During last weekend I was blessed to have been part of a ~48 hour silent prayer and meditation retreat. At the retreat, all electronic devices had to be completely turned off. Therefore, my beloved MacBook Pro and iPhone, were left in my briefcase, my Fitbit was replaced with mala beads, and my iPad was replaced with a pen and notepad. The weekend consisted of several guided meditations of various lengths and styles, break-out sessions where you were permitted to speak only about your current feelings and insights, and ample personal time to do solitary meditation, prayer, journaling, reading, etc. It was truly an amazing experience to simply get-away from the world for a few days and focus solely on inner-work and prayer, and in essence have a clean re-boot to start the new year on a positive footing.
The lack of electronic devices actually caused a bit of initial discomfort and annoyance, because I, like most people, am constantly surrounded by electronic noise. My morning and evening commute is filled with news and music from my radio, cell phone conversations, and GPS traffic alerts. At the office I am tethered to my computer and office phone, and at home there is a constant stream of electronic noise from the TV, my son’s electronic toys, my computer and iPad, etc. I’m also used to instantly finding the answer to any question, and being in constant contact with friends and peers via social media. However, at the retreat I had to rely on making notes if I really wanted to looking something up later, and I had to resign myself to being out of the social media loop for a few days.
One of the overarching themes that I kept going back to over and over again throughout the weekend, and the days since, is the need to slow-down and not only experience the present moment, but embrace silence. Although, I have tried to practice mindfulness techniques in my daily life for the past several years (hence the name of this blog), when I was able to take a step back at the retreat, I was really surprised to see how much I had unconsciously let the buzz and clatter of daily life get in the way of actually experiencing life.
Instead of truly spending time in the now, and fully experiencing life, It seems over the past 6 to 9 months I have slowly allowed my attention to be divided between my physical activities, and whatever electronic media is humming around in the background. So in essence, instead of living in the now, and actually fully experiencing life, I have allowed life to be clouded, and even become somewhat consumed, by electronic distractions, that serve no real purpose other than to distract me. This poignantly came to me during one of my silent sitting periods, where I though back to how when I normally play with my sons, my attention is usually divided between them and some sort of electronic device. Even my meals had become overran with electronic buzz, and all the joyous extra calories and pounds that comes with mindless or half-distracted eating.
Accordingly, by unplugging from external noises and distractions, I was able to re-embrace my inner silence, and reconnect with the things that are really important.
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself, and know that everything in life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given for us to learn from.” – Elisabeth Kulber-Ross
– Be mindful of the electronic noise around you. If you aren’t watching TV or listening to the radio, simply turn them off. This saves you from being bombarded by useless noise and advertisements that you don’t really need or care about.
– Be mindful of how much time you spend on electronic devices. I am a bit of a social media junkie, because I enjoy perusing Facebook, various blogs, more than your average bear, and I also enjoy surfing the web for entertainment and news. However, a good deal of this is just really a useless distraction, so I have resolved to spend more time in silent contemplation.
– Be present in your relationships. Practice deep listening in your conversations, and truly connect with those around you.