I’ve grown up along technology’s advancements, and remember the joy and feelings of pride and freedom when I got my first cell phone sophomore year of college in the late 90s. But still, I long for those delicious moments of disconnection. Moments when we are forced to be nowhere other than where we are. A pause from the whirring demands of the world and the gift of time without the ticking of the clock or our to do lists.
Last month, my partner and I took his two kids to a lakeside camp in western Maine for the weekend. He remembered there not being any cell service the last time he was up there, when his youngest was little enough to carry hiking in a backpack. This time we had to switch our phone to airplane mode to recreate the experience, and though it was stunningly beautiful and peaceful and serene, there was a depth of connection missing for me in knowing that we could still connect with the “outside world” at any time.
I miss the snow day bliss, reading by the fire, the long expanse of a day cleared of plans ahead and something delicious simmering on the stove. Now even that solitude isn’t impenetrable. We bring our laptops home “just in case” and use the day to catch up on work or have meetings by phone while the next generation pleadingly ask us to come outside and play. “Just a few minutes…” we say, which we know means at least 15 or 30, and we feel a sense of powerlessness rise up within us. Until from somewhere deep within we decide, “that’s enough for today”, pile on our snow pants and boots and test out the snow for sledding and snowballs and the most perfect, fluffy snow angels.
The phone calls and emails will be there tomorrow. But so will we. Back to work and more energized and refreshed than we remember being in quite some time. I miss the moments of forced disconnection, as our work and personal worlds continue to merge and “progress” finds it way to even the most remote nooks and crannies of our planet and lives.
I miss the way those moments had a way of finding me just when I needed them the most. This new world requires us to be a little more intentional. To carve out the space for ourselves, and navigate those needs with friends, family, clients and colleagues. But when we can flip the switch – close the computer or switch off the phone or even just leave it in the car or at home for a couple of hours – we create a boundary that reminds us that we are in charge of how we spend our time. We give ourselves the greatest gift we can give: our presence to truly show up for the life and love flowing around and through us.
It’s a practice that takes, well, practice, and one of the most useful tools for me on this journey has been periodic silent yoga and meditation retreats. Earlier this winter I had the pleasure of attending a winter solstice retreat hosted by Surya Chandra Das and Patricia Brown of Rolling Meadows, and writing about their work for DownEast Magazine. It’s an experience I have come to cherish. Silence in community, with a group of people also committed to this practice and work, lets me come back to myself again and again and again. It helps me to get clear on my values, my deep desires and dreams, and look really vividly at the way my actions in every day life are helping or distracting me. We’re learning to see and appreciate the world around us with a newly focused and connected sense of eyes, and despite the lack of conversation, come together as one community carving out space in search of a return to the simple joys of being alive and human.