Sitting in the comfort of the sinking sofa in Mabel Dodge Luhan House, writing this note, I know I have adjusted to the high altitude here in Taos New Mexico, to the daily writing practices and readings, and maybe even to being off line for the 7th day now.
Attending this writing retreat has been like learning a second language for me. As we sit in a circle, after putting pen to paper following a writing prompt, I am in awe at the words that have been written by many of the women (and find myself even now thinking they would have had an eloquent way of describing what I am trying to describe – comparison!). The retreat exceeded my expectations, 6 days in a community of 25 women, starting the day with dance, ending with yoga and guided meditation, solid group process, great writing ideas, and in the beautiful setting of Taos. And then there is being unplugged and offline.
I had suspected that a significant part of my ‘learning’ might be to be off line for the week. Jen, our writing teacher, had requested that we plan to be off line – phones, computers – as much as possible during the retreat. This is particularly important when writing, where we are often sitting in front of a computer and compelled to do Google research, take a break and check mail, Facebook or whatever our inclination. And, being off line is scary. Without that distraction – my computer, my phone – I am developing a closer relationship to that part of me that uses my habits and addictions to get past what is really needing to be attended to. It is my favourite distraction. Even as I am writing this, I notice my desire to search on line for the meaning of a word or piece of information, like the actual altitude in Taos, or software that supports taking chunks of time off line, or checking Facebook to see what my grandkids are doing. But I know all to well how seductive that is, like seventeen year old sweethearts alone in the living room.
On day four of the retreat I walked into the living room as we were waiting for dinner, and a cluster of women were standing with eyes and fingers on phones. Suddenly I was back at breaks at conferences and retreats, or in airport lounges, where eyes are turned to ipads and phones. Well, I say to myself, I have been good, I will just do one email – and I do. Later that night I am thinking that doing a couple emails tomorrow won’t hurt……ha, Jen is wise because the next morning she reminded us that it was important to turn toward the retreat for the next few days, because it would be so compelling to turn toward home. Including of course, email. Caught!
Well the fact is I loved it – being unplugged. It gave me such ease to not be pulled away by my work, family, newsletters, and that multitude of distractions. And it became abundantly clear how addictive this is. Both attending this retreat and being off line have been radical for me, real acts of self care.
Now the challenge is to maintain both the writing practice and being off line some of the time when I get home…and I love the suggestions I have heard for doing this. Here is what I intend to do:
1. Set my timer for an hour, and with Wi-Fi off, write as I have done here, for creativity or a project. Keep in mind that this is what I want to do on an average day, not when grandkids are here or when I am facilitating. Have it blend into my life.
2. Find a writing, Wi-Fi off, partner who is in a similar situation. Support one another.
3. If I want to stop early and move on do something else. Ask myself “Am I running away, or is this a pause?”.
4. Keep asking…”does the seductive lure of email, texting, googling, face booking keep me from connecting to what is important, and to myself?
We’d love to hear your thoughts about being unplugged and offline. Do you have strategies that support you in doing this? Does it help you tend to you?