An Exercise in Mindfulness – Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about my experience—or I should say, my expectations of my experience—with an “unplugged day.” That is, a fallow 24-hour period during which I was to be voluntarily cut off from the Internet. I am pleased to be able to report on the experience now.

Despite my wife’s skepticism (those of you who read Part One remember the withering comment my proposed experiment drew from that quarter), I was, in fact, able to do it. I highly recommend it for yoga and meditation practitioners.

I’ve been able to watch in real time the steady diminishment of my attention span as electronic overstimulation has taken its toll on my brain. Don’t get me wrong; I love the ‘net and I’m no Luddite. It’s just that perpetual stimulation from multiple sources of information does have a dulling effect on one’s mindfulness. We update our blogs, then cruise over to Twitter and Facebook to upload those updates. In the process, we come across interesting posts by colleagues and friends, and sometimes get caught up in the Sturm und Drang that seems to erupt as a result of the most benign of postings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 45 visceral, hyperbolic, and illiterate replies to a post such as, “I like dogs and children.”

Yahoo1948: o yea? wel u should get a life, cat luvers rule your probably such a looser

Wacko45: whats wrong yahoo1948? you’re mother not feed u rite when YOU were a kid? N E 1 who doesn’t like dog’s and kidz should go live in NORTH KOREA!!!!!

And so on. (Obviously, the combination of distance, anonymity, and ignorance of who one is communicating with doesn’t exactly bring out the best in us. Of course, plenty of online communications are of a very high quality, and I’m not just saying that because it’s how I earn a living. Who among us would go back to the pre-Internet days, when research for an article involved a trip to the library and hours spent hunting in the stacks or through microfilm archives? Actually, I might. I’m old enough to remember such projects with a certain degree of nostalgia. But there’s nothing like having a world of data at one’s fingertips.

Anyway, the point of this post was supposed to be the effect of unplugging. It was an expansive experience. We were traveling that weekend, so there was plenty of new scenery to take in. I found myself feeling slightly rejuvenated and a bit less mentally scattered. It was almost like meditating without meditating. Interestingly, I experienced no craving or withdrawal symptoms, so the analogue to drug addiction didn’t hold. I wonder what would have happened if I’d tried to go two days without Internet access.

I may get to find out this week. An Arctic air system is apparently conspiring with a tropical air mass from the Caribbean to knock out the power for a couple of days. Sandy may force me to go longer than just one day unplugged. (Of course, even if the hurricane kills the power, I could just take my cell phone out to the car and charge it…)



0 thoughts on “An Exercise in Mindfulness – Part Two”

  1. Oh William, I can totally relate. I try to have those days too and they’re important to sanity, on occasion, once you get over the initial panic to not have your phone by your side, or whatever the case may be. Great post!!

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