Step Away From Your Screen(s)
In this, the age of screens, the idea of setting your phone down - on the subway, in the doctors office, every time you have a spare moment - feels like a radical proposition; partly because being alone with your thoughts can feel either violently boring or mildly torturous.
DO IT ANYWAY.
I am in no way an alarmist when it comes to this issue. (Not yet anyway, though I'll continue to look at the data.) To be clear, I love Instagram and a good newsy app as much as the next person, and celebrate the fact that there are instant answers at my fingertips when I want and need them. But if I'm not careful, screens can eat up huge chunks of my day, with little to show for my trouble save for emotional whiplash and a tired brain. My "Still" practice helps, but even so, give me a few minutes of downtime, and I'm immediately tempted to whip out my phone. I have to actively practice sitting and not scrolling. Often, I'm the only person in a waiting room not on my phone (when I'm not).
It is my strongly held belief that the absence of meaningful silence in our lives, along with the ubiquitous presence of screens, significantly reduces our ability to connect to our innermost feelings and what we might call the Divine nature of Being. In the screen age, distracting ourselves from ourselves, for instance, is easier than ever. I don't mean to suggest that anyone should stop using screens altogether, or even that everyone suffers in the way I have described; I do mean to suggest that many of us do, and that it's important to monitor our screen use.
Whether or not you feel that screens drain you, I urge you to consider trying the following experiment: For the next month, as often as you can, practice putting your phone down when you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through it. Immediately, you'll be alone with your thoughts. With a Still practice, your thoughts will eventually become less and less forceful, but in the beginning, you'll be bombarded by them. (You can find help dealing with that phenomenon HERE.) This is a good thing, for starters. If you're tired, it's important to know that you're tired (and to then do something about it. It's astounding how adept we've become at masking our bone-deep exhaustion). If you're happy, it's lovely to revel in your happiness with no distractions. If you're sad, it's good to know why. Really, it is. You can't see and understand the deep sadness, and you certainly can't move through it, if you're constantly shoving it down and out of sight... Slowly but surely, you'll open up a whole new world for yourself. Come on in, as they say, the water is fine. Scary? Yes. But the truth is this: If we're not willing to dive in, we'll continue to live in the shallows.
When you can, begin your own Still practice for 20 minutes once a day, twice a day ideally. Or, if you're not interested in a STILL/WILD discipline, with its daily practice and spiritual implications, at least consider weaning yourself from your screens; some of them, anyway, some of the time. Reach out to me if you need help - it costs nothing to send me an email if you feel so led. We'll be there to support you. I'm about to experiment with limiting my screen time every month in a much more serious way, and I'll be looking for some friendly support during the withdrawal period.
PS. Want to try a few minutes of STILL time? Be brave. Go HERE.
From INTO THE WILDERNESS
By Sara Sharpe
"Even though we are well aware of the purported benefits of contemplative prayer or a meditation practice, most of us have instead become increasingly adept at distracting ourselves from any sort of deep introspection. Silence makes us crazy, because when we set aside our distractions/addictions, we are invited to sit with and forced to deal with our "wild selves." Almost always, in the STILL/WILD universe, WILD is a good thing. And though they are not a bad thing in this instance, in terms of our "wild selves," we are referring to those parts of ourselves over which we have little or no control, and which take the form of unwelcome thoughts, disturbing emotions, incessant worry, long-held resentment, physical discomfort, stress, confusion, lack, and the nagging sense that something—though we’re not exactly sure what—is missing in our lives. WHO WANTS TO SIT WITH ALL THAT?! It's uncomfortable stuff. So to keep the discomfort at bay, we find countless ways of distracting ourselves. We shop. We binge on Netflix and smart phones. We drink too much, eat too much, work too much. At the extreme end of distraction we develop drug, alcohol and/or sexual addictions.
The bad news is that your wild selves have much more influence in your life than you might imagine. They affect the decisions you make, the relationships you choose, your moods. The good news is that you can deal with them. In the Stillness, we sit with our wild selves and we listen—long enough to calm and, finally, to tame them..."
Chapters 1-4 available HERE