Pagan Spirit Gathering is coming up and as I try to work out if I’ll be able to go and for how long, I think about what it will be like to spend a week without the internet. For most of my waking day I am connected to the internet, keeping an eye on e-mail and news. Lately I’ve spent more time looking at a computer screen than I have a book, but I can remember when this wasn’t so.
It’s so easy to get caught up in “staying connected” that we forget the real connections happen face to face. I’m fortunate to have friends that invite me out to lunch on those days when I’m rabidly glued to my laptop. No digital media can replace laughter and conversation.
There’s so much noise on the internet it’s hard to think sometimes. Our minds weren’t meant to be bombarded with such cold information in such a packaged format. I think it’s time to change the way we deal with our increasingly connected world.
Everyone needs a day of rest, of festival, of retreat, of contemplation. Set up a day of rest at regular intervals. Maybe it’s once a week or twice a month, but turn off your technology and focus on things within your physical space: people, plants, animals, food, books, music. Focus on how your body feels, the ambiance of your surroundings, the textures of everything you touch. Be fully present.
The internet is not a bad thing, but like any tool it must be used wisely. Don’t let your brain become accustomed to tiny bits of information until it’s hard to focus on in-depth articles and issues. For part of your online day focus on only one thing at a time. If you are reading the news, shut down your e-mail and IM. If you are responding to e-mails, turn off twitter updates and chat features. Immerse yourself in one task until complete. If your work doesn’t require an internet connection at that moment, perhaps you should disconnect so that you can focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.
The internet isn’t the only part of modern life that can distract you. I’ve worked in offices where people are constantly chatting, walking past, looking for things on my desk and generally never giving me a quiet moment. Sometimes in those instances I need soothing music and a large set of earphones to block out the hubbub around me.
Think about where you find your senses overwhelmed. Think about things you don’t fully appreciate. Develop a plan to block out the excess noise and focus on things that are truly important to you: people in your life, your environment, and issues dear to your heart. Make it part of your practice to be mindful in these things and see if you feel less hectic and harried at the end of your day.