Day 69: Consciously Disconnecting

make choices

I love technology. I’m a writer, blogger, and I run an online business. Technology has allowed me to live the life that I currently live. As long as I have a computer and an internet connection, I can live anywhere and work anywhere. I love the freedom that technology brings to my life. But it’s only in the last few months that I’ve seen just how big of a role this connection had in my needing a year of silence. 

Before this silence began, I was completely connected to technology and completely frazzled. What started out as a love affair where we couldn’t get enough of each other became an unhealthy addiction where I felt miserable, unfulfilled, but didn’t know how to get out.

Like many, I was on the computer and online from the time I woke up until I dropped into bed at night. I crawled out of bed each morning and would start emailing people back in a still half-asleep state. (I wonder if they made any sense at all?) I had my email set to pop up on my computer any time a new message came in, and considering I received hundreds of emails a day, it was always alerting me. I had Facebook always open so that I would flip between the tabs to check every few minutes if there was a new message or notification. The phone’s ringer was always on, and so any time it rang, I would jump up to answer it.

There were very few boundaries, and I felt like I was becoming a slave to technology. Like I mentioned above, I loved how I had a business because of it. I loved connecting with others around the world because of it. But I felt like I was at the mercy of it – that I had no control over it. I was absolutely exhausted, but I didn’t know how to take myself out of what had come to feel like a force-field that continued to pull me in.

The more I talked about this with others, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. Friends shared that they slept with their phone beside their bed so they could check it in the middle of the night. They admitted to feeling naked or incomplete if they didn’t have it next to them at all times. I noticed that reality stars on TV carried several phones with them at a time so they would be able to chat while still checking email and social media. I would Skype with friends who would be talking to me while typing into their phone and watching TV at the same time.

Here are some recent statistics that demonstrate how truly connected we all are:

Arianna Huffington shared a startling statistic in her new book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. She wrote that the average smartphone user checks their phone every 6.5 minutes, which is 221 times per day.

Radicati recently reported that the average number of emails sent and received each day was 121.

In his recent book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer shared how researchers found that it takes about 25 minutes to recover from a phone call. The average person receives a call every 11 minutes, which means we never full recover from all of the interruptions.

No wonder I was tired! Like many of us, I was so connected to technology and gadgets that I had lost a lot of my connection to myself. I never went outside because I didn’t feel like I had the time to. I never stopped working unless I absolutely had to because I was hungry or completely exhausted. I had completely lost sight of why I was doing any of this and why any of it mattered. I was in a technology coma and wasn’t sure how to come out of it.

That’s where the silence helped. By slowing down and getting still, I was able to pull back and gain some perspective on how I was living my life. I was able to see what needed to change in order to feel happy and more alive and connected to my own soul and to the universe.

And so, several months ago, I began taking (what I considered) drastic measures to reclaim my life and allow technology to work for me rather than the other way around. I started by turning the phone’s ringer off and checking messages just a couple times per day. I unsubscribed from almost every newsletter in order to completely clear out my inbox. I used to wake up and immediately feel overwhelmed by all of the email that I needed to read. Now, I know that the email that comes in is directly to me, and I am able to sift through it much more quickly. I close my email program and only open it when I am consciously going to respond to emails. I bought a program called Antisocial, which allows me to block certain sites for certain periods of time. This has really helped me not have Facebook open while I’m writing – I definitely get a lot more done this way! I now take at least two hours each day after lunch to step away from social media and email and allow myself “open time.” This means that I can do whatever my soul wants me to do: read, nap, write, space out, go outside… the possibilities are endless! I stopped working after dinner and committed to not checking social media sites or email at all after that. I committed to taking three days per week off completely from all email and social media, which gives me time to recharge.

These measures have already helped me immensely. I feel like I am getting my life back. I feel human again. I feel like myself again. And I feel like my relationship with technology has become more balanced and less chaotic and exhausting. While I’m still in the midst of implementing these changes and sticking with them, I can already say that I can see the benefit of staying the course and continuing to listen to my soul when it asks me to unplug. I just don’t think we’re meant to be this connected with all of our gadgets – it takes time away from us plugging into our soul. This time in silence is helping me sort of hit my life’s reset button (technology pun not intended), which feels really amazing and definitely worth staying conscious of and continuing in whatever ways feel right.

Hugs and love,

jodi signature copy

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Day 55: A Silence Experiment

Okay to Remove Yourself

I recently tried an experiment: I went away for the night to a local hotel with the intention of completely immersing myself in silence for almost 24 hours. I’ve been feeling for a little while that I’m “playing with silence” – that I sort of have one foot in the quiet world and one foot still firmly planted in the world of chaos and noise. And I wanted to see how it felt to separate myself for one day from this chaos and noise (both internal and external) and immerse myself in solitary silence: no talking, no TV, no work, no music, no internet. No sound.

Going away to the hotel isn’t a new thing for me. It’s a practice that I’ve embraced for several years. It’s where I go periodically to create, to write, and to get in touch with my soul. It’s something that I look forward to, and it’s something that I truly enjoy while I’m there. I’ve written books and ecourses while at the hotel. I’ve gotten clear about my soul’s path. And I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.

Usually when I go, there are two types of experiences: 1. I spend the entire time in the creative vortex and type and create almost faster than I can keep up with, or 2. I go to recharge. I bring tons of books and journals and movies and markers and anything that feeds my soul and helps me reconnect with my inner being.

This time was different though. This time, I wanted to see how I did with simply being – with no distractions at all. I wanted to see how it felt to be fully present and quiet. I’m a creature of habit, and so I was a bit apprehensive about this experiment, but I was also looking forward to seeing how I did and what I learned.

Because I’m not talking to anyone right now, my husband, Dan, went with me to check me in. He also carried my bag into the room and got me settled, which was so sweet. While he went to get some ice, I looked out the patio door and saw two ducks swimming in the stream below. I took this as a great omen that this was going to be a beautifully nurturing experience. (More about them in a bit.)

Dan stayed for just a few minutes, and when he left I immediately put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, took my shoes off, unpacked my suitcase, put my food in the fridge, and set out my journal and books – just in case I felt inspired to read or write. This settling in took about five minutes. After I finished, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. So I pulled out the chair and sat down. The chair sat in front of the desk, which had a huge mirror above it. It felt really strange to be sitting there just looking at myself. It was almost comical to see this woman in the mirror who was clearly so uncomfortable – who didn’t know what to do next. And then the humor turned to sadness. I’ve been going to this same hotel for years, and while I vaguely remembered that the mirror was there, I had never looked into it before. I usually sit at the desk with my laptop and write, and I can’t remember ever looking up. That was such a strange realization for me to see how unaware of my surroundings and myself that I had been.

I heated up some food, but I wasn’t sure where I would eat it. It was too cold outside to eat on the patio. I truly didn’t want to sit at the desk and stare at myself in the mirror while eating. And so I ended up sitting on the bed and staring at the blank TV screen. It was surreal. The room was so quiet that I could hear every chew. And, even though I was alone, my dead stepdad’s voice popped into my head telling me to chew more quietly. (As a child, this was a pet peeve of his, and I quickly became the master of eating silently – or so I thought – so as not to set him off.) I brought my thoughts back to my food. But then realized how quickly I was chewing. I was eating my favorite type of food (Indian takeout), but I certainly wasn’t savoring it. I was just cramming it down as fast as I could so that I could be finished with this awkward and uncomfortable moment.

I put the food away and went back to the bed. Not knowing what else to do in this silence, I fell asleep. At first, it almost felt like I was counting down the hours – just waiting for this experiment to be over so that I could say that I did it and get back to my regular life. Usually when I go to the hotel, I want to expand time and stretch it out as much as I can. So this was definitely a new experience for me.

After my nap, I took out a few books and began to read. And then I took out my journal and began to write. All the while, I was so aware of the silence – so aware of the stillness. And I began to notice sounds that I never would have noticed before: the traffic, the other doors opening and closing, the toilet flushing in the room next door, the footsteps over me in the room above.

I found myself feeling like the noise that I never would have noticed before was becoming almost deafening. I couldn’t believe that these sounds were always there, and that I am usually so caught up in my head and my own thoughts that I simply don’t notice them. In the silence, I found myself fixating upon them, which was both interesting and a bit unsettling.

Thankfully, before I spent any longer on this fixation, I remembered the ducks that I saw in the stream when I first checked in. I walked over to the patio door and was so thankful that they were still in sight. They seemed completely at peace. Even with the traffic sounds and the various hotel comings and goings, they were present in their own world. They took turns turning almost completely upside down diving for food. And in between this, they just floated downstream. They weren’t trying to paddle against the current, which is what I have been doing most of my life. They simply went with the flow and found their center amidst the chaos. And that was so beautiful for me to witness.

From that moment on, I was able to fully surrender to this silence experience. I was able to allow it to be whatever it was meant to be. I left my inner critic behind and gave myself permission to go with it: to stare at the wall, to space out, to think whatever I was thinking, to eat quickly or slowly – loudly or softly, to read or write or do nothing at all, to relax and to embrace the exact moment that I was currently in.

This was such a lovely experience that I definitely hope to repeat again soon. When I returned home the next day, I felt more connected to myself and also more in touch with the universe. I was amazed at how little time it took to feel this way, and I love knowing that if and when things begin to feel hectic and noisy again, I can always retreat to my inner silence and (like the ducks) allow myself to go with the flow of it all.

Hugs and love,

jodi signature copy

 

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Day 43: Easing Up

be easy

When I was 19, I wrote a letter to Shawn Colvin. I had never written to a celebrity before, but I really felt compelled to do this. Her music had gotten me through some really hard teenage years, and I wanted to thank her and let her know what her songs meant to me. This was before Facebook and email. I found the fan club address on the back of one of her CDs and mailed the letter. I poured my heart out. I resonated so deeply with her. We were both sensitive souls from South Dakota. I was getting ready to leave the state and take flight – not knowing exactly where I would land. And seeing her success helped me know that it would all be okay somehow.

I just knew that I would hear back from her. While I didn’t expect that we would become best friends, I knew that she would respond in some way – letting me know how much my words meant to her.

I never received a response though, which I felt a bit sad about. And then a bit angry about. And then I went on with my life and moved to New Mexico and finished college and got a job and met my sweetie and started a business and, twenty years later, here I am.

It’s so funny how each experience that we go through stays with us and circles back around at one point or another. 

In my line of work, I am lucky enough to be able to share my heart and connect with beautiful souls all around the world. I do my best to remove all filters from my writing, so that my authentic soul shines through. And because of this, I’m grateful that I’ve made so many loving connections and that my writing resonates with others.

When I first started sharing my writing, I hardly received any comments or letters at all. I wasn’t even sure if anyone was reading what I was writing. Slowly though, the emails began to trickle in, and I remember feeling so excited when one came in. Knowing that someone had read something that I wrote and cared enough to write to me about it and share how it resonated felt amazing.

I always wanted to offer the same amount of energy that the person writing sent to me. And so that meant that if they wrote something from their heart and shared deeply with me, I wrote back from that same heart-filled space and responded honestly and soulfully. I loved connecting in this way. Over the years, though, the letters, emails, blog comments, and Facebook messages have increased. And I found myself struggling to keep up. I knew that this was a good “problem” to have, and I never wanted to take this interaction for granted or resent it in any way. I did my best to keep up with all of it. I stayed up later and later and pushed myself harder and harder in order to respond to each email. I wanted to make sure that everyone felt seen and heard and loved.

But still I wasn’t keeping up. Emails were slipping by, and comments were going unnoticed. Friends said that I could write a standard email to send to everyone who wrote – thanking them for their words. But that didn’t feel right at all to me, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So my response time became longer and longer to emails, but I did eventually respond.

Until I just couldn’t.

I found myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about all of those beautiful souls that I hadn’t yet responded to and wondering if they were upset with me or hurt or if they were thinking of it at all. My heart would race about it. I had nightmares about it. I was completely exhausted and knew that I needed to start taking care of myself by setting some boundaries, as much as it hurt my heart to do so. I stopped (for the most part) replying to blog comments. And I stopped replying to many of the emails that came in, or I would write back something short that thanked them for writing (rather than writing many paragraphs in response to their many paragraphs).

Recently, I was going through my email and found one from many months ago where a woman poured her heart out and asked for advice. I could feel my face get hot with shame and my heart hurt that I hadn’t responded yet. I felt so bad about this and wondered how I could have let this important email go so long without a reply.

And then I realized how: because I’m human. I’m not the superhuman soul that I so often would like to be. Because I’m human, I need to rest and relax and recharge and set boundaries and have a life outside of my work. I have to if I’m going to be able to give anything to anyone (or to myself). I have to remind myself that there are only so many hours in the day and that I can only respond to a certain number of emails within those hours. And there will be some that I just won’t be able to reply to.

This is where easing up on myself comes in. And this is where trust in the universe comes in – knowing that the emails that I’m most meant to respond to will be the ones that I do respond to. I’m also reminding myself that not everyone expects a response. Sometimes people write with no intention of receiving a reply – sometimes just knowing that I’m reading it (or that others are reading it – if it’s a blog post) is enough. And I know that we’re all doing the absolute best that we can to find balance and connection and to offer love to each other.

I’m sure that’s what Shawn was doing all those years ago – just trying to balance it all. And that’s what I’m doing now.

I’ll definitely make mistakes along the way. But I can say this: I always do my best, and I always come from a pure heart. And I truly love hearing from each soul who takes the time to write. It fills my soul to see how what I write resonates. And whether I respond or not, I know that we are energetically connected – in the moment that I am reading it and beyond. I take each word into my heart and allow it to flow through me. And that always feels so good.

I’m easing up on myself. And I’m easing up on others. We’re all doing the best we can. And that is truly enough.

Hugs and love,

jodi signature copy

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I am currently writing a book about what I learned during my year of silence, and I would love to share it with you when it comes out! To sign up to be notified, please enter your name and email below and click on the Subscribe button. You'll also receive my guided meditation for free!

Day 33: The All-Purpose Excuse

When Saying Yes Means Saying No

I was thinking today how this year of silence is a true all-purpose excuse. It’s a sort of “get out of jail for free” card for everything that I don’t want to do.

In the past, I would use illness as an excuse. I would unconsciously manifest one illness after another so that I could fall back on it when I didn’t want to say no to someone or something that I knew I needed to say no to but didn’t know how to say it.

“I would love to go study in France, but I can’t because I’m in the hospital with a heart condition.”

“Oh, I would really love to come over, but I’m just not feeling well today. Maybe another time.”

“Helping you with your project sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m just not feeling up for it. This darn pneumonia just isn’t going away.”

No one questioned these excuses because they were real. I never questioned them either: I just felt complete relief to have gotten out of doing what I didn’t want to do.

Often though, I wouldn’t be sick. And I would say yes to something or someone, even though my heart knew that it wasn’t right for me. And I would end up getting sick because of it, which led to feeling really upset with myself and resentful about not being able to just say no in the first place.

I’ve been a people pleaser all of my life. And as such, I want everyone to like me. I want everyone to approve of me. And I want to do everything that I can to make sure everyone is happy.

Except, I’ve learned that all of this trying to make everyone else happy frequently made me very unhappy. I wasn’t living my truth, and I had gotten far away from the core of who I really was. But I wasn’t sure how to get back on track. And so, my body helped me. It came up with an all-purpose excuse to get out of everything: I was sick (with either a heart condition or mono or thyroiditiis or pneumonia or physically healing from a car accident or adrenal fatigue). And this real excuse came in handy over and over and over again. I never had to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying no directly. I never had to say no without an excuse to back me up.

And I’m seeing how this year of silence is taking the place of illness as an all-purpose excuse for me. I’m now able to honestly tell others that I am simply not able to do what they are asking me to do because I’m being silent, which is truthful to a point. But, if I’m being completely honest, it’s also not telling the entire truth – to them or to myself. Because oftentimes I know within my heart that even if I weren’t having a year of silence, I still wouldn’t want to do whatever it was that they were asking of me.

And that’s the piece that I’m sitting with. That’s the piece that I’m holding close to my heart. That’s the piece that carries all of my truth and authenticity and kindness. That’s it.

It’s my hope that when the year is over, I will have gathered enough strength within myself and enough of a foundation that’s grounded in my own truth that I will be able to lovingly say no when something doesn’t feel right. And leave it at that – no excuses. A loving, firm no.

There are so many opportunities and so many ways to be of service and support others. Way more than there are hours in the day. And so, part of my healing journey is learning to sift through these requests and know that it doesn’t make me a bad person if I say no to some of them (or a lot of them). It doesn’t make me mean or bitchy. It makes me human. It makes me someone who wants to live authentically and soulfully and lovingly – for others and also for myself.

I’m so looking forward to being able to stand in my truth in this way. I’m so looking forward to being able to leave the excuses behind and say no because I know that it’s what needs to be said. That feels empowering and authentic and freeing, and I am going to hold that vision that at this time next year, I’ll be able to do exactly that. Until I gather this strength and inner wisdom, I’m thankful for this year of silence to help me out and to be an all-purpose excuse. It’s sort of like my training wheels, and by this time next year, I’ll be ready to go out on my own. 🙂

Hugs and love,

jodi signature copy

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I am currently writing a book about what I learned during my year of silence, and I would love to share it with you when it comes out! To sign up to be notified, please enter your name and email below and click on the Subscribe button. You'll also receive my guided meditation for free!