I’m writing this blog from Melbourne, Australia (one of my favorite places on earth). I’m one week into a twelve-date tour which will include shows in some of my most beloved Aussie cities like Sydney and Melbourne, as well as some festivals in more rural areas like Tasmania. One of the things I love most about being on tour and being away is that it gives me a chance to observe myself out of my usual element and create new daily rituals.
Today for the first time in a LONG time, I woke up and decided not to check my phone and all the trappings of email, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as I often do while lying in bed.
I quickly realized that in the space created by this choice, I could be with my own thoughts and feelings, something I believe in strongly but that I’m noticing I don’t do as much as I could. And my deVICES (iPhone, laptop, etc.) are a huge culprit.
I’ve always known that having a pocket-sized computer with access to a bottomless well of distractions could stand in the way of working through a to-do list, but what I’ve overlooked is the shallow connection it has caused in my relationship with myself, and others.
This is because it’s so easy to hide in cyberworld instead of REALLY living in the real world, or even scarier, navigating our own inner world. What I’ve been observing in myself is that whenever a thought or feeling comes up that I don’t “like”, I go to my menu of options and plug into the rolling stream of distractions and before I know it, I’ve successfully avoided the thing I was escaping.
But have I really? The truth is that the more time we spend scrolling our newsfeeds and clearing our inboxes, the more and more cluttered our own internal inbox ends up getting. Before we know it, our best ideas are buried so far down that we never get to them, the emotions that we most desperately need to work through and FEEL get neglected and we end up with an internal backlog that results in a pervasive sense of unease and listlessness.
Have you ever spent hours on the computer getting stuff done and seeking the sense of peace that comes with an empty inbox and list of crossed off to-do’s only to feel uneasy and unsettled? Yup, you know what I’m talking about.
Well, I’m no stranger to that feeling and I’m realizing that all the energy and attention that I invest in online communication, texting, social media and all the rest of it is coming at a cost. Most of all, it has been coming at the expense of time that I could be spending being present, going deeper within, cultivating new ideas and tuning into to my own creative voice.
The same thing applies to our relationship with others. The sight of people sitting across from each other while sharing a meal or a coffee, but being totally distracted and disconnected because they are looking at their phones is all too common these days. Instead of really engaging with one another, being fully present and giving people our full attention, we end up having more shallow interactions and the kind of intimacy and closeness that we all deeply long for continues to evade us. And what for? We may have seen the most recent tweet or status update, we may have responded to that email or message in record time, but is it really worth it if it costs us what our soul yearns for and results in that same feeling of emptiness and disconnectedness?
Seeing all of this so clearly in the space of this morning’s simple abstention has inspired me to go further with this and see what comes. My objective is to practice mindfulness around the use of my devices for the next week by keeping it to the absolute necessary minimum and by setting aside a specific window of time on certain days for communications that NEED to be sent out.
I know it’s going to take some discipline. I know I may miss some stuff and that it will be a challenge to let texts, emails, and the like go unacknowledged at times. I also know it’s for a great cause, so I’m going for it.
My hope is that the space it affords me will help me to be more present for myself and others, to have greater awareness of my internal dialogue, and to connect more deeply to the voice of the Divine within me. In that space and with that connection as my foundation, I know a deeper sense of calm and peace will be available and that I will more easily find the expression of my own creative voice. In fact, I feel as though it’s already happening.
Chris Assaad is a singer/songwriter and inspirational artist from Toronto who left a promising career in law several years ago to pursue his dream of a career in music. Since then, Chris has been actively using his voice to enCOURAGE others to follow their dreams, express their creativity and live life to the fullest.