Happy New Year everyone! Just wanted to pop in and give a quick update after my digital detox. As you probably know, we just returned from a trip to a friend’s cabin in Big Sur. What a perfectly slow way to ring in the New Year. A secluded cabin with no electricity or cellular reception, smack dab in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. ?(Check out my last?post??for more background on my iPhone addiction and my first experience with digital detox). Here are some of my top takeaways from my tech-free New Year:
Digital Detox Gets Easier with Practice
I would have to say the craziest thing is how easy it was to just drop in. The whole drive up, I was fiddling on my phone, but the second we hit highway 1 past Carmel, I didn’t even notice my cell reception had cut out. Even I prefer to take in the beauty of that drive with my own eyes rather than through a lens.
I think it’s true what they say, that what you practice becomes easier. Since I had already experienced the magic of digital detox, it was much easier to dive right in this time. So just know that even if your first try is really tough, it will get easier, and it will always prove to be worth it. Be gentle with yourself and remember that anything new is going to be difficult at first. That being said, don’t resist mindfulness when it does arrive. Stay open to these small, quiet moments of present-ness, and surrender into them.
Mindfulness Captures Moments Better than Any Lens
Another thing I noted was I almost had an aversion to doing anything that tore me away from the present. I sit boxed up in an office building most days, so I knew deep in my bones that my soul needed connection with nature. This was a time to connect deeply to Eric and listen to the quiet messages of my soul. The thought of even taking the time to unzip my camera bag and take a photo seemed too much of a disruption. Photography can be a wonderfully cathartic artistic expression, but it can also quickly take a turn into an obsessive need to document, to capture. So, I barely have any photos from the trip, but oh man do I have some stunning moments burned into my memory.
We trick ourselves into thinking that photos will help us remember a moment better, when in reality using all of your senses to truly take in a scene is what creates lasting memories. Instead of a two dimensional, context-less image, you’ll have the sights but also the smell, taste, feel, sound, and energy of a moment. Big Sur is an experience I always want to remember. I want to store its magic deep in my cells. I want it to be such a profound part of me that my children and grandchildren inherit the memory. Remaining deeply present and drinking in each moment is how I can truly make these memories last.
Digital Detox Creates White Space
One of the biggest reasons to try a digital detox is because it helps cultivate white space. In fact, creating more white space is pretty much the core of my slow living aspirations. What is white space? White space is creating room for your soul to breathe (as the eloquent Emily P. Freeman puts it). It’s moments of stillness and a calm mind.?Moments where your mind is free from over-stimulation. When your body can ease into the present moment. This is when your soul begins to quietly speak to you.
I don’t know if it’s more that the soul speaks quietly, or that we’re not trained to listen to it. Either way, calming your mind and removing distractions (ahem, iPhone, we’re lookin at you) will give more space for these messages to bubble to the surface. The soul is always trying to speak to us, to gently guide us toward our life’s purpose. The problem is, our logical mind loves to dominate and control. Our iPhones and social media just give our egoic mind more things to cling to. More to compare to. More mixed messages to take in. More mental clutter. All this serves to do is distract and overwhelm us. We can barely tell which thoughts are our own, and which are given to us from other people. How are we supposed to have clarity in our lives when we barely know which ideas are our own?
When you take a break from this barrage of information and overstimulation, it’s easier for your own ideas to flow in. It’s easier to hear the quiet stirrings of your soul.
Text Messages Don’t Require an Instant Response
When we were a few hours into our drive home and cell service returned, I was almost annoyed. Who does my phone think it is to try to rip me away from this beautiful moment? I checked my messages to make sure Roscoe was safe and sound (he was, duh), and couldn’t even bring myself to read all the non-essential texts. Text messages and the such can be sweet, funny, thoughtful little notes, but they sometimes also feel like a burden. Way back when, you’d receive a letter in the mail and respond to it when you had time for a thoughtful reply. With texts, an almost instant reply is expected. For me, I find that if I don’t reply right away, I’ll usually forget as I get wrapped up in other things. Then I sheepishly reply like 3 days later and feel like an asshole. Anyone remember AOL Instant Messenger? I wish there was an away message you could put up for your iPhone. “Thanks for your message! Today I’m staying deeply present in each moment. I’ll reply to your text in the next 72 hours. If it’s urgent, please call and leave a voicemail.”
I guess this all just made me realize that I need to create stronger and clearer boundaries regarding text messages. Maybe an almost automated reply like “Got your message! I’m wrapped up in other stuff right now, but I’ll reply back as soon as I have time for a thoughtful response.” Because the way I’ve been going, I basically just feel like a constant texting failure. Like I can never keep up and can never stay on top of it. I feel like I’m always letting someone down by forgetting to respond. I try to warn people that I’m not great at replying, so don’t take it personally, but that’s not enough. I need to manage messages in a way that works for me and my lifestyle. I don’t want to be constantly available. I don’t want to disrupt deeply connected moments.
Social Media Should Serve and Inspire Us
I found that I had a very similar experience regarding social media during my first digital detox. Basically, taking time away from social media made me see it for what it is: a fun way to check in on friends and to learn from people I admire. Nothing more, nothing less. If someone doesn’t inspire me and make me feel energized after seeing their posts, they’re unfollowed. Simple as that. There are so many amazing women whose posts bring me life, so I have no time to waste sifting through crap that makes me jealous or feels inauthentic.
I’m a big fan of sporadically unfollowing people as you begin to notice their posts don’t bring you joy. For example, the second I notice I’m going deep into a rabbit hole of comparison, I evaluate whether I should unfollow. I can always feel the answer in my body. When I feel a pit in my stomach, or my breathing is shallow, I know it’s time to cut the cord. When I start wondering why my thighs don’t look like that or questioning why can’t I have that handbag, I know.
How you use social media and who you follow is your choice. No one else controls that but you. Check in with yourself every once in a while to make sure the apps are continuing to serve and inspire you.
Final Thoughts on Life Offline
My time in Big Sur cemented what I already know deep down in my soul: that everything I need is right here. The best way to connect with people and remember beautiful moments is to truly be present and drop in. Constantly distracting ourselves only serves to disconnect us from the beauty that surrounds us.
I’m excited to continue incorporating digital detox into my life. Part of living a conscious life is being acutely aware of your experiences. I plan to continue evaluating and questioning the role of technology in my life.