My Day off the Grid: An Experiment in Mindfulness
Mastery of life starts with mastery of the self. And mastery of the self requires an alternation of detachment from and engagement with the world. Its through engagement that we feel ourselves flow beyond our boundaries and transcend through the molding of what’s around us. But we must make sure the core from which this transcendent self flows is in alignment to its inner needs and nourishment. My meditating, or periodically disengaging from all distractions, we simply experience and enjoy what we have created, and replenish our ability to engage with the world.
After a particularly hectic run of mismanaged relationships, new business ventures, and innumerable distractions, I thought it was best to take a day off with no electronics. This included switching off all network devices. The idea was to a produce a state of groundedness that contrasted with the roamings of my mind that had characterized essentially all of 2020. I’m the type of person who gets extremely flustered when I do not feel in touch with my inner being. I had overextended and found myself in situations that were not in alignment with my goals. This is why meditative days are so vital. They allow us to reconnect with our true desires and self, and break away from all that is holding us back from them.
My day started in the mid-morning, since my alarm clock (aka iPhone) had been switched off the night before. I felt more well-rested then usual, which was likely due to the lack of blue light in my face before dozing off. At first, I acted like a withdrawing alcoholic, immediately reaching for my phone to check my daily notifications. The result of this reflex was a handful of air. After a few minutes, my mind seemed to accept that it was getting no digital fix this morning. The feeling of relaxation was like visiting an old friend from the past.
I went out and returned with breakfast and coffee. After this, I sat down and opened a book I was a day late in finishing for my book club: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Fifty pages flew by without my notice. Only after another fifty did I feel the familiar digital agitation. Exercise seemed to make this go away, and after a few chores I felt amazingly peaceful, and into tune with my mind and body. This attenuation rivaled what I achieve after ten minutes of meditation without a digital detox. And this feeling persevered through to the evening.
The level of awareness of my thoughts, emotions, and feelings continued to increase, as did my peacefulness. My soul stood solid as an oak, as if no disruptions could sway it. This sounds like hyperbole, but it is the best metaphor I can think of to describe the feeling, one that was so strong it compelled me to start writing about it. And as I took my place at the kitchen table with pen and paper, I could see the sunlight piercing through a clearing above two trees, and the light hit me in a way that felt light-giving and transcendent. It had been a very long time since I had simple stood and felt my lived experience of the world envelop me, with no distraction. I could also feel an acute weariness, like the pressure against my face from beneath my eyes was screaming for my mind to take a break and rest. And to simply experience the world.
As I finished writing, I again picked up my book and proceeded to finish. I read over 200 pages that day, something I had not done since I was a child. Typically I drink coffee to give me the energy to complete the final tasks of the day, or I close with a nightcap if my evening is more or less free. I didn’t feel like I needed either. A sort of natural peacefulness set in with the setting sun. It was like nature telling me the day was done and I could relax and not worry about anything else that needed to be done. After a final walk with my dog, I finally went to bed. The next morning I woke up and I could no longer feel the bags under my eyes, or the worry from the concerns I had carried with me into the digital detox on Thursday night. I still had the concerns, but they did not seem like problems, only situations that needed to be dealt with. I switched on my laptop to check my emails.