I am not someone who believes that my life was better before smartphones existed. I love my hand held digital devices. They make me feel like I’m on Star Trek. And for people like me who are not gifted with natural social ease, email and texting have opened far more possibilities for communication than they’ve closed. (That, of course, could be a whole other post.) I like the electronic word and I’m not ashamed to admit it!
But … There can be such a thing as too much. My job involves planting my face in front of a massive Mac screen for 8 (or – usually – more) hours each day. Then I go home and, for fun, put up websites. It gets to where I can feel my eyeballs vibrating from the continual barrage of photons. And even though the vast majority are “friendly fire,” when the range is point blank, the impact is significant.
And I think I feel the onslaught more acutely when I’m in a relatively more energetically open state. Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to attend a couple of camps that had an opening effect on me, even as they showed me where and how I could perhaps exercise a little healthy discrimination in terms of what I’m inviting in.
In the weeks following those camp experiences, I find that some things I’ve typically thought of as relaxing and pleasurable – don’t feel that way just now. For example, I’m having a hard time making myself sit down and watch a tv show – even one I ordinarily enjoy – even in a format with no commercials. Even if I actually WANT to catch up on a story I’m curious about.
What do I want to do instead?
Well, I’ve become more aware lately of activities that have what I perceive as a soothing effect on my spirit. The sensation is like Throat Coat tea for the soul. Or, as in this description I just encountered in The Arabian Nights: “coolth of my eyes,” suggesting, as the footnote to this curious phrase says,
Arabic “Kurrat al-ayn”; coolness of eyes as opposed to a hot eye (‘sakhin’), I.e. one red with tears. The term is true and picturesque so I translate it literally. All coolness is pleasant to dwellers in burning lands …
— translator Sir Richard Francis Burton
I read that and thought, Dang. That describes it perfectly.
I’m sure all of these things are pretty much “duh” in terms of what to do to energetically recover from digital overstimulation. But they have been refuge for my heart, medicine for my mind, and balm to my spirit.
Interacting with paper instead of a screen: reading books, writing letters, drawing pictures in my sketch pad with an old fashioned pencil.
Specifically – going to places where I can hear the wind, but not the sound of traffic.
3. Acoustic music
Lately I’ve found my way back to instrumental folk and classical music – and it’s like I’ve been wandering through neighborhoods I’ve never seen before, right in the middle of towns I thought I knew.
(especially water that’s outside, and especially especially, water that I can be in without any clothes on)
Since I already mentioned drawing, here I’ll note how satisfying it has felt to create art in public places – like this mural I was invited to help with, which is on the wall of the studio my housemate is turning our garage into.
I did the yellow. 🙂
And you know, it was past my bedtime when they invited me to this painting party, on an evening I had set aside for self care through physical, mental, and emotional rest. But as soon as I had a brush in my hand I knew on a visceral level that this WAS a type of rest that I was also deficient in: rest for my spirit.
Rest from interacting with human arguments and demands. Rest from mechanized processes. Rest from filtering all that which is poisonous and trying to make it clean. In a way, painting felt just like floating in a pool of liquid light.
Ok, I still needed sleep. But even before I went to bed that night, I felt like I’d already had a pretty sweet dream.