I was on a ‘digital detox’ and personal retreat recently, and I watched the time slowly pass, purposely with not a lot to do. I was spending 12 days on a self-retreat in the heart of the English countryside… in the middle of winter.
I wanted to see what happens if I don’t have access to a screen for that period of time.
I had little possessions: a few clothes, a toothbrush and a few paperbacks… No smartphone. No laptop. No audiobooks. No music. Nothing digital at all.
I was uncontactable.
That’s the longest time I have had absolutely no access to a phone since they were invented.
I spent time doing nothing, going for long walks, eating food, being silent, meditating and laughing with new friends.
Was it fun? Not always. I also got bored, felt tired, heard all sorts of crazy thoughts pass through my head and was a little frustrated when I couldn’t listen to my favourite talks when I couldn’t sleep at night. That last one is my usual habit – I like podcasts.
But I also had a wonderful time and learnt so much! I had to work through my feelings to enjoy the benefits of the time off.
Here are some of the things I discovered. You may like to implement some of these into your life too, if they resonate:
Tip 1: Have A Screen-Free Day…or Week
Without my phone I noticed two great things that happened: I got lost a lot, and didn’t take a single photo. And they were both joyful.
Getting Lost = More Adventures
I literally got lost much more often on my walks.
Luckily, that wasn’t a problem. If you’re goal orientated, the destination is more important than the journey. And so getting lost is frustrating.
But if the journey is more important than the destination, then getting lost isn’t really a problem. A cliche, but so true. It’s a pleasure and privilege to explore what you discover.
No Photos = Just Looking
Several times I saw a beautiful sunset or stunning view of the rolling hills and atmospheric sky, and reached into my pocket to take a picture. Alas, no phone.
So, I spent more time just looking. And through just looking, I can still clearly recall the lonely tree on the horizon surrounded by acres of fields, whilst the sun was setting behind me on a crisp, winter’s afternoon.
Most of us nowadays spend so much time looking at screens. I think I do too much too, and I’m a so-called mindfulness expert!
Do you find yourself stare at screens all day at work, spend lunchtimes and your journey home sending emails from your phone, and spend evenings on social media or watching videos on multiple screens?
The average American spends almost 11 hours looking at screens according to a CNN report.
If that’s you, that’s over half your waking day. What effect do you think that’s having?
There’s growing research on the impact on both children and adults.
Tip 2: Try Spending Some Time in a TOTALLY Silent Space
The place I stayed at was quiet. Very quiet. In fact, at night, it was totally silent. So much so, I couldn’t even sleep on the first night!
I live in London, and there’s always a quiet background noise that I hadn’t noticed until I’d visited this centre. As I write this blog, back in the suburbs of north London, I can hear a car alarm in the distance, television or radio on and conversations. And this is a quiet suburb.
I know that our own minds are far noisier than any external sound. But if you can organise it, spend time in a quiet room, or a place far enough from a city to enjoy some quiet.
If you have children, try arranging a night or two away from them if they’re old enough. If you can, save up some money and take a trip, especially if you feel you need the silence.
The combination of no screens and the silent vibe meant I ended up sleeping for 10 hours on one of my first nights! I obviously needed it.
Tip 3: Let Nature Be Your Greatest Teacher. And be Weird.
I went for long walks. A few hours at a time. Well, that’s a lot for me!
I loved enjoying the birds, especially the robins (like the one pictured at the top). So cute. And took a closer look at the trees and redwoods. Amazing how they combine the stillness of their trunk with the flexibility of their branches to stand tall for hundreds of years.
Here’s a weird but effective tip. Talk to trees. And the birds. Chat to the sky. Ask questions. You can even ask questions to your own body which is part of nature.
How are you doing body? How are you keeping, mind? How can I care for you, dear heart?
Go ahead and give it a try. You may be surprised at how well it works when you sense a response!
- Watch a webinar with Shamash here.
- Read the original and full version of this blog post here via Shamash’s website.