I’ve been reading Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. If you’ve ever read Julia Cameron, you know she gives assignments. In this book, one of the assignments is to take walks each week without your phone. This resonated with me big-time. Now you could say that’s because I’m just set in my ways and out of date with the current phone thing.
(Full disclosure: I’m of the generation that grew up with rotary dial phones tethered to the wall. If you wanted to have a private call, you hoped the coiled cord connecting the handset to the base reached far enough that you could duck into a side room and shut the door – not all the way, of course, because of said cord. Still, unless you were lucky enough to have phone in your bedroom, it was the best you could do.)
But I do have a smart phone. I’m on Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr. I take pictures and check email on my phone. I’ve read ebooks on it. I tote it with me as I carry the dirty clothes downstairs two flights from the second floor bedroom to the washer and dryer in the basement. (I’m hoping to hear from an agent and don’t want to miss the call. Good excuse, right?) But I’ve also seen how the little screen that connects us to the wider world 24/7 can also disconnect us from the smaller here-and-now world that we inhabit physically. So when I read Cameron’s assignment to go for a walk without the phone, it hooked me. I asked why leave the phone behind? (Why is my personal first-responder on most occasions.) Here’s what why told me.
1. To de-agitate
You know that center post that turns back and forth in a washing machine? Right. The agitator. It stirs things up. I’ve noticed that constant online connection does that as well. At least to me. Leaving the phone behind for a while is a way to let the sediment settle and nurture the calm in my soul.
2. To not take the easy-out
Concentrating on the screen is like hanging a “do not disturb” sign on our forehead. Which is fine when we need to be onscreen. But it can also be an escape from connecting with the world in our vicinity at the present moment. We can retreat into the cocoon of online.
3. To become aware
So this is the opposite of retreat from the present moment. We get to pay attention and see the gifts the day has for us.
4. To experience with all our senses
Paying attention allows us to take in the sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, and textures around us. There’s good stuff there.
5. To connect with reality (not virtual reality but real reality)
Taking in the present world with our five senses lets us connect with reality and the emotional lift that our surroundings can bring. We enjoy the rain shower not because someone posted a GIF of rain slipping down a window but because we smell it in the air and see the drops sparkling on our own windowpane and catch the wet coolness in our palms.
6. To keep ourselves company
Since we can connect to the online world 24/7, we never have to feel alone even if we are – which can make it scary to put down the phone and realize no one else is around. But when we put down the phone, we have the opportunity to connect with our self, to discover our self, to keep our self company, to learn to like our self – and if we don’t, to figure out why and maybe what to do about it.
7. To process
News and weather and the latest trends splash over us in wave after wave after wave. In the momentary troughs between those waves, pundits and twitterers and bloggers and analysts process all the info for us, telling us what we should think about it. As a result, we never have to think for ourselves – what a relief, because there’s more breaking news that I really should be up on, and . . . enough already. Putting down the phone lets me climb out of the waves and find my footing on dry ground. It lets me process what I’m hearing and seeing and make up my own mind about what I think. (Another plus for keeping your self company.)
8. To refill our spirits
On-screen time can be draining. Lifting our eyes from it allows us to absorb the peace of the moment. Not every moment is peaceful; I get that. But most are. And the thing is, the more we recognize and soak in the calm, peaceful moments, the more serenity gets stored in our hearts, so that we can carry the calm into situations that are not peaceful, occasions begging for our calmness to add sanity into the mix.
9. To experience the uninterrupted flow of time
Time seems to flow differently when we’re online. An hour can go by when we feel like it’s only been 15 minutes. Real time ticks steadily and peacefully past. There used to be a saying about being so bored you were watching the grass grow. Sometimes we can use a bit of watching grass grow and flowers open and bees drone on, doing their bee thing. Inhale simplicity. The gift of the moment is uniquely yours, a treasure that’s yours and yours alone. And in a sharing world, it’s okay to tuck your moment into your heart and leave it unshared.
10. To prove we’re not addicted to it
I heard a news segment on the radio about addiction treatment programs that are popping up to treat . . . yes, screen-time addiction. We can get sucked into overdoing anything, I suspect, including the phone. Like a closet alcoholic, we say I can leave the screen, put the phone down, silence the incoming pings for a day . . . or maybe half a day . . . or an hour at least. Maybe we should challenge ourselves by saying, Prove it.
Nourish peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.
Nature of the week – an air plant that blew off a tree in Texas:
Shadow of the Week – from my trip to Princeton:
Text and photos © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.