins to my social media accounts to a friend. My parting words to my Mysore room were don’t call me, don’t text me and don’t message me (and they didn’t – thanks you guys!).
I am away. Your email will be deleted. Please resend all important messages after October 3.
I made a conscious decision that I was going to practice a quality of presence. To pause and see whats here right now. To make space for what is right here. To be where I was, with who I was with, instead of on my phone. To pause and notice what is happening inside of me – feelings, moods, sensation.
I allowed myself to turn my phone on only once every 24 hours for about 20 minutes. I checked in with my dog, my dad once or twice, and my program via text and that was it. My mood without my phone was instantly lighter. Happier. By disconnecting from the rest of the world I was better able to connect to me.
Like food or information, we also consume media. Sure, some media is beneficial. But how much is too much? And what is unhealthy consumption of media? When does consumption of media lead to suffering?
I devote so much time to taking good care of my body. I eat whole foods, I avoid junk food, I practice yoga daily, go for long walks, I have nourishing relationships. I consider myself to be aware of what I put into my body.
So why should what I put into my mind be any different? When we watch TV we consume. When we scroll through our social media feeds we consume. When we browse the internet we consume. I never stopped to think about how toxic this consumption might be for me.
Although technology connects us to the rest of the world, it can also separate us. Its easy to get so overdosed with information that we forget the simple wonders of the present moment.
Ultimately, for me the goal of disconnecting from the www is to actually deepen my connections. With myself and those people around me. To pause and deepen my attention so I don’t continue to live out my patterns that I have had my whole life. To get my internal house in order, so to speak.
And what I realized is that by going offline I can come online again.
The internet promotes a sense of missing out. There’s so much information coming in from so many angles that you always get the sense that there is something that you are missing, that there is something else that you need to be plugged in to. Fear of missing opportunities, fear of creating back log, fear of not being accessible. This FOMO creates anxiety and stress – and for me, when I am in this state my heart isn’t so open. There is some part of me that is tense and already on the way somewhere else.
Recognizing this was an important first step for me. I get to be a more full, productive human being when I’m not constantly getting tugged around by the need for something else.
I encourage you to step out of the busyness and open yourself to something bigger, wider, more mysterious. Look to the horizon. Tap into your peripheral vision. Trust that your attunement will become more pronounced when you unplug.
Its easy to get so overdosed with information that we forget the simple wonders of the present moment. Take back your mind and enjoy.
Steps for a Digital Detox
- Name it Pause and notice what triggers you. Political comments on Facebook? News apps? Dating apps? Anticipation of text messages? Emails?
- Take baby steps I never take my phone with me when I walk my dog. That time is for him and I like to enjoy his company and feel the earth beneath my feet. When I’m doing work I keep my phone in a different room to minimize distractions. Try your own rules – no social media after 8pm or before 9am. No phone at the table. Set aside 30 minutes of “read time” a day. Meaning a book, magazine, kindle – something not connected to the www. And PLEASE leave your phone out of your yoga space.
- Support yourself! Delete apps that distract you or trigger you. I realized that though I may read emails on my phone, I never respond to them, so I deleted my mail app. I hate facebook messenger, so I deleted that one too. And then I looked at my phone and how many apps I actually use and like. Most of them I don’t use frequently. So I moved all those over to a new screen so I don’t have to see the unless I am deliberately looking for them because I need them.
- Be Compassionate Remember, new habits take time. Pause and reflect on the obstacles of disconnecting and also the benefits everyday and keep enacting habits that serve you.
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