Last weekend I did something radical (for me). I turned off my phone at sundown and didn’t turn it on again until Saturday night. I started to write that I didn’t pick it up again until Saturday night, but then I remembered that isn’t true. I picked it up automatically when I woke up in the morning. I picked it up again when I was curious about the weather for the day. Then another time when I was thinking about a friend and wanted to check in. Each time I put it back down.
Here’s why: I was looking for peace. Also, I was looking for honesty. I made a conscious decision to prioritize both, believing passionately in the concept that I get better at what I practice.
The week before was The Shabbat Project. For The Shabbat Project, Jews of all kinds practice observing Shabbat, paying attention to their practice in a more focused way then they do on other weeks. As a JWRP ‘graduate’ there was a fair amount about The Shabbat Project in my Facebook feed and in the What’sApp group text from my Israel trip group. I decided it didn’t really have to do with me, because I’m already thoughtful about my Shabbat observance and don’t require outside direction and community support.
(There are many moments when I don’t seem to have left adolescence)
When my trip leader suggested that our group members take the opportunity to shut off our phones for Shabbat, I thought to myself, “I already do that, I don’t text on Shabbat.”.
Except for when I do.
I confess (I know – wrong religion, or at the very least wrong time of year) that I often get stuck in the commandedness of these things. I don’t like to be bossed. I don’t like to be told. (See adolescent comment above.) I don’t react well.
But, I’m not 14 any more. I’m 44. I know things about myself that I might not have known as an adolescent. I know that while I don’t do well with being commanded, that my most powerful motivation comes from being inspired. I know that as a liberal Jew, that Judaism and my Jewish communities are exactly that for me – inspiration.
So, I let myself be inspired. I turned off my phone.
Here’s what turning off my phone helped me practice:
Patience. Every time I thought about something I wanted to search (up) on my phone, I thought that it could wait.
Awareness. Since I wasn’t distracting myself with my phone, I could hear my thoughts. A lot of my thoughts were planning related thoughts. Planning thoughts take me out of the moment ALL THE TIME.
I was also aware of just how much of a reflex turning to my phone has become in moments of boredom or discomfort. I don’t need a reason – I don’t need to be waiting for an email or text. I don’t need to look anything up. There is simply the desire to reach for my phone about every 10 minutes or so.
Connection. As I had taken my principle tool for numbing and distraction away, I focused on what was in front of me – usually people, sometimes our puppy. I paid attention. I invested. I had time. There was no text waiting to be responded to or sent.
Joy. There was something about opening up this space and time that led me to seek joy. I found myself thinking, what can I do that will feel good? What would be fun?
As the hours tick down to sundown, I’m looking forward to turning my phone off again. I like the challenge. I like the sense of affiliation with every other Jew who is doing the same. I like modelling putting my phone down for my family. I like how I felt practicing seeking peace.
I love the idea of seeking peace. For me. For the world. I think we all need more peace.
In September, I spent a day at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto in silent meditation. I was acutely aware of the agitation of my body and mind. It felt like both were shaking regularly. I have a tremendous amount of goodness and happiness in my life. Still, I feel a lot of agitation. Until that day in September, I wasn’t aware of how much.
I want more peace.
I’m so aware of the agitation in the world – all around me, so much of the time. It’s everywhere. Agitation is a fantastic force for change, but I don’t think I need so much of it. I don’t think our world needs so much of it.
Be the change you want to bring to the world. I find those words so inspiring. Thus, I practice seeking peace. I think peace is something that we can give. I think that it is something that we can find. I love thinking about how peace is something that we can build.
So, when I turn my phone off in several hours, I’m going to build some more peace in my life.