Taking a Break from speaking & technology
July 17, 2020
I recently decided to go an entire day without speaking. As someone who has always wanted to go on a silent retreat, I figured I would try this do-it-myself experiment to give me a taste of what a real retreat would feel like. I also committed to simultaneously doing a digital detox, which meant no cell phone, internet, email, or technology.
The night before my experiment, I immediately realized how much I didn’t want to do this. I was having serious resistance to the idea of being disconnected for an entire 24 hours, and kept brainstorming reasons why I shouldn’t do this. My mind was like a Monte Carlo simulator that drank too much caffeine, and it started calculating one ridiculous scenarios after another. At one point the following thought popped into my head:
“What if someone that I’ve never met before reaches out to me to offer me the opportunity of a lifetime?”
First of all, what does that even mean? Was somebody going to offer me my dream job with the caveat that I only had an hour to accept it? Did I believe that someone was going call me to tell me I had won the lottery and that they were giving away all the money if I didn’t respond in the next 20 minutes?
The above scenarios were completely absurd and the second one seemingly ignored the fact that I have never bought a lottery ticket. It was this extreme resistance that made me realize how badly I needed to try this retreat. So I turned my phone on Do Not Disturb, placed it at the bottom of my sock drawer, and went to bed.
I woke up the next morning a bit later than usual since I did not have my phone alarm to unapologetically summon me from my warm and cozy bed. I meandered into the living room and sat down with a pencil and a notebook, and I began to write. Morning writing is part of my daily routine, however I usually use my laptop so this was a slightly different experience. It made me realize how dependent I have become on using Thesaurus.com to find synonyms for words that I chronically overuse. Despite not having access to the internet however, I was able to write an article on the core principles of personal development that I was proud of.
The most difficult part of the silent retreat was not talking to my roommates. The night before I had briefed them on my life experiment and explained that I would not be speaking for the next 24 hours. I asked them to essentially ignore me for an entire day, with the exception of small nods, quick smiles, and eyebrow raises as we walked past each other. This was going well until two things happened. First, one of my roommates built us the coolest outdoor surfboard rack I have ever seen. It holds all our longboards, has a wetsuit drying area and even has a built-in outdoor shower! It was near impossible for me to not tell him how amazing it looked but instead I simply smiled goofily and repeatedly gave him a thumbs-up. Second, I started reading “The Rise of Superman” by Steven Kotler which immediately began to blow my mind. Anyone who has met me knows that I love talking about books, so when I came across insane stories of extreme athletes performing wild and death defying feats, all I wanted to do was talk about them.
Besides reading and writing, I also spent a large chunk of my time going on a walk. With the beach being a loose destination for my casual stroll, I set off down my street. Along the way I discovered a rogue tennis ball that had staged an audacious escape from the tennis court I walked past. I decided to pick it up, and spent the rest of my walk bouncing it up and down. Upon arriving at the beach, the tennis ball became an essential part of my activities. I dribbled it like a soccer ball across the wet sand, threw it against a perfectly angled rock in the jetty so that it would bounce back to me, and occasionally would hurl it as far into the ocean as I could. I would then sit down and wait for it to slowly be washed back to me as wave after wave pushed slowly towards the beach.
As I sit here and reflect on the experience, I am glad that I decided to give it a try. It reinforced my belief that sometimes the best solution for living a better life is to simplify. Without the constant notifications assaulting me from my cell phone, I was able to breathe deeply and fully focus on whatever I was doing. Having no timeline for my day, and not seeing what time it was every time I looked at my phone, gave rise to a sort of freedom that I haven’t experienced in a long time. I felt like a was a young child again, with no obligations, responsibilities, and no to-do list. Gone was the constant feeling of having to accomplish something to justify my existence. I did not have measure, track, and quantify my daily progress. I had permission to do whatever I felt like without having to explain myself to anyone. It was beautifully refreshing.
It seemed, if only for a brief moment, that simply being was enough.