Unplug, go analog?

I have been quiet in this space lately because I have been thinking about digital media, specifically my email, social media, texting and how my interactions with all of it have changed over the past three decades. It’s been on my mind since September but with the transition to Spring it has taken the forefront.

I remember my first email account. It was 1988 and I was provided with a college account as the Sports Information Director for a small liberal arts college. The email could only be used for internal communications across campus. It was helpful, the flow and speed of information amongst the college community felt effortless.

Fast forward to 1995 when I received an educators email through a local university. It opened up a world of communication. I could communicate with colleagues in other states and time zones. It let us tap into each other’s wisdom, insights, and ideas whenever it was convenient for each of us, regardless of time of day. Within several years our school system provided email accounts to all of the employees. By 2000 email was a part of every day life and routine. My daily world had changed. And, I liked it.

It was exciting. I like feeling connected to people far away. Being able to have the New York Times and BBC News at my fingertips makes keeping up with world events easier. I have access to libraries and museums around the world. And, so much music is available. Inspiration comes in the form of online essays, posts, pictures……..

When I reflect now, email was just the beginning. Email laid the path for the acceptance of all of the digital changes to come. Over time engaging with the internet and social media became regularized. As it all became more a part of my every day life it changed for me. It was emerging as an obligation. No longer a tool to enhance communication but rather a tether to expectations.

I have pondered and reflected on technology and digital media and the way I interact with it. I have learned that my tendency toward ritual and rhythm make it very easy for me to succumb to the pull of available technology. I realized I reach for my phone while waiting in lines, at red lights, on elevators, in carpool. All those little moments that occur throughout the day, where I could revel in the found time to think, breathe, notice, I fill with technology.

I know that when I am engaged with nature or creating I feel better. I sleep better. I learn better. I interact with people better. I think clearer. But my ritual, habit, dare I say addiction, to this technology interrupts my overall well-being.

I researched and read about technology’s impact on health and well-being. Just take sleep. We need 6-8 hours of deep, restful sleep, in order for our bodies to reset and recuperate from the day. While we sleep our bodies go to work repairing our cells, setting our circadian rhythm, balancing our hormones, making sure our systems are ready for the hard work of protecting our memory and immune system, and decreasing our risk of certain health conditions.

My work days are long – 6:30am – 4:30 pm and sometimes longer – and are often very stress-filled. When I feel over worked and over stressed my cortisol levels are high. When my cortisol levels are high while I sleep, my body can’t repair and actually sleep. “High evening cortisol makes you feel like you don’t need rest, at the time when you actually need it most. You can have trouble falling asleep or sleeping deeply. This depletes your adrenals, which heal at night. Depleting your adrenals can cause neurotransmitter levels to decline, including serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine. The lack of sleep makes it harder to sleep because of stress and high cortisol, and it becomes an endless cycle” (https://www.saragottfriedmd.com/7-faqs-on-cortisol/).

Layer on top of that, the blue light of my devices. That light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that needs to rise for optimal sleep, and the light disrupts circadian cycles. So when I am checking my phone, “just one more time” before bed, I am making it even harder for my body to do its work.

And so, the Vernal Equinox and Supermoon emerged as an opportunity to reflect even deeper and to listen to my inner voice that has just been waiting to be heard. I am radically choosing my self and my family over the obligations of digital media. It’s time for me to adjust my interactions with digital media and to create new habits. Still in the digital world but not tethered to it. A digital detox. A digital cleanse. A digital sabbatical. A digital time-out. Whatever label fits.

Here are my goals:
1. Technology-free within an hour before bed time.
2. Technology-free within an hour of awakening in the morning.
3. Technology-free Sundays.

Time to relax. Play. Unwind. Notice. Be present. Interact. Be Bored. Create.

Light is everywhere – even in the strangest of places.

I was listening to Scarlet Begonias by the Grateful Dead this morning. I caught myself smiling. My pulse and breathing slowed. I was immediately transported to a road trip in 1982 when I first heard this song. Driving down Route 213 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, car windows open, the warm summer breeze blowing through the car. Farm fields all around. Sun shining bright. I was reminded how something as simple as a song or a lyric can alter my entire mood and perspective. “Once in a while you get shown the light In the strangest of places if you look at it right.

The Grateful Dead was speaking about the yogic path long before I ever learned about Bhakti yoga, asana, svadhyaya (self study), and mantras! February has always been a hard month for me. Dark. Slow. Emotional. Things that challenge my stability and balance seem to happen in this month. That might be an overstatement but it has always felt that way. I have always looked forward to the end of February and the beginning of March. This year was different. I found the light in all sorts of places. As I set an intention at the beginning of the month to relax into February, to accept myself and what happens as what is, I found light and lightness. When difficult things occurred, I named it, claimed it, and tried to set it free back out into the universe. I connected deeper to making to let my creativity have a means of expression. I opened my awareness to the daily practice of paying attention, morning meditation and chanting of mantras that speak to my mind and heart. And, each time I found light, I found myself finding it more often. February was a great month. I found it refreshing and invigorating. As February ends and March begins I take the following lessons with me:

  • Be. Here. Now. -Ram Das
  • It’s not about how much I do. It’s about showing up and paying attention.
  • Each moment, and my response to it, is a choice.
  • Bring it always back to the breath.
  • Relax into my heart and I will see the light.

Light is everywhere – even in the strangest of places.