My Digital Declutter Experience
I began a digital declutter on January 1st. This experience was offered by the writer and professor, Cal Newport. In his book “Deep Work,” Cal tells us that the internet and addictively designed social media apps are robbing of us our time and making us unable to concentrate. These products are robbing our ability to work and think deeply, and affecting our ability to pay attention and be productive.
In yoga, the concept of Dharana is one of the eight limbs. Dharana is our ability to concentrate the mind on a thought or task as preparation for meditation. As I thought about digital clutter, I thought on the many times I have found myself wasting time scrolling on social media, or browsing the internet when I could have been doing something more productive. As I read “Deep Work,” I started to realize that these seeming harmless apps may be causing much more harm than I thought. If you are interested in learning more, you can watch his Tedtalk or, I suggest you too read the book as I won’t go into all those details here. When Cal offered a test group to participate in a January “Digital Declutter” I took the plunge and unplugged.
He gave us many choices for participation. I opted to completely stay away from all social media. For me that meant absolutely no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. FB and IG are my two big online apps. I removed all notifications from my phone so it wasn’t buzzing at me all day. I have been checking email regularly (that means several times a day, completely off by 7-8 PM each night). I feel that email is an area I could work on for myself, checking less frequently.
I use Facebook for a lot of promotional work for my home studio, classes, trainings, and special events. using their “Create Event” feature. Inevitably, event promo leads to needless scrolling and wasting of time. People do sometimes get in touch with me about classes through my studio page on FB. So this is my biggest area of struggle. I have not been on to check this at all and I do have some studio events coming up that I am not posting about. I do worry just a little bit that I am missing out on some dialogue and promo. But I am not worried enough to break this peaceful session away from distraction.
Benefits and Joys
I must say that I am actually enjoying this time away from social media; I am enjoying being more intentional with my online use. I love my head space right now! At first, I had this brief twitch whenever I turned on the computer to go check my page. But now I don’t even want to check. In fact, I am not looking forward to going back to these services once January is over! I enjoy not having to bother with those sites at all. AND, I am making TONS of art in between my teaching responsibilities- putting in 2-5 hours per day painting. I am thrilled with how frequently I am painting! I feel like I am being much more intentional and useful with my time.
My thoughts on going forward are to only allow myself to use social media once per week, strictly for promo and communication. I thought to myself, I use an online accounting service to log my income and expenses, why not think of social media like that? I don’t desire to use my accounting service more than once per week. Social Media should be a tool to help me promote when needed, but I suspect I can use it far less and still be effective. We shall see what happens.
I seek a sweet inner quiet space. I seek a time for deep reflection and deep creative, reflective, and spiritual work. I desire to spend time being creative and to cultivate connections with care and attention. I am participating in a January “digital declutter”. I hope to spend time each day out in nature and to be fully present with my family and loved ones, to not be distracted by tech devices plinking away with texts and mindless use of my precious time. I have already stepped back from social media use and it has left me with a much better sense of self and mind.
I will be stepping away from all social media use during the month of January and I will engage in limited technology use. I will check email, manage this website, and you may contact me here. I will also send a few hand written, and even typewriter typed, letters during the month of January. Remember when we had penpals? It may be time to return to that level of connection and attention.
I hope to do some deep work in this quiet time away from draining distractions. After January, I will revisit my usage and decide how to best move forward.
Be well, and use your precious time with great care.
“We breathe, we pulse, we regenerate. our hearts beat, our minds create, our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds well used is a lifetime.” ~Mr. Magorium
For The Love of Stuff
Over the past month, Josh and I spent nearly every day either packing up every item we own into a box, or deciding it was no longer needed and was to be recycled or junked. Every single item in our house. Luckily we had been downsizing and decluttering since we returned from India in March of 2014. We had reduced our book collection by 3/4, our clothes by about the same, and had removed many furniture items, children’s toys, and so much more. We thought we wouldn’t have too much to move and we didn’t have that many “things” left. Well, nothing brings the reality of your belongings right up in your face as much as having to pack them all up and move them.
After we packed, over the course of just under two weeks, we moved 98% of our possessions into a 16′ x 17′ storage unit. We are staying with family while we continue our house hunt. Moving your belongings into storage is a humbling, and very tiring, experience. Most of our belongings are sitting in a quiet and lonely storage facility. At least there is central air. Josh has said he has dreams of taking everything out of the unit and reorganizing it so it is packed more neatly. That is about the last thing I want to do! But I do think about certain items that would be better served by moving them on than by continuing to store them. I think when we finally get to taking them out of the unit, I might have two piles: one to keep, one to get rid of.
Why do we love our stuff so much? What drives us to purchase and keep so many things, from big furniture and appliances to little trinkets and items that we never use or don’t really need? What are we really holding onto? When I think about the energy and resources that go into making all these items, creating facilities to sell them, and then moving them about, I wonder what we are really trying to do. There are about 400 storage units in the facility we are using, and 90% of them are full. Our society is drowning in its own stuff, and we are stripping the earth of its resources just to spend more money on more things that we do not really need.
Sure, I recognize that we do actually use some of these items, and that some items may improve our quality of life or even be very necessary. But then I think about other countries where they make do with very little resources and seem to get by just fine. Maybe there is a middle ground out there? Maybe we could find a way to manage with just a little of what we need — think of all the time we would save by not purchasing, fixing, storing, and moving all of those unnecessary items. Maybe we could start examining what it is we own, what it really costs us, other cultures, and the planet to have those items, and perhaps start to envision a new way?
Let me ask you: When was the last time you went through every item you owned and questioned its true need and value?
Going Gray and Ditching the Dye, Journal Entry 2
I had a moment this weekend where I felt like shaving my head. I only have about a half an inch of gray/white roots coming in, but I felt ready to get all that dyed hair off my head and let my silvers shine. I sent a picture of what I was thinking of doing to my mom, and within minutes she was calling me with an intervention. Mom and I are doing this gray thing together, and we started at the same time (she is a week ahead of me). Josh was standing by with his shiny and sharp electric razor in hand. After I got off the phone with mom, I trimmed a tiny bit off the ends, and we put the razor away.
I have done a great deal of self work with my yoga and meditation practice to become a patient person, and I feel I have come a long way. But there are still moments where impatience can run high. It is not that I don’t like the way my hair looks, that doesn’t feel like an issue right now. Instead, I feel ready to be silver. Usually when I make a decision, when I announce it and I accept it mentally, I take it on right away. Indecision is not my work. My inner work over time has been to sit still and wait for better timing or to let things take their natural course. I am struggling with that in a big way with trying to sell our house, but that is a whole other blogging category…
Mom told me to wait a few more weeks or months, if I possibly could, and then to do that pixie cut. She said I would regret shaving my head, big time, and there would be no way to change it if I didn’t like it. Before I decided to go gray, I thought I might let my hair grow out to my shoulders. But since deciding to go gray, I feel that for me it would be better to go back to short hair and then to let it grow out all silver. I like that idea quite a bit, so now I feel committed.
I am in a few Facebook groups about going gray. If you are on Facebook and are thinking about going gray, I recommend joining one of these support groups: Silver Foxy, Going Gorgeously Gray, and Gray and Proud. These groups offer support and community for those times when you wonder “am I doing the right thing”, or “how do I handle the transition”, and “should I keep my hair long or go pixie?” Sometimes, we need to see or know that someone else is going through the same thing, or that they have the same doubts or questions, and it makes us feel connected. These groups have been positive, supportive, and full of joy. I see in these groups that women, and even a few men, struggle with this process as it brings up many insecurities. Should I cut my long hair? What will people think of those white roots, will they think I am letting myself go? What if they call me granny? While these groups do offer support to people, the truth is, that bigger work has to be done on your own.
One of the things that has helped me decide to go gray is my yoga practice. Yoga encourages us to love ourselves where we are at, and to embrace our inner goodness. Yoga encourages us to question our thoughts and to investigate why we might hold a particular belief that might not be serving us. My deep investigation of Yoga philosophy has helped me to understand that there are many options and ways to approach a situation and to feel less attached to outcome and expectations.
So for now, I will not shave my head. While writing this post, my mom called to check in and see if I had shaved my head after all. I reassured her that no, I had not. “Good,” she said. “I didn’t shave mine either.”
Let us create a new story. There is great uncertainty in the future. We cannot expand infinitely and exponentially on a finite planet. In “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari, he says that what distinguishes the human species from all other species on this planet, is our belief in our stories. Stories define our entire existence, and we take them very seriously. One only has to look at the major religions of the world to see that this is true. The economy, capitalism, is an agreed upon story that can be changed. The earth, water, air, and dependent species, are not stories. They are the reality we depend on for our very existence. They suffer because of our agreed upon story of “progress” and “economics”. It is a false story and one that will fail us, my friends. That story has an ending. We can go on pretending that it is ok to purchase and throw away, day after day, to look the other way To strip the land of its blood and infest our water with our greed, but it will catch up with us. Now we have a leader who fully exemplifies this story of capitalism, debt, and wanton greed. He has shown us greed, racism, misogyny, and other disgraceful traits. Is it any surprise that our choices have led us here? How have we participated in this story of the economy being more important than caring for others? Can we own our part, and begin a new story?
I try every day to live a true life, a life to my ideals in every action. I have much work to do to live better. But I often feel it does not matter what I do if others don’t try to change, especially our leaders. No, I cannot be at the protests this weekend. I have my work that is the yoga training that I run. I set the dates for this work over a year ago. I hold myself to the commitment I made to these students. In my work, I am training people to not just teach Asana, though that is a part of it. I am teaching people to think and to question their actions and their choices. We spend much time pondering over our mind and it’s thought processes. We learn to grow and be thoughtful humans. They are being trained and certified to be teachers on their own, to bring these life changing practices to others all around the community. I feel this is the most important work I have to offer the world. There is a lot of work to be done, to be undone really. Let’s hope it is not too late. My heart is with all those taking a stand this weekend.
If like me, you can not be there to protest on that one singular day, can you do the bigger work of taking on a new story? Can you envision a new way to participate in the world and make each day, each choice, count towards the creation of a new story? Can you slowly disengage in the story that is not only no longer working, but is destroying the water, earth, air, and countless other species?
This is the work that needs to be done. As story creatures, let us begin a new tale.
Seven Things I Love About Summer
Some folks say that to live in a warm climate with lush green all year grows old and boring. Some folks say they need the change in seasons to feel connected and find an internal rhythm. I can’t speak for the boredom of green all year, as I have never experienced it myself. But I do trust that I would miss the change of the seasons were I to live in a more tropical location. Part of practicing contentment is to find joy and peace no matter the weather. The transition of seasons brings to mind the Buddhist ideal to accept the present moment as it is, for to wish or long for something different is the root of all suffering. While I do have a touch of sadness for the close of summer, I find it a useful practice to reflect on points of gratitude for the closing season. Here is my list of seven things I love about summer:
Fresh local berries are in abundance from June onward. We like to pick them fresh and local, freezing for the winter. Strawberries start the season, lush and red, next up are blueberries. Raspberries come along somewhere in between, and they usually give you a second run in the fall. Blackberries mark the end of summer, with their sharp sting and itch. It’s always wise to wear long pants and shoes when picking these angry berries.
I Love Peaches. Fresh, juicy, fuzzy. I will make Josh drive out of our way to visit a farm with fresh peaches. Not much more to say. Peaches.
I used to be very afraid of these tiny creatures! They make a very loud buzz when they come by and it would always startle me. My brother and I used to think they would peck at our heads. But now I know they want nothing to do with us, and would much prefer a petunia or nasturtium. Recently, I have noticed that hummingbirds chirp! I hear their deep resonant buzz, but underneath that they make a light chirping noise! Listen for it the next time you see one!
If you know me, you know that I love gardens and gardening. I am an amateur gardener, but I can’t help myself around flowers and herbs! I will seek out local gardens for inspiration and peace of mind. I love to sit on my deck and watch the many birds and butterflies flutter about my home garden, and I find a real joy in putting together a meal, complete with herbs, from my home veggie garden, and in creating a salad topped with fresh flowers. The garden is the thing I miss most when summer ends.
We are very lucky to live among some of the most beautiful mountains in the country. This summer, our family has been cultivating the habit of hiking more mountains. My brother Dennis is sort of a celebrity in the hiking world. You can find him on Instagram as “Albinebee” for some amazing mountain views. Eastern Mountain Sports has courted him for his posts and pictures on hiking. He prefers to stick to the White Mountains of NH, and you can find him on a Mountain just about every weekend, rain, shine, or snow! As homeschoolers, we have been making mountain hiking our PE our priority. We have only hiked a few so far this summer, but I think we could fit in a couple more!
Some folks only do campfires when they go camping. We recently went camping in Ithaca, NY, and never lit a fire the whole time! Honestly, we were feeling rather snobby about the camp fire pit and location. We much preferred our home campfire. We are used to an amazing view and privacy at our home campfire pit. Our favorite thing to do is to invite our families over to a veggie roast with marshmallows and sparklers. The kids toast marshmallows and ride our zip and slack lines while the adults chat around the fire. We do this almost every weekend in the summer.
7. Family Time
We seem to make more time for family in the summer. Whether it is summer BBQs, campfires, trips to the beach, family vacations, or sitting outside at night, family seems to be a priority in the summer season. Something about the warm slow buzz of summer makes us want to connect more. I hope to take this warmth with me as we move into the autumn season, like preserving vegetables for winter, or stacking wood for the winter fire, as a nourishment for the soul.