There are so many distractions we cling to in order to avoid mindfulness. We use carefully crafted mind tricks and behaviors to remove ourselves from the present moment. For me, my iPhone provided this escape. Text message conversations and Instagram scrolling provided shelter from boredom and discomfort. I had no idea how disconnected I had become until a fateful trip to a remote cabin recharged my soul.
iPhone Addict: How Did I End up Here?
I was the last person who should’ve become an iPhone addict. I’m a super late adopter to anything tech-y; technology has always kinda stressed me out. I don’t wanna spend my time figuring out all these buttons and cords and what the hell is an app anyway? I didn’t even have my first smart phone until a few years ago. At the time, I hated text messages. Calling was so much more efficient, and if I was at work and wanted to communicate with friends, I could always hop on gmail and just type away. I was never a heavy Facebook user, so I had deactivated my account. Email was never really a concern, cus let’s be honest, I never really get that many time-sensitive messages anyway.
And then…a little app called Instagram was created. It totally captured my attention. I’ve always been a very visual person, and I loved that it was an upbeat, light platform to share photos from our daily lives. It was like Facebook, but minus all the negativity and comparison and rants. Oh, the good ol’ days.
Anyway, it’s not that I was a huge Instagram fiend, but I think that’s what kinda tipped the scales for me with my iPhone usage. All of a sudden, I was texting all throughout the day: at work, at a stoplight, on a walk, at the gym. My beautifully illogical brain is wired to jump rapidly between tasks, having 100 tabs open at any given time. So texting and checking my phone became a little shot of adrenaline for me. The absolute second my brain wasn’t 110% stimulated, I reached for my phone. If my work computer took a split second to load a webpage, my phone was in-hand. As I walked from my kitchen to the living room, I’d be staring at my phone for those 20 steps. I couldn’t stand being bored for even a minuscule moment. For me, the issue wasn’t really spending hours on one particular app, but more so the amount of times I checked my phone. I wouldn’t get sucked in for hours at a time, but I would spend many 5 or 10 minute spurts distracted on my phone.
My boyfriend started getting frustrated and asking me to be more present. My friends would look at me funny as I readjusted our brunch items to get that perfect photo. My sister waited at dinner while I was engrossed in pointless group texts. I wasted hours each day texting. Social media was making me feel icky. Rather than feeling inspired, energized, and connected, I felt drained and inadequate. Still, I was in the throes of it, and had no idea the negative impacts my iPhone addiction was having on my life.
Then I went to Big Sur, and everything changed.
How an Accidental Digital Detox Changed My Life
Rolling up to Big Sur, I knew the cell service may be a little spotty. For those of you who don’t know, Big Sur is basically heaven on earth. It’s a rugged stretch of California’s central coast- winding roads, cliffs, ocean as far as the eye can see. Eric and I were lucky enough to have been invited to stay at our friend’s cabin for a weekend. Our friend warned us about the cell reception, and reminded us that there is no electricity in the cabin. I wasn’t really that worried- I brought external battery chargers for my phone, and I was confident my Verizon coverage would hold strong as we hiked a few miles up to the cabin.
Right as we began our ascent, I could already sense deep in my bones that this was a magical place. This was mother earth gracing us with her finest masterpiece. My first reaction wasn’t to stop and take in the overwhelming beauty with all my senses, it was to stop and take photos for my snap story. As the hike continued, I started getting agitated that we weren’t taking any breaks. Physically, I was fine, but didn’t our friends understand that I needed to stop and take a selfie?
As we settled in at the cabin, I finally realized that this was no joke: there really is zero cell reception. I felt a sinking feeling as it hit me that I would not be able to instantly share this to social media. I wasn’t going to be able to zone out texting friends. No one from work would be able to reach me with questions. And to make matters worse, Eric and our friends all have a healthy, normal relationship with their phones, so no one was willing to indulge in my endless photo shoots and staged moments.
Luckily, Mother Earth had my back all along. She decided to envelop me with her beauty until I had no choice but to melt into mindfulness.
I felt the sun kiss my skin as it broke through the fog. I smelled the redwoods and dirt, moist with ocean mist. I listened to the complete silence, pierced only by the sounds of birds circling overhead. I saw the electric yellow yucca, standing proud on the craggy rock. I felt deeply supported and connected to the land.
As the weekend continued, I felt a deep spiritual connection to my surroundings. The sights and events of that weekend felt so sacred that I didn’t want to share them with anyone who wasn’t present. There is no camera that can even begin to capture a fraction of the beauty of Big Sur. I didn’t want to see the land through a lens, I wanted to experience it with all my senses. So I did. I opened up my heart to fully receive the overwhelming beauty, and allowed it to heal my soul. I no longer felt the yearning to grasp for more in each moment. I have enough. I am enough. This moment is enough. I don’t need to escape from moments of stillness or boredom. Everything I need is right here, in this moment.
The Journey Continues
So now what? Am I a tech-free, zen master? Hell no. Just like any addiction, the behaviors come creeping back in, and I have to constantly check myself. I’ve felt myself getting hooked again lately, but now I can recognize it, and have the tools to dial it back down. As divine timing would have it, we’re heading back up to Big Sur to celebrate this New Year. I am craving the silence and sweet release from the grip of technology. My soul is ready to begin the year surrounded by nature, connecting with some of my favorite humans on this earth. Here’s to a new year filled with peace, deep connection, and mindfulness.