“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it” – Mary Oliver
About a month ago I turned off my cell phone, placed it face down on a table at home and walked away from it for a little while…
In the weeks leading up to that moment I had got myself stuck on the hamster wheel of tired, distracted, anxious, a little disconnected and overwhelmed. I had a thousand things on my mind each day. In retrospect now I can definitely say I had way way too much on my mind (stuck in my mind matter of fact). It was like I’d somehow- unbeknownst to myself- propped open the entrance door to my mind and dead bolted the exit shut, everything was stuck sloshing around. Anyway, I thought disconnecting a little bit would help bring me back to balance, and leaving my phone behind seemed to be the most obvious way to disconnect in the midst of city/work life. However, it didn’t take long to realize I was dead wrong about that.
After a few days without my phone I realized one very important thing, that disconnection would not bring about clarity, that deep down I wasn’t craving the space that comes from disconnection- quite the opposite. I was thirsty for more connection, the clarity would come with more real life personal connection. You see, I had got overloaded by the hustle of daily life and so distracted by my phone, always reading an email, responding to an unending slew of text messages, and missed phone calls that I left myself with very little space for personal connection. What do I mean by personal connection? I mean the genuine moments that float through every day interactions, like: giving and receiving undivided attention, intentional direct eye contact, unplanned time, slow drawn out mornings and evenings, the kind of presence that causes you to forgetting to check email and text messages.
I was thirsty for real life connection and feeling connected to my life, living in the moment. And for me, my cell phone was distracting me from that. So I kept my phone off, and I connected and lived inside the moment I was in.
My morning commute became about connection to the sky, about watching clouds form, move, and dissolve, in my periphery birds skimmed across the bay. My meals returned me to connection; paying attention to the ingredients I was using, where they came from, and how they nurtured my body, putting love into the preparation. I started paying more attention to what people really looked and felt like when I was out running errands. I was now free and able to be there on the other end of eye contact each and every time a passing stranger looked up from their phone – and, I felt the lost sort of loneliness that bubbled up when I walked blocks and blocks and nobody looked up. Every little thing I could notice around me, and I noticed a lot, became an opportunity for connection, to fill my soul; the direction of the breeze, the taste of a misty morning, the smell of the early fall sunsets. To be honest, I spent more time feeling adventurous even if I we ween’t going anywhere. I wandered local trails with my person, Zack, and my dog, Ellie. And I looked deep into their eyes more times than I can count, something that I never ever want to overlook nor take for granted.
What I’m saying is, I started to once again see and feel the world through my own eyes, through my own heart and through my own gut, instead of being stuck in an overloaded brain that is only capable of skimming the surface to take in the world at face value, and make surface level memories.
I started to feel really human, and in so doing I felt more connected to my soul and spirit.
I relearned that personal attention feels different than occupied attention- I don’t think we acknowledge that difference enough. I reaffirmed that sometimes it’s necessary to step outside the matrix of technology in order to feel what’s true, personal, and important to me. I remembered that in this extravagant and over the top world we live in, sometimes we have to say no in order to get to yes.
And most importantly I remembered that when somethings not quite right I always have the choice to make a change. Sometimes that’s heading out into backcountry to change my surroundings in order to give myself the space I need to clear the slate. And that’s beautiful and necessary. But most of the time balance and rightness comes from having the courage and the patience to sit down exactly where I am and clear the space I need inside myself.
So, very reluctantly I’ve turned my phone back on now, but I’m spending a hell of a lot less of time on it. My phone now lives on ‘do not disturb’, and while I’m slowly driving my friends and family crazy, I’ve never felt better. 😉
Cheers to looking ahead instead of down, and forward instead of back.