There is plenty of advice to be found these days all over the web about the necessity to unplug regularly from technology: to take a day a week where you disconnect from the internet, switch off your phone and give it all a break. Of course, it is ironic that these suggestions to disconnect from technology are being disseminated through social media!
The reminder to unplug regularly from technology devices, which after all have only been part of our lives for a few decades, also points us to the deeper reminder of the need to unplug from another kind of automated computer, which has taken over our lives much more completely: the thinking process itself.
There has been a powerful movement throughout the world in the last few decades to attempt to reprogram our thinking. From Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich all the way through to The Secret we have been encouraged to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts, and then to powerfully intend what we want to create.
Just as it is a great idea to send kind, loving and creative emails six days a week, unplugging means to switch off the computer completely. So in the same way, while it may be a good idea to be aware of the quality of your thoughts, unplugging is a step beyond: it means to take time regularly to disengage from the thinking process completely. Here are some practical tips on how to do that.
On A Daily Basis:
Each day take at least 20 minutes to sit silently with your eyes closed. At the beginning you could simply observe how deep or shallow your breathing is. Do not try to change it. Just notice how it is. Then you can begin to ask yourself these questions:
“Who is experiencing this moment?”
“Who is aware of the breathing?”
“Who is aware of the thoughts?”
“Who is aware of the physical sensations?”
At the beginning, you may notice other thoughts rushing in to try to answer these questions, but it is easy to step back, simply by noticing them as thoughts, and to ask, “Who is aware of that thought?”
Pretty soon, after a few minutes, you may begin to notice just the faintest perfume of stillness; a feeling of boundaries dropping away. As soon as you begin to notice just the faintest hint of that, take a breath, relax fully into being it, and keep asking the questions, “Who am I? Who is here? Who is present? Who is aware? Who is experiencing this moment?”
On a Weekly Basis:
Once a week take a day where you not only give the internet and the phone a break, but you also give doing and creating a break as well. Take a day a week where you do not intend anything, or create anything. It is a good day for gardening with your hands in the earth, or taking a long walk, or lying in bed late in the morning, and then also enjoying several additional naps.
Here is an important tip that not everybody knows to anticipate: On such a day you may actually feel way worse than you do the rest of the week. You may feel irritable. And if you relate to the people close to you, you may even find yourself being unkind and impatient. Don’t worry. It is a perfectly natural consequence of a kind of detox process that goes on where your body balances stress hormones. This is a good day to kindly tell the people around you that you need some space and to maybe even be silent.
Experiment with this. If you are really “religious” about taking this one day a week, you will probably find you get way more accomplished in the rest of your week.
Once a Quarter:
You are going to have to decide how frequently you want to do this: whether it is once a month, once a quarter, or once a year; but as often as you can, get away from it all. Going to the ocean is a great idea, because the negative ions in the air close to the ocean energize you again.
Take some time to replenish. Ironically, the times when you most need to do this (when you are overwhelmed, stressed and burned out) may also be these time when you have the thoughts that you cannot do it. So sometimes you just have to make a break for it anyway; no matter how illogical it seems.
All of these ways of unplugging from the thought machine daily, weekly, and for a longer retreat, are a way of shifting from the efforts of a little “me” intending things and wanting things and creating things to relaxing in to the force that gives us all life. Both are real in their own way. But the small “me,” with its worries and fears can become an addiction, just like answering every email on time does. Relaxing back into being spacious and vast, refills you again with the juice that gives everything life.