Last week I had the unique experience of running my own retreat, at home, just for me. It was borne out of necessity as the Canterbury floods prevented me from getting to an intended retreat.
I gained such a lot from the experience, some of it I am sure I wouldn’t have learned if I had gone away. In fact, what I learned was only to be learned by staying at home. I was about to face my addiction to technology.
My calendar was completely empty, which in itself was a very liberating experience. To be at home for a full week with no appointments, no commitments, or work expectations was heaven. Spaciousness was at my fingertips. There was only one thing that would get between me and happiness. My smartphone. More accurately, me, using my smartphone.
One of the things I had been looking forward to in going away for a retreat was knowing there would be no internet. So here I was, at home, all the conditions were right for a great week, of meditating, journaling, relaxing. Except, of course, there was the internet, which if I didn't handle it well, was going to entirely rob me of any depth, peace, or happiness.
So right from the get-go, I set some very clear boundaries about how to engage with technology. Om my god it was such a relief. Such a relief to put down my phone and notice my life again. Instantly my nervous system just let go.
It is amazing just how much happiness flows when there is a sense of spaciousness, unhurriedness.I
There was time to just relax into my life, and what a joy that was. Time to chat with a friend, time to enjoy the sunset, time to aimlessly explore rock pools, time to listen to music and cook nice food. I noticed how kind my children are, and how beautiful my dogs are.
Simple things, but so nourishing.
This has always been my preferred way to live, simply, and experiencing the chores of daily living in their full sacred expression.
Being at home with young children was my happy place. So many chores, so much real daily living to be done, in a gentle, present kind of way. Always a healthy meal to prepare, washing to hang on the line, walks to be taken. Simple things steeped in love and presence.
On this retreat, I reflected on how there was less of that in my life these days. Some of the magic of simple living had gone. Somehow I wasn't so fully in the simple joy of my life anymore, despite my spiritual practices. Much of it had to do with the grip technology had on me. Why was I looking at images of other people's lives on Instagram and not even noticing the Kereru in my front yard? I mean really, wtf!
It was because that is what is happening, to all of us. It’s the nature of the brain and technology. And the fact that most of the technology we are engaged in is built on a business model. There are clever, rich companies playing us, very well.
Waking up to this was a biggie for me. Not in a knee-jerk “ I hate FB kind of way”. But in recognizing that I now need to put some effort into bringing my life back into balance by taking control over how I use technology otherwise it just uses me.
Technology has crept more and more into my life, without me even noticing. I have my ph on me most of the time, for no good reason. I have become tethered to it. The unconscious crawl of addiction.
It is such a familiar process. In the past, it was alcohol, cigarettes, and pot. What always starts as a conscious choice slowly morphs into an unconscious need. It crosses a line where it starts to call the shots.
This one is a little different in that the damage seems less obvious. I am not doing unsafe things, publicly embarrassing myself, or directly undermining my health in an obvious way.
But it’s definitely stealing from me. I have temporarily lost my freedom, again. And I am on a mission to get it back.
I know what to expect. There is always such excitement and commitment initially, followed by the implementation of new ways of living that are not driven by addiction. Some of this feels good, like building up a good sweat does, but some of it also feels bad. The anxiety, discomfort, agitation that arises when you don’t respond to the internal urges.
So I am ready, going in with eyes wide open.
My plan isn’t to throw the genie out with the bottle. There are some aspects of technology that I deeply value, and are very helpful in my life. It’s the other stuff, the binge scrolling, the multi-tasking with 6 browsers open, the checking my emails, again, and again, that I aim to stop.