Last weekend I experimented with something lovely: Unplugging.

It was precipitated by a comment from one of my Writer’s Circle participants about wanting to feel truly relaxed.

I was reminded instantly of the deep relaxation I experience once a year when I’m up in the high Sierra mountains, truly unplugged. There’s no electricity, no telephone, no wifi, no cell service, nothing. If we do want to get in touch with the outside world, we either have to walk 15 minutes up The Road (there’s only one) to the campground to the public pay phone or drive 3.5 miles down The Road to the “City” (a rustic store that mostly sells pie and marshmallows to campers, along with a pay-per-day wifi connection).

On the plus side, making the connection hard to get to makes it a much more conscious choice. And when I’m in that world, and connected to nature and the basics of living, I am so much more relaxed than when I am at home in the thick of “so many things to do.”

I thought, why not see if I can make that feeling of true, deep relaxation happen for myself more than just once a year?

The connection for sensitives

This is highly relevant for sensitive, introverted, writers, and creatives, particularly because we tend to have such rich, complex inner lives and focus so much of our attention inwardly already. Although the technological connections we can make can feel external (because we are often connecting with others online, for instance), to me it feels like it takes us deeper inside our own heads.

And too much time inside my own head doesn’t really feel like a good thing. (A little like eating too much chocolate cake — there is a just right amount, but too much feels awful.)

Let’s face it, the constant accessibility of online activities — even or especially in the guise of “down time” — is highly overstimulating. Although we may be connecting with others, which can be considered more “extroverted,” or relaxing by playing around on Twitter, Facebook, or digital games, we’re actually taking in stimuli and information.

That information can become so overloading, it’s no wonder we feel distracted, busy, and overwhelmed. Couple that with the common sensitive’s tendency to be afraid that we’ll miss something, and you’ve got a recipe for constant overstimulation doing what might otherwise look like quietly being at home.

This is true for anything we’re engaged with that involves going deep into our own minds and not interacting in the day-to-day Real world. Even reading to excess, though I hate to say it. Again, too much of a good thing is still too much.

The invitation

So when my Writer’s Circle member raised this point, I thought, “Okay, it’s time to try a ‘technology shabbat’.”

This is something I’ve been hearing about for a while from Tiffany Shlain since I first got interested in her and her work Connected: The Film, about being interconnected in this new technological era. Like me, Shlain sees the possibilities in the amazing ways we are connected now. And she also sees the overwhelm factor associated with it.

She recently sent an email invitation to her mailing list, saying, “Will you try unplugging with me?”

My answer: Yes.

What’s a technology shabbat?

In her own home, Shlain’s family practices a regular weekly “technology shabbat,” from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, where they turn off their electronic devices and focus on their time together.

In her recent article on the subject, she notes “Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have compared the sense of technological dependency — the feeling that we must be accessible and responsive at any time and in any place — to that of drugs and alcohol.”

Case in point: It’s fascinating to me that apparently people are losing interest in visiting the mountain enclave we go to every year precisely BECAUSE it’s so hard to access phones, messages, and online accounts. But when put in the context of addiction it makes much more sense. We’ve become so accustomed to everything being at the tips of our fingers that we’ve become afraid to be without it. And to me it DOES feel like an addiction — something that’s hard to put down once I get involved in it.

So I decided to try a tech shabbat for myself.

And it was amazing.

Instead of being drawn to my phone or computer off and on all day to check email, or sucked into playing games with my son our iPad, we cleaned the house in a focused way. My son conducted experiments with glitter, water, and his sand box. I made banana bread for a family who lost a loved one recently, and I went to visit my dad who hasn’t been feeling well.

In some ways, it wasn’t anything particularly unusual or different than I might have normally done. In fact, the specific things we did we might well have done anyway.

But we did them without interruption.

I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Much. :)

I felt calmer. I felt present. I felt happier.

The real test came when it was over and time to check in again. Had disaster struck? Had anything gone awry? Would there be 18,000 emails from angry customers or desperate assistants?


All was well.

And it felt great.

What’s been interesting to notice since then is 1) how I have gone back to being highly involved in the technology again, but while 2) feeling somewhat resentful of the intrusion of it. I was reminded that when I first started my business I used to methodically shut down my computer every Friday night and not reboot it until Monday morning. And that was back before I had a cell phone or any of the myriad of ways to stay plugged in. (Does this remind anyone else of The Matrix?)

I also feel myself turning over in my mind some new rules about how I want to regularly engage with technology or not. What time and where, those kinds of things.

But mostly, it’s been an incredible reminder of a simple way to create what feels like a vacation day to me, without even leaving town. What a treat!

Your turn

Have you tried unplugging? How did you feel? How do you do it? Leave us a note in the comments and tell us about it.

Join me

I’ll be doing this again this coming Friday night at sundown. If you’d like to join me and share here (afterward, of course) about your results, please do. I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Considering that managing technology distractions is one of the things I most often deal with in my Writing Reboot sessions with clients, it’s clearly a significant issue for many people. This could really be a great experiment to try.




Your Precious Time

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to enjoying my life more.

Part of my Life Purpose is to be a Lover of Life — a Venusian goddess of fun, play, delight and savoring. Not something that comes naturally to me.

Instead, I’m more of an all work and no play kind of girl. I easily fall into a more “masculine” approach to my life and my business: I’ve inherited a strong delayed gratification mentality. I push myself hard to get to the outcome I want, delaying rewards. I’m better (there’s always more) at not neglecting the self-care the way I used to, but I don’t get around to the really fun, delicious, Life Savoring that I want to be enjoying. At least not until recently.

In part because of my work with my Artist’s Way Accountability and Support Group and in part because of my own calling in this direction, I’ve been paying close attention to spending my precious time wisely in work or at play.

Here’s what I’ve been putting my focus on, and I’d love to hear how you’re inspired by this and how you decide to use your precious time:

1. Enjoying what I’m actually doing, no matter how simple or mundane.

As an Enneagram Four, it’s all too easy for me to get all dramatic about doing “special” things (you know, grand sweeping gestures and the like) and to poo-poo the ordinary and the mundane.

But those seemingly “little” moments are what add up to the beauty of life — watching my son run around with other kids on the lawn. Folding laundry while listening to my husband read to our little guy. Snuggling up watching a movie together. You know.

2. Prioritizing “Real” Life activities.

As a creative entrepreneur who operates largely in the virtual world (blogging and writing on my computer, speaking with clients by phone or Skype), I’m making a point to emphasize more Real Life experiences too, like spending time in the garden with my hands in the rich soil, creating community experiences in our neighborhood like the fabulous progressive dinner we had over the weekend, or simply sitting in the sunshine on my front porch while holding coaching calls.

3. Turning off the virtual world.

I’m also making a point to unplug more from the iTouch, Twitter, Facebook, and my computer. They are seductively engaging, but I find my time swirling away from me into a vortex of web searches and information indulgences.

4. Taking small daily steps to move me towards my Big Dream rather than looking for single massive actions.

This is a big pitfall for me — I look for giant blocks of time to do one project, but then never QUITE get around to it. I’m learning to take “turtle steps,” as Martha Beck trained coach Jill Winski calls them, consistently. And consistently again.

I received a reminder of this on Twitter via @AdviceToWriters over the weekend from Anthony Trollope (a 19th century novelist):

For me, this includes taking small steps to take care of the business of living, like keeping up with my book keeping and paperwork, as well as the business of living my Life Purpose. That way, I don’t get overwhelmed and feel unable to keep moving ahead with my Big Dream.

5. Choosing a grounded approach.

There’s a lot of conversation around integrating the masculine with the feminine. About being goddesses in our own lives. I agree.

I think it’s also about being grounded in remembering what really matters. For me, that is my inner sense of well-being, my connection with my son, my relationship with my husband, my connections with the communities of people I care about, and fulfilling my Big Dream.

Despite what my mind and ego like to say to the contrary about achieving my Big Dream, it’s not ONLY about “making it happen” or “getting it done.” I want to ENJOY my life along the way, have FUN while I’m doing it, no matter what my current circumstances are — no matter how much money I have or don’t have, no matter how much sleep I’m getting or not getting, no matter how many clients I have or don’t have, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

How are you spending your precious time?

I’d love it if you’d share with me the most powerful way this article has inspired you to think about enjoying YOUR precious time.


Coming Attractions

~> May 3rd, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.

~>June 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2011. Mark your calendar! My brand new Life Purpose Breakthrough Group event series for getting you back on track with what you were put here to do will be happening on June 9th, 16th, and 23rd — only 4 spots available in each group. Find out more here. Three groups are available: Intuition & Inner Wisdom, Creativity and Big Vision. Which one is yours?

~>May 26th to May 28th, 2011. Attending Andrea J. Lee’s Wealthy Thought Leader event via simulcast.

~>May 28th, 2011. Next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.