Reflecting

IMG_6499[1]Recently taken at the beautiful Bryce Canyon National Park just a couple hours from where I now live!

I didn’t intend to write a blog post today.  I actually haven’t been writing a whole lot lately, besides in my journal.  I just had a really intense moment as I hoofed it by foot over to the library this morning (I have been trying to do 1-2 days per week of no driving) and I got inspired.  The moment made me want to write it down as soon as possible before I forgot it.  I thought that this would be the perfect place to share it because I feel like someone out there needs to read it and I haven’t written a post in a while.

Lately I have been stressing out about many different things and it has no doubt been manifesting out into my physical reality.  Just lots of tough, dense, life darkness and yet on the other hand, I know that I have had so many blessings as well.  It’s just that, my monkey mind has been on full-swing and I haven’t been sticking with my meditation practice as strongly as I used to….it truly is amazing to see the difference which occurs when I don’t stick with it.  I don’t want to delve into too many of the details of what is going on in my life, but the best way to put it is that I am finally facing a ton of my crap that I can no longer run away from.

So, as I am walking to the library, with cars whizzing by me, loud sirens and car alarms going off…my mind was doing it’s wandering.  As it was wandering, it was playing out all of these different scenarios, such as “Ohhhh, maybe if I decide to take that path, that will create happiness and peace in my life, ohhhh maybe I shouldn’t have done that and then I wouldn’t have found myself in this situation, etc. etc. etc…” It was creating straight up novels based upon a future that hasn’t happened yet and the past that is no longer.  As the stories built up, the anxiety in my chest got stronger.

I turned the corner to head down the main street that gets me to the library.  Everything went quiet since it’s a residential street and it doesn’t have much traffic usually. All of a sudden, my anxiety dissipated and everything felt just like pure peace.  I looked over to my right and in someone’s house window was a message that simply stated “Enjoy the journey.”  All of my worries, all of my planning just dropped like a giant Jenga tower and again, I just felt the pure peace of the moment.  Not one minute later, I noticed a cemetery to the right of the house that I had never noticed before since I always drive to the library.

As I passed by all the tombstones, the wind gently pushed in the direction towards the library causing a chill up and down my spine. I started reading the messages on the tombstones, one in particular was a man that passed away in 2008, he was almost the exact same age as me. Further on, I kept noticing how unique and personal each tombstone was and how there were so many different ages, from a baby that had only lived a week to a man in his late 90s.  I started nearing towards the end and there was a sign that had a message on it, but it was bent and blocked by a big bush, so the only word that was visible on it was bright lettering that stated:

“NOW.”

It just seemed like a pretty clear message to me, as I was worrying the whole morning and night before. It can all end at any moment, truly, so to stay present with wherever you are is the most important.  I no longer want to dwell on past regrets as there isn’t anything that I can do regarding it, except to accept them as lessons.  I also don’t want to keep projecting a future that is yet to be, as Doris Day sang “whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.”  While it’s good to do a little bit of planning, it’s also best to adjust to the flow and appreciate what is happening now.  I dunno, just a little musing for this Thursday morning, thanks for reading if ya have thus far.  Peace out!  🙂

The Magical Power of Touch Points

touchpoint

Last winter after I resigned from my job and decided to head overseas for an adventure, I volunteered at a 10-day silent meditation retreat as a transitional activity to ease my mind and to get comfortable with the complete change in my normal routine that would be coming soon.  I had sat at a 10-day silent meditation retreat before as a student and I had volunteered half-time at another one, but I had never volunteered a full course.  I expected the usual hard work in the kitchen where about six to seven of us would start the day at 4:30 in the morning to cook three meals per day for 70-plus students.  While the work could be strenuous, it was fun to chat with my colleagues in the kitchen and have friendly banter. We also had three different times during the day where we were able to sit for a full hour and meditate with the students.

Soon enough my work-in-the-kitchen and meditate-on-the-side routine became very comfortable five days into the retreat, but on the sixth day that all came crashing down. The manager of all 40 of the female students took a nasty fall on some ice and all eyes (literally and figuratively) were on me to step in as the female manager as she ended up having to leave the retreat early.  I had no experience at any point ever in my life of being the manager of anything.  The stress of the situation felt very dense as it was the sixth day in and I could tell that many of the students’ mental states were being tested. The main female meditation teacher sent me on three different errands within the first hour of being the manager, mostly to help check in on girls that were having sickness or intense emotional trauma.

Just as with most big changes in my life, even ones that from an outsider’s perspective might seem small, my egoic mind started racing.  Not only were the thoughts in my mind racing, but they were crashing into each other like children playing bumper cars for the first time.  Here I thought that I was such a good meditator, but I figured out that this was a real-life situation where I was being tested on how skillful I had become with my mind. On the second day of being female manager, I almost had a sheer panic attack as I had to stand in front of 70 pairs of eyes peering at me as I counted to make sure that every female meditator was in the meditation hall and if they weren’t there I’d have to discuss with the teacher and go to find them.

I mentioned to the meditation teacher that second night of being female manager that I have an extreme fear of being in any spotlight, even at a silent meditation retreat.  I told her about how I was on the verge of a panic attack a multitude of times that day.  She had great advice which to this day still sticks with me.  Her advice was that as soon as I felt that panicky feeling come on, to notice my extremities.  She told me to feel where my fingers and toes were at the moment of panic or anxiety; for an example, right now I can sense my fingers tapping against this shiny keyboard and my feet…they are resting on top of each other on this cool pavement below me. It instantly brought me back into my body and out of my head.

touchpoint2

I have brought this tool with me throughout all the hustle and bustle of daily life.  I often get anxiety attacks in grocery stores.  Most recently I was at a grocery store on a weeknight around 6:00 and I was standing in line with crowds of people around me.  I had that familiar panicky feeling come on, where I felt as if the floor below me was just about to collapse and the walls were going to come down, but before that full on anxiety attack could hit me, I brought awareness to the extremities and was instantly calmed.  As soon as I sensed my fingers placed on the handle of my shopping cart and my toes were resting in my shoes that were flat on the shiny white floor, I felt soothed.  I am so thankful for learning this technique and highly recommend it if you struggle with anxiety or panic attacks.

Peace out!  🙂

–Ilona

Gratitude in Action

“I am so incredibly grateful that you and your car got us from Portland to this trailhead safely,” my friend Mary stated.

And now it was my turn...”I am so incredibly grateful that I have a refrigerator and cupboard stocked full of healthy foods.”

Another steep part of the hike was upon us, we both went back into the solitude of our minds until we reached flat land again.

I am so grateful for the household that I live in,” Mary said.

I am so grateful that I have my health to be able to do this awesome hike,” I said.

My friend Mary and I have been on many hikes throughout the Pacific Northwest together since I started hanging out with her almost three years ago.  A few weeks ago we ventured on a hike and came up with a new way of hiking. Each time we came upon a new incline to hike up, we had to each think of something near and dear to our heart that we were grateful for and then once we reached flat land again, we’d share with each other what we were thinking. We did it in some back lands behind Silver Falls in Silverton, Oregon.  The trail had many inclinations and there were no other souls around.  I felt so light and as if my body was buzzing throughout the hike.

I have always known the power of gratitude as I have seen it work wonders in others’ lives and my own.  Meditation has helped me to further integrate into the wonderful energy of gratitude. By being so completely present in the moment, everything seems like a miracle.  Of course, the monkey mind comes back quite often (dang it, I’m still human!) But for the most part, ever since starting my meditation practice half a decade ago, everything…a spoonful of delicious soup, resting my body on a comfortable bed, or having a meaningful conversation with a dear friend  have all become moments of gold.

A couple different spiritual teachers that I have been listening to lately have inspired me to start a new daily practice, I made up my own term for it, I call it “3 and 3.”  It’s super easy, doesn’t take a lot of time and is incredibly powerful.  I either do it at night or in the morning when I’m having my coffee.  Basically, I list three things in which I am grateful for, but honestly it’s more than just listing them…I actually try to really feel how deep my gratitude is for them.  Then I list three intentions that I have for that day (or if I’m doing this at night, I list three intentions for the next day.) I have found this to be a very powerful practice because more often than not I reach almost all of those intentions that day.

If that seems like a lot of extra activity to your already packed world, maybe just try to do it for the week.  So before the week starts, list three things you intend to get done that week and three things that you are in gratitude of from the last week.  I have found that actually writing them out, with pen and paper really seems to make it happen.  Do whatever works for you yo, I just hope you do give it a shot and see for yourself!

Peace out!

Materialistic Mindfulness

AmericanBeauty

After my first 10-day meditation retreat, something within me really snapped and shifted.  All of a sudden I wanted to get rid of a ton of personal belongings.  I still found a few items very meaningful: my journal, coffeemaker and hygienic tools were things that were important to me. However, my shelves upon shelves of dusty DVDs, CDs, books, and random knick-knacks felt heavy. Impulsively, I grabbed a few large garbage bags and just started pulling all of these items that felt heavy to me and gently placed them into the garbage bags.  Without thinking twice, I jetted the collected items over to my local thrift store and dropped them all of without looking behind.  I felt a lightness in my mental and physical state instantly.

Materialism has never been my thing, but especially since starting meditation in 2011, it seems that any fractal of interest in it has dwindled even more.  Almost a year into my 20-minute daily meditation practice, I was inspired to write a piece for Lightworkers World about how I feel in regards to the idea of physical things creating inner happiness. The deeper and deeper that I have gone into the depths of my soul, the further I have gotten from caring about comparing what others’ have to what I have. I have instead thought more and more about how I appreciate the things that I do have and truly taste the blessings that I am given on a daily basis. The cravings for more lessen as I see how amazing it is that I have a fully stocked kitchen, efficient means of transportation, and ohhhhhh so much more!

ChuckP

When I was visiting my sister on the East Coast over this past winter, I had a couple of Netflix binges and upon doing so came across an incredibly inspiring documentary entitled “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.”  The main two cast members of the documentary Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodermus also have an inspiring website, The Minimalists, which you should definitely check out if you have time.  A lot of what they mentioned in their documentary was exactly the same thoughts that I had been having shortly after my first 10-day meditation retreat.  They touch upon the last few decades of American culture and how it has heavily influenced our consumer mindset.  We have somehow been driven to think that things create happiness, but as the late George Carlin would state “trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all of your body.”

Over the last six years, I have moved about eight times (what can I say, a spiritual awakening can cause a bit of chaos, hehe) and one of the moves was cross-country. With each move, my amount of possessions has lessened and I find myself only holding onto the things that I find necessary.  Not having a whole lot of clothes makes life so much easier to me and the few clothing items that I do have are my absolute favorite, so I get excited to wear them.  Everything that I own, besides some old mementos stored in family and friends’ attics, fits into my vehicle. It feels so freeing to be able to pick up and go to a new place if my heart is calling it, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do this.

I am excited to see a lot of other people feeling the same way about materialism, how it’s not truly all that it’s cracked up to be.  Advertisements are unfortunately always going to be around as long as money is around, but at least as we get more and more in touch with ourselves and remembering who we truly are, we will be able to get less swayed by those advertisements.  How are you feeling about all the things that surround you right now? Do you truly need all of it?  Or might you be able to donate some of those extra items that you haven’t touched in ages?

344Everything that I owned in 2011 as I made my way from the Midwest to the West Coast of the U.S.

As always, please comment and share your thoughts with me, I love feedback 🙂

Take care, much peace and love!  ❤

My Three Go-Tos

I was on a date recently where the guy goes, “so, are you like a health nut?  Like….do you drink green smoothies and run five miles a day?”  I had to pause and think about it until it dawned on me that yes, I actually have become the health nut-type. When I was a teenager I used to make fun of  the health nut-types and I thought a lot of them might have a stick up their butt, but come to find out….looks like you can become what you hated, hehe.  It took some years to catch onto it, but now I completely understand why there is a hype to creating healthy habits. The high vibration I feel after downing raw veggies, fruit, and nuts daily, the endorphins that get released after I go on a long run, and the way anxiety floats away after meditating all feel really good.

irealnd3

During the hustle and bustle of life and ever-changing moments it’s so easy to get caught up and lost in it that we forget to take care of ourselves.  Between busy work schedules, commuting, remembering to call friends or family on their birthday, getting back to text messages, and so many other things that come up it’s so easy to forget about ourselves. Extremely stressful times seem to be when we are most prone to forgetting about caring for ourselves.  Divorce, break-ups, losing someone close to us, moving, starting a new job, raising a family, and whatever other major life change we are going through can test our limits and push us to the brink of insanity. What has helped me for times of intense life debacles is what I call my “Three Go-Tos.”

My “Three Go-Tos” are the three things that I try to do on a daily basis without any hesitations or reservations.  When life is going really well, things are going smooth, and I am managing time well is when it’s most important to do my “Three Go-Tos. ”  These times are the most important because I definitely notice that healthy habits seem to slip through my fingers when things are going so seemingly well for me.  It’s so easy for me to think “accccckkkkk, I am feeling good and things are grand, I can skip my 20-minute morning meditation today…” and then those kind of thoughts can easily become a habit of their own.  When things are going nicely in life, it is most important to keep up the healthy habits so that when life does throw those curve balls we can stay strong and remember the sources that help us.

So everyone’s “Three Go-Tos” are going to look differently, but my three that I don’t even think twice about anymore would be: having a protein-filled vegetable and fruit smoothie daily, meditating for 20 minutes in the morning, and running daily.  I have noticed in the last year how clear-minded I have felt and how focused I have become with these daily habits.  They have become so ingrained into me as daily activities that I feel weird if I skip one or two on any given day.  I do try to give myself a break if situations come up, it’s best not to become so strict that you end up becoming a “Go-To” robot, but it is great to keep in the habit.

IMG_5610

^^^ One of my fav go-to smoothie recipes^^^

Do you have some daily “Go-Tos” that have been getting you through this crazy journey of life?  What would be three of them if you had to choose?  If you can’t think of anything off the top of your head stop by this post to see if it helps to get your brain juices spinning: Never Underestimate the Healing Powers of…  I would really love to see what helps you guys and get some new ideas so that maybe I can switch up my “Three Go-Tos” from time to time.

Thanks for reading 🙂 Peace!

meditate20

Revamping before 33!

The road to 33 is looking good!

I have gotten so off track from my initial intentions with what I wanted to do with this blog, but that is going to change!  When I started this blog (gasp) almost five years ago I entitled it “Ilona’s Meditation Challenge” because that’s what it was going to be.  My original plan was to write down what I noticed from starting a daily 20-minute meditation practice and it kind of twisted and turned into something completely different, it became a bit more random.  That’s okay though because from it I have gained a ton of blogging friends and acquaintances.  I would like to steer this blog vehicle though back on track and keep at it.

With my 33rd birthday coming around the corner it has hit me that I truly am not getting any younger here.  So with that, I want to work on sharing a blog post at least once a week about all things MIND, BODY, AND SOUL!  I want to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves, to help remind them that WE CAN CHANGE OUR WAYS and that IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.  The only way that we can make that truly happen though is to have the desire to change, that is the first step.

So in the coming weeks, I will be challenging myself (as my blog page is now accurately named) to post one blog post per week that has everything to do with: meditation, healthy eating, exercise, and anything else that you can think of that helps to heal MIND, BODY, AND SOUL.  I am going to release any guilt that I have held onto about wasting time or any ways in which I have been unconscious.  I want to change within, bring it out into the world and inspire others if they too have this similar goal.

Please join me in these coming weeks.  I plan on sharing what I notice with my two daily meditations (I have now been meditating for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening.) I will be sharing book reviews (I am currently reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron.) I will be recording guided meditations for you to listen to and try out. I might even try my hand at making a video or two!

The point is, we are all in this together.  Everything is truly connected and everything we thought we knew is not going to last.  So let’s prepare ourselves now so as not to freak out when the crumbling begins (which it has already started a bit anyhow.). Let’s become more conscious together.  Let’s take a look at our bullshit stories that keep running/ruining our lives and transform them.  Please take my hand and cross this river with me.
Peace!

From my jog this morning:


Amen to that!!!!!

Meditation Intermission, Let’s Talk Facebook Here

facebookcomic

I  was going to have my next blog post be about my Ireland adventure, but my heart is guiding me to take a little break in the adventures and share something that has been gnawing at me.  I deactivated my Facebook a little over two weeks ago and I wanted to express what has happened for me in doing so.  I have a few blogging friends that have also gone on the Facebook-free wagon and I’ll be featuring those lovely ladies on this post as well.  First and foremost I would like to mention that while this might be a blog post that is bashing Facebook, I don’t want anyone to read this and get upset.  The main reason I wanted to post this was to get thoughts from my blogging friends out there, I’m curious if anyone else has been going through similar experiences with Facebook or if I’m just possibly over thinking it all and I just need to chill out :).

As I was hiking at the beautiful Powell Butte here in Portland the other day, an inspiration hit me to create a questionnaire/survey to be taken by people that have deleted or deactivated their Facebook accounts and when a couple friends expressed interested in it, I decided to get the ball rolling.  I myself answered the questions to the survey, as seen on the first one below.  I also have a few blogging friends that answered the survey following mine and one friend that is not on the blogosphere that answered the survey as well.  Basically I wanted to get a feel for what it might be, collectively, that is driving a lot of us to turn our Facebooks off.  I wanted to get some answers and then share them so that other people out there in the world that might be going through similar feelings can feel less alone in this.    Let’s face it folks, Facebook is everywhere and if you don’t have it there is a serious feel of alienation…well, take a look at my answers and see how I feel!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I remember my cousin talking about Facebook around 2005-2006, but it seemed to be mostly popular with kids going to big colleges/universities, so I didn’t think it was for me.  I did have a MySpace and was pretty addicted to that, I loved updating my backround songs on MySpace and changing the background designs, I even met my first long-term boyfriend on MySpace, haha.  It was actually that boyfriend that inspired me to create a Facebook account in about 2008 and I got hooked/addicted to it pretty quickly.

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I deactivated my Facebook about 2 weeks ago, but this isn’t the first time I have done this.  I was without Facebook from about October-January last year, so the longest that I have gone without Facebook is for almost 3 months.

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  Wow, where do I start?! Honestly, I had a lot of reasons that motivated me to finally hit the “deactivate” button on my account.  The biggest reason was that I decided it wasn’t helping me with my mindfulness practice.  When I was traveling with my friends in Ireland, I got completely distracted after I put up a new picture on my Facebook account and got a ton of likes/comments…this in return took my attention away from the fact that, “holy shit I’m in Ireland!”  Instead of being where I was, I was sucked into a screen.  I have an addictive personality by nature, I have given up a lot of addictions, but I was definitely noticing that I was completely addicted to the excitement that I got when my phone lit up with new alerts on Facebook.  I was also motivated to deactivate so that I could focus on my life, with an impending career change and figuring out where I was going to live next, I really had no time for distraction.  Another motivating factor was CONNECTION, I want to feel real, raw in-your-face connection.  I love intimate gatherings, I love going on hikes with friends, I love talking about weird metaphysical stuff with friends and I felt like a good majority of my “connection” on Facebook felt robotic.  And lastly, I felt like my energy was being sucked away on things not for me!  I would have Facebook friends that would air all of their dirty laundry on there, they’d rant about their personal lives and discuss their hatred for certain politicians.  It hit me that when I scrolled down my Facebook feed, it made me physically ill sometimes just taking on other people’s negativity.

facebookaddict

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  It has been incredibly enlightening!  I have gotten a ton accomplished!  I got all of my affairs in order to go teach English overseas, even though it looks like that will be put on hold because Visa paperwork isn’t going through (stay tuned for that future blog post, haha) I have picked up on my writing again–finally completing TWO FULL BLOG POSTS, I found temp work here in Portland until I plan to take off, I have had get-togethers with close friends, I have had deep, soulful chats with friends, hikes/walks/runs in nature.  I have cooked and baked more.  I have had long phone chats with friends/family that live across the country from me.  I have felt energetically clear and I feel like I’m being less pulled into things that were never meant for me.  When I went on Facebook, I’d feel like my mind was kind of static-like…I don’t know how to put it in words I guess,  but basically I just felt like there were too many things pulling at my energy.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  There are friends and aquaintances that I definitely miss, people from previous jobs that I have worked at, seeing friends’ kiddos growing up, there were plenty of positive posts that I miss.  But I got to thinking lately, never ever in history have we been able to stay connected with people from our past the way that we can now days….but maybe, just maybe, we aren’t supposed to stay in contact with every single person we meet.  It’s all about vibration, we come in and out of each other’s lives for certain times and then we exit….letting go gives us freedom to move on and forward.  I have so many memories of all of the amazing and sweet souls that I have been blessed to come into contact with in my life, but it doesn’t mean I need to know what they are having for breakfast today.  Instead, I choose to smile at the memories and come fully into where I am and who I am with right now.  Facebook has served it’s purpose for a time in my life, I do have gratitude for the connections it indeed brought me, but just as we have to let go of people in our life…I’m going to let go of my old attachment to Facebook.  I do miss posting my blog posts on Facebook and I should come clean on that–I do have a Facebook page for my blog website, but I can’t see any other people on Facebook, it is strictly for updating my site on there.  I have 111 Facebook followers (thanks guys!) on my page and I didn’t want them to miss my new posts. :). Anyhow, let’s read my blogger friend’s thoughts….

The beautiful Gina from Virtually Gina answered the Facebook survey I sent her, read her thoughts below!

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join? Spring 2008. My then-fuckboi (now-husband) Jeff had just moved to Florida and it seemed like it would be a good way to stay in contact with him.

How long have you been off of Facebook now? This round of deactivation has lasted 16 days. I’ve had a few Facebook-free stints. The longest I’ve gone was four years without it (2009-2013).

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? In 2009, I wanted to heal following a particularly nasty break-up. Most recently, though, I have found that an active Facebook life clutters my mind in a way that I don’t appreciate. When I’m off of Facebook, my mind starts to settle. Life becomes quieter. I find it easier to live moment-to-moment without that alluring “pull” of the blue-and-white F-bomb. (Get it? That’s supposed to be funny.)

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? Quiet and, at times, fulfilling. I’ve done a lot more baking and reading. I’ve posted one blog, done a few art projects, and even taken to altering a few items of clothing. I like to get crafty with my raiment; it helps me stay fashionable without impinging on my bank account.

What are some things that you miss about Facebook? Seeing thoughtful posts from co-workers and friends, links to interesting articles, photos of my BFF Katy’s kids, and the occasional invite to an event that I would actually attend. I have to keep in mind that in order to access the aforementioned items, I have to sift through tons of ego-based posts, annoying selfies (including my own – haha), photos of people’s kids whom I’ve never even met and probably never will, links to boring articles, and invites to events that I cannot or would not attend in the first place. So, finding items of quality on Facebook sometimes feels like sifting for diamonds in the rubble.

Aleya from Alohaleya shares her answers to the survey below and she wrote a recent article about Facebook as well, read that here: Is Life Better without Facebook?

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I first created a Facebook account in 2006 or 2007. I think it was for curiosity more than anything. Most of my friends were on it so I had to see what all the fuss was about. 🙂 I don’t think I was that addicted to it though – I remember cancelling my account about a year later. 

How long have you been off of Facebook now?  I’ve been off Facebook since June 2016. I’d been on and off a few times in the past few years…but this is definitely the longest I’ve been without it. I seemed to have moved past the temptation phase of reactivating my account.  

What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook? So many reasons, very similar to yours. It was not only eating up my time, but I didn’t like who I was while using Facebook. I was judging and comparing a lot, and feeling bad about myself.

Now, one can argue that Facebook isn’t the cause of those things (i.e., we can’t blame Facebook!). But there’s something about the setup of Facebook, the way it provides a continuous feed of other peoples’ thoughts, opinions, and photos – many of which are negative and fear-based – that it takes a LOT of effort and discipline to not get sucked into all the ego stuff it activates. It just wasn’t worth it to me anymore. I wanted all that gone – I wanted to consciously focus my time and energy on things that were life and soul-affirming. Like reading books! 

How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook? It feels a lot simpler. I have more energy to devote to the things I really enjoy doing. Things feel more authentic – because hardly anyone is truly authentic on Facebook (including me, when I was on it).

What are some things that you miss about Facebook?   Knowing what’s gong on in my city/community – I’ve missed hearing about some fun events, because most people I know communicate them through through Facebook. It’d also be nice to share my writing, blog, etc. with the wide network I had before, but…oh well! Overall, I’m happier without it.

anti-facebook1

Nicole from Beninlife shares her answers to the Facebook survey below:

When did you first create your Facebook and what caused you to join?  I joined Facebook in 2005, though I cannot recall the reason why! I suppose MySpace was being phased out and Facebook was becoming more popular so I joined the trend.
How long have you been off of Facebook now?   The first time I deactivated my account, I stayed off for three years! Then in 2009, I bought a house with my former partner and thought we could post home improvement projects for our friends and family to see, so I reactivated it.  The second time I deactivated my account was just recently, in December of 2016.
What motivated you to deactivate your Facebook?  The last year, there has been an intense build up around the recent Presidential elections.  I did not realize at the time, but reading several posts daily that seemed to be dividing society on political, social and environmental issues finally resulted in me being in a constant state of anxiety.  I am currently serving with the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa and I realized I was not being present with my community nor the projects I was working on.  I would constantly check Facebook to see if I missed anything, as this has been my only connection to the states since arriving in Benin in 2015.  This addictive behavior really disturbed me, so I decided deactivating my account was a simple solution to decreasing my anxiety and increasing the level of being present within my daily life.
How has life been for you since deactivating your Facebook?  My life has become so much more simple!  I was worried at first that I would lose connection with friends and family back home, but in fact our connection has increased.  I have become more proactive in sending emails, making phone calls, updating my blog, and writing letters.  As far as my community, I have been able to focus more on my projects as well as integrating. I realized that everyone is watching the U.S.A right now, and the biggest action I can take is showing the locals in Benin that Americans can be kind and that we are here to help versus discriminate.
What are some things that you miss about Facebook?  Facebook had become my news source, which is a good and bad thing! As I cannot verify the validity of the news sources that are posted on Facebook, I have a newfound interest in researching credible news sources and staying more informed on world issues objectively.

And last, but certainly not least, Chaya from Chaya Grossberg shares her take on deactivating Facebook:

When social media first became popular, I was going through some major challenges that had me isolated and not able to read, write or use the internet much for a few years. This was in 2000-2003. When I emerged from that, I thought people still used floppy discs. I had been on 7 psychiatric drugs and bedridden from drug induced fatigue and mental impairment for about a year…but was still a writer at heart.

After that I briefly dated a guy who lived across the street from me, who I literally met while I was moongazing one night (quite the opposite of online dating). He talked about Friendster and would use it to invite his friends to events and parties. This seemed very foreign to me. A lot of the time I couldn’t tell if he was talking about his friends or his “Friendsters” since it seemed a lot of the people he was Friendsters with weren’t actual friends, though I couldn’t tell. I eventually tried Friendster in 2006 because another friend suggested it as a way to meet guys to date and I was coming out of a relationship that was hard for me to move on from.
 
This worked poorly to get me a date with a guy I had no interest in!
 
I resisted Facebook, but joined in 2008, I believe. I didn’t get a smartphone until 2014, and didn’t have internet at home, so I would only use Facebook in conjunction with everything else I did online for about an hour at the library, or at an office where I worked. I still found it pretty annoying, and tried to keep most of my interactions off of it. If someone wrote to me on there, I would email them back instead of replying on Facebook, or sometimes even call them instead.
 
I was excited to be able to reconnect with old friends though. I’d had so many powerful connections in childhood, high school and college and in my earlier twenties that I felt sad to lose due to moving away and different life paths and had actually fantasized about some way to be able to stay in contact with all of them. So that part was very exciting to me at first, tracking people down, getting surprise friend requests from old friends, seeing people’s photos and what they were up to. I didn’t get addicted right away, though. I would only use the internet for about an hour a day, so I made lists of things I needed to do (I still do this, but with a smart phone it’s much harder to limit access), and there wasn’t endless time for Facebooking.
 
I have been off Facebook now for about 4-5 months. I deactivated a month and a half before the 2016election and then went back on for one day, right after the election. I’ve gone back on a couple of other times for a few hours, including on my birthday, but even the birthday withes on Facebook had completely lost their charm.

When I first deactivated, I thought it would just be for a week or so, maybe a month tops. Up until then, I knew I was addicted to Facebook, but like many people, I needed it to create events, spread the word about things I was doing, market my business, share my writing, find out about events, stay in touch with new friends…the list was endless.

And then one day… none of those things seemed necessary or relevant, and I had reached a breaking point. Facebook was ruining my life. I felt like I had thousands of Facebook friends but almost no real ones. I realized I was looking for real friends on Facebook, when I needed to leave Facebook to find people who were interested in engaging off of Facebook! Simple logic, but it hadn’t occurred to me before. I thought that if I expressed something on Facebook, my friends on there would want to talk to me about it by phone or meet up in person (which did happen a few times, but more often than not people were on Facebook to engage on Facebook), when in fact they were just as addicted to Facebook as I was, and therefore didn’t have time to engage in real life.
What motivated me to deactivate Facebook was this extreme isolation I was feeling. It actually felt like I had reached a point where I knew it was my only choice for living a “real” life where I was actually present some of the time. I still get addicted to texting, email, and other internet and smartphone related things, but it does feel better now.
I wanted to see who I was without Facebook. It felt like such a powerful addiction that it had taken over my life. The few times I went back on I was flooded with negative emotions such as anxiety, jealousy, sadness, shame, embarrassment and generally feeling competitive with or rejected by others (even when I got a lot of likes and positive comments). All I could think of was who didn’t like me or my posts, and my Facebook friends who were no longer really in my life. I’ve moved around a lot and therefore have lost touch with thousands of friends. Facebook had become a reminder of everyone who was no longer in my life. Being Facebook friends with these people started to feel much worse than not having any contact at all, because it simply reminded me that these people were no longer actually available to me for real connection.
I felt this heaviness around Facebook, like I was expected to keep up with so many people and like it was an unpaid job to keep track of what thousands of people were doing or thinking.
I would also get jealous of people who were more popular than me and always got hundreds of likes on everything they posted. I would literally think there must be something wrong with me or my friends must strongly dislike me or find me annoying if I wasn’t getting as many likes as so and so. But there was no amount of likes that would ever make me feel better and in fact, the more likes I got, the more obsessive I became and the more “rejected” I felt.
Since I deactivated, all of that has fallen away! I no longer feel preoccupied with grief over people who are no longer actively in my life, or jealousy over people who are more popular than me. There are hundreds of people I no longer think about much at all, but when I do it feels more grounded.
 
I realized I was also okay with letting people forget about me, if that would happen due to me not being on Facebook. In fact I feel much lighter and like I’m not holding onto all these people or expecting them to hold me in their consciousness all the time. Then when someone does reach out to me, it feels real, and when I think about people or reach out to them, I know it is because I naturally want to do so. I’m not reacting to Facebook “propaganda” or pressure, or putting any weight on others to respond to me in that way.
 
Everything feels lighter and it took awhile, but I’ve attracted some other friends who don’t use Facebook, or who hardly use it.
 
Everything in my life got better when I left Facebook. For the first few weeks I felt so high, and so pleased with myself for finally kicking my addiction. I don’t miss it at all! It was like night and day how I went from my life revolving around Facebook, to my life revolving around my actual needs and actual real life connections.
 
I do get isolated sometimes, which has always been an issue for me as someone who enjoys a lot of solitude, but now I don’t numb out the isolation with Facebook. I either feel it or reach out in a real way like by making a phone call or going out. I do still sometimes engage in other addictive internet behaviors when I’m isolated, such as excessive reading, but at least I am targeting specific topics that I want to read about rather than scrolling mindlessly and passively on a newsfeed about infinite topics that I’m not actively choosing.
 
Not being on Facebook makes me feel sort of like everyone else is caught in a fake reality, but I don’t judge anyone for using it. I simply pat myself on the back because I know I made the right choice for myself. Every time someone mentions this or that Facebook group, I simply feel relieved that I won’t be checking it out.
 
Now that I’m off I have no idea how I ever had the time or mental space to absorb that much constant mental stimulation. I used to get really curious about certain other people from my past and look them up on Facebook; this was part of my addiction. I was neglecting my own life to passively observe what other people were doing. Now that I don’t do that, it seems so obvious that minding my own business is a healthier and more integrated lifestyle for me.
 
A lot of the activist organizing (and arguing) that took place in my Facebook feed (and in my mind) no longer even seems real. It literally seems like just mental activity in other people’s minds that has no relevance to me whatsoever.
 
I also notice that I use email and texting more, and I sign up for more email lists because I don’t feel bombarded with input.
What do I miss about Facebook? I miss some of the really amazing writing of my friends and even some writers and celebrities who only post their writing on Facebook. I wish they would put them on blogs as well so I could follow them. I even considered emailing some of my favorite Facebook posters to ask them to start blogs, but never got around to it.
 
I miss seeing posts about spontaneous opportunities to meet up with people, and being invited to the private events of new friends who don’t know me well enough to invite me personally when I’m not on Facebook.
 
There’s a website called allevents.in that allows me to see all of the public Facebook events in my area, so that helps a lot (anyone can use it). I don’t miss people constantly marketing to me and inviting me to their workshops and whatnot (except for the very small percentage which actually interested me).
 
I actually don’t even miss asking for advice about practical things on Facebook. But every once in awhile I do. Every once in awhile Facebook seems like it would be the perfect place for me to post a question, a request or share something I wrote. But I know it’s a slippery slope, so I generally refrain and use google or call a friend instead. I post things on Google plus, Patreon, and my own blog, where I don’t get sucked into any rabbit holes of scrolling or obsession or distractions that waste my energy that I could be using to face my own life and address my problems.
One other thing I miss is links to really good articles. But I don’t miss it that much. I get less news for sure, but even that feels pretty healthy so that I can focus my energies more constructively on things I can actually do something about. Reading the news can make me feel powerless. Instead, I’ve mostly been reading things that inspire me or help me improve my health, or interesting stories. I like having less input too, because it allows my imagination more space to find its own realities and solutions.

Following the Heart; Adventure Part Dos.

image6The Northern Lights as seen from Iceland.  Photo Credit: Eyal Saiet

As promised from my previous post, I am going to blog about my adventures overseas that I was blessed with throughout the last half of December and first part of January.  I am currently going on a third day of being cooped up inside after Portland’s worst snowstorm in decades, so it’s forcing me to finally write and I am loving that fact!  Who would of thought that one of the things that I dread most (snow) would bring me to finally working on one of my prized passions (writing)? I will take it. 🙂

So after playing around in the Redwoods for a few days and volunteering at a meditation course for ten days, I headed back to Portland for a quick reorganization of my backpacks before flying overseas to Iceland.  My friend Heather was gracious enough to let me crash at her place in Portland for the couple nights before my flight.  The day I was to fly out of Portland I decided that it would be a good idea to go on a long run at my most favorite park in Portland, Mount Tabor.  As soon as I left her house, my jogging shoes almost stepped on half a globe lying in the street.  I kid you not, how synchronous is that?  I took a picture of it for proof!  I took it as a good indicator that I was on the correct path.

image1-4Signs…

My flight to Reykjavik, Iceland was easygoing, I sat next to a sweet young couple that held hands the whole plane ride and excitedly told me about their plans to rent a car to drive around the whole country of Iceland for nine days of holiday.  The 7 1/2 hour flight from Portland to Reykjavik went incredibly fast as I filled it up with movies, music, reading, and a couple meditation sessions.  We had a smooth landing and arrived at around 8:00 in the morning.  As I embarked on the one hour bus ride from the airport to the main Reykjavik bus hub I noticed that the sun wasn’t even close to coming out.  It hit me that I arrived to a country that is notorious for short winter days and it happened to be December 21st, the shortest day of the year….yikes.

My sweet Air BNB host, Dia, picked me up from the bus terminal and navigated the snowy highways cautiously, she informed me that they hadn’t had any snow up until two days prior to my arrival.  I felt as if I was back in my homeland of Minnesota, the dark day mixed in with the fresh powder of snow was all too familiar.  After arriving at Dia’s house and stashing my stuff, the sun was just starting to come out, around 9:45am.  Dia explained to me how to get into town from her place with the city bus that had a bus stop directly in front of her apartment.  I had been up for almost 36 hours at that point, but I was so excited to explore that I definitely caught a second wind.

The city bus pulled up in front of Dia’s apartment pretty quick after I arrived, I greeted the driver and plopped down on the warm seat.  Hearing all of the Icelandic language being spoken around me along with the grey glow of light peaking through the city bus windows had me pinching the back off my hand to question if I wasn’t just actually dreaming.  To me, being sleep deprived upon entering a foreign land is one of the most surreal experiences ever.  It was really nice being on the bus and taking in the brand new views without having to worry about driving in the massive amounts of snow.

image2-2 A view of Reykjavik harbor in the distance

I got off the bus as soon as it entered the main Downtown area of Reykjavik.  I marveled at the cute European shops and art murals lining the streets.  After walking the streets and just taking in the new culture for about an hour, some hunger pangs hit me.  I realized I hadn’t ate a full meal since lunchtime in Portland the day prior.  My first stop was at an ATM which involved the ATM eating my Icelandic money back into the machine and there was no phone number anywhere listed on the machine.  I went into my head and spiraled a bit thinking, “Damn, it’s colder than Minnesota here and Iceland stole my $80 and I don’t know why I decided to come to Iceland in December, am I crazy?!”

Upon the mini-freak out, I decided to anchor in at a little convenience store and munched on a unique Icelandic cheese panini.  I wrote half a dozen post cards and watched the day-to-day workers and students passing by the front window.  After eating and calming down a bit, I decided to venture back out into the city.  I walked a lot for the rest of that day, getting lost a multitude of times and stopping in to warm up in stores every 20 minutes or so as it had been a while since I have had to deal with below freezing weather.

Anxiety hit me from time to time because it had been a while since I traveled a foreign country on my own.  I tend to have a bit of the good ol’ A.D.D. too and sometimes forget that I need to be paying attention to landmarks and street signs since I didn’t have another set of eyes with me.  At one point I got so in a trance taking pictures of the beautiful graffiti art that encompasses Reykjavik that I got lost, trying to find my bus stop.  It just so happened that a blizzard decided to start at the same time.  I didn’t end up bringing my warm winter jacket to Iceland because I knew I’d only be in Iceland 3 days and I didn’t want to trudge it around for the 2 ½ weeks that I’d be in Ireland.

image2-3image1-5 The trippy artwork that inspired me to get lost in Reykjavik :).

I brought out my paper map of Reykjavik from my backpack and after looking at the street signs, it hit me that I was completely turned around.  I asked a couple that walked past me in the desolate residential neighborhood I was in for directions and they informed me with broken English that they weren’t from Iceland either.  I started to head down what seemed like the correct direction, only to be brought into an even more desolate residential area. The snow was coming down so hard and it was becoming hard to see.  My clothes were completely cold and sopping wet.  I realized that if I were to have another mini-freak out it wouldn’t help me to get drier or find my way out of being lost.

The neighborhood that I found myself lost in was eerily quiet, I could only here the soft patter of snow landing on the ground and parked cars around me.  There wasn’t a store, person or car driving in sight.  It felt slightly as if I was in a nightmare that I had created all on my own.  Again, my inner child started freaking out in my head and that’s when it hit me that I was forgetting to breathe.  I practice meditation not to escape life, but to utilize it as a tool for when difficult situations (such as the one I was in) arise.  The breath centered me and I came back to the logical reasoning of heading back from the direction I came from before going further into the void.  I came back upon the street where I initially realized I was lost and ran into a human angel that stopped, looked at my map and pointed me into the correct streets to get back to the bus stop.

The bus stop had a warm store near it that I got a hot espresso from and warmed up my bone-chilled body the best I could.  I glanced at the clock in the store and it hit me that I had been up officially for 43 hours, instead of further exploring the city, I decided in my sleepless state of mind that would probably be best to head back to Dia’s place.  And it’s good I did because I got lost two more times realizing that I had taken two of the wrong bus transfers to get back to Dia’s place.  When I finally was on the right bus, my head kept nodding off as if I was a heroin junkie and I almost missed my stop because I was half asleep.

After sleeping for 12+ hours at Dia’s, I ended up sleeping through my alarm and missed catching the tour bus that I had signed up for the day prior that was to take off at 10:30 that morning to a few Icelandic nature spots at the famous Golden Circle.  My mind went into spiral mode again “oh mannnnnnnnn, an ATM stole $80 from me, the food has been crazy expensive here, and now they’re probably going to make me pay for a second ticket because I was a slacker that slept through my alarm.”  I came back to my breath yet again, “Chill Ilona!  Chill!  The girl that sold you the ticket yesterday was an absolute sweetheart and she will be a sweetheart about this situation too I’m sure.”  I was completely correct on that accord, the girl was super kind again when I got to the tour bus location and she booked me onto the next bus without any extra fee.

image5 Making peace with the bitter cold in front of Gullfoss waterfall.

The Golden Circle was beautiful and jaw-dropping despite the bitter cold.  The tour consisted of Gullfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser and Thingvellir National Park, but it was a speed version of it as we only had four hours of daylight, it made me crave thoughts of coming back to Iceland in summer months and driving around on my own.  As we loaded back onto the bus to head back to Reykjavik, the stars looked amazing and the clouds had an other worldy color that for a split second I mistook for possible Northern Lights.  I realized that I had only one last night in Iceland and it would be spent in the city, so my chances of seeing the Northern Lights, I was told by many, was slim to none.  The tour bus driver informed us that some people come to Reykjavik for a whole week and never end up seeing the Northern Lights, it’s truly all about timing, clear skies, and luck.

image4 Strokkur Geyser doing it’s thang!  It goes off every 5-10 minutes.image3-2 Thingvellir National Park, where you get to walk between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates!  They are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year.

After the bus dropped us off, I walked the city streets unsure of what to do next or where to go, I stumbled upon a delicious Chinese buffet.  As I settled in with my Icelandic beer and first mouth-watering plate, I turned my almost-dead phone on, I had just a little bit of battery juice left.  I noticed a few messages from a fellow traveler that I met through an online traveling website and had been corresponding with the couple weeks leading up to my trip.  He had rented a car and was just coming back from the countryside into the city and wondered if I’d like to go find some hot springs with him?  PERFECT!  What an excellent last idea for my last night in Iceland, I thought to myself.  My new travel buddy, Eyal, arrived to the Chinese buffet at the speed of light and joined me for a drink.  After we talked and gained a rapport, I realized I was with a cool human and we started our hot springs hunting.

The first hot springs that we were trying to get to didn’t end up existing, or if it did it exist, it didn’t want us to find it.  The second hot springs we came about was in a first ring city right outside of Reykjavik and it turned out to be a foot-soaking hot springs.  As we headed back to his car we both looked up and spotted green skies.  Wait what?  Green skies?!!?!  The colors grew thicker and wider and stretched upon the sky as if it was an amusement park light show.  It danced and changed length or size.  Eyal broke out his camera and started taking time lapse photos.  The wind chill was hitting our bones, but at that point the light show above our heads was so wild that I didn’t care if I got frost bite.

By the time the natural light show was over, we attempted to go to one last hot springs, only to find that there was no water in it.  I was so completely elated that I got to see the Northern Lights that I was happy to head back to my air BNB without having a hot springs soak.  Eyal and I agreed to drive to the airport together the next morning since we both had flights around the same time, only his was to Norway and mine was to Ireland. My host and her husband were home and they let Eyal crash their floor impromptu and Dia packed my backpack with chocolate from an Icelandic chocolate factory that she works at, it was a lovely last night in their home.

Stay tuned for the Ireland adventures on my next blog post!  Thanks for reading 🙂

Following the Heart; Adventure Part Uno.

I woke up today with intentions to get all of my “adult” stuff in order.  There are certain forms that I need to fill out, emails that I need to respond to, and passwords that I need to remember.  Then it hit me that all of the paperwork that I need to do is in my car which is miles away from where I am and a record breaking snowstorm that hit Portland two days ago literally has me snowed in.  My egoic mind was very displeased with this “but you have to do that paperwork now, if you don’t get all of that in order now, your world will come crashing down.”  I laughed out loud when I heard that one and then a more gentle feeling came over me.  The knots in my stomach released and a soft voice said “write.”

I haven’t touched my blog in months and it has been painful not doing so.  Every time that I leave my writing hanging, it feels as if there is a gaping hole in my soul.  I journal pretty consistently which helps, but there is something about blogging that fulfills that feeling of emptiness that ensues every time I drift away from it for months.  So here I am, showing up to it and it is feeling great so far.

The last month and a half has been filled with many adventures that I have been blessed with.  My heart called me to a few different places that I didn’t think I would ever actually get around to going to.  In this was: The Redwoods of Northern California, volunteering at a 10-day meditation retreat, Iceland, Ireland, New York, New Jersey, New York once more and then back to home sweet Portland, Oregon.  All along the way trying to come back to the breath at every moment, despite how uncomfortable it felt at times to be completely out of routine and not knowing where I was going next.

The Redwoods of Northern California was a welcome bliss after having worked for the last year in Portland and taking classes simultaneously.  I packed up my car, jetted down south from Portland and arrived at the cutest little Air BNB  in Crescent City.  My first full day was spent at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park hiking the beautiful Boy Scout Tree Trail, a 5.6 mile jaunt through peaceful and quiet Redwoods.  I found the most perfect tree to sit in and meditate halfway through the hike.  Afterwards I opened my eyes to pinch myself and double check to see if I was dreaming up this amazing solitude in the trees, but the pain of the pinch reminded me that this was indeed the material world.

cali1

Two full days were spent hiking different trails in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Tolowa Dunes State Park.  I also had a brief stop into the city of Arcata where I picked up some delicious coffee and some new thrift store threads for the coming winter months.  Between Crescent City and Arcata, as I was speeding along Highway 101, I came across a herd of wild elk that were peacefully gazing to the side of the highway, reminding me to slow down and enjoy the journey.  I had never seen anything like it, it was pure beauty with the sun setting behind them.

cali3

cali2

After giving a gigantic hug to my Crescent City, amazing Air BNB  host, it was back to the road again to embark on a four hour drive to where a 10-day meditation retreat was awaiting me.  I arrived to the location a bit earlier than everyone else, I set my giant backpack down in the quiet home where us volunteers would sleep.  I had initially signed up to sit the course as a student and not volunteer at it, but I had a sudden inspiration to change my registration to volunteer instead one week prior.  Even though I knew that the next 10 days was going to be a lot of strenuous work, mentally and physically, I had the feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be.

This would be my third time at a 10-day silent retreat, my second time as a volunteer.  After sitting quietly and meditating with my fellow bodhisattvas the next morning after my arrival, down to the kitchen we went to unload the first delivery of fresh produce.  We started cooking up the meal that the students would get upon their arrival.  Having had worked the kitchen at that location the year before, everything came back to me with ease and I was able to assist the new volunteers instead of standing around looking confused as I had the first day I ever started.

It was intense work as I had remembered before, waking up between 4:30 and 5:30am to get breakfast ready for the students and being on our feet for the whole day besides the three group meditation sits that we sat in with the students.  Despite the madness that can go on in the kitchen, my practice was always in effect at every moment,  always coming back to my breath and centering myself.  We started to get into a groove in the kitchen, with all of us volunteers seemingly floating through all the tasks that needed to get done.  Hiccups came up, of course, but the fact that every single volunteer there had sat a 10-day meditation retreat created an empathy in the kitchen like no other.

Halfway through the meditation course, the course female manager/assistant to the meditation teacher fell and had a concussion.  This threw things of course, quite literally as I was catapulted into the position never having done it before.  All of sudden, instead of sitting up front meditating with my fellow volunteers in from of 70 pairs of eyes, I was to keep track of 32 of those 70 pairs of eyes.  Anytime a female meditator cried, made significant noise or walked out of the building I was to open my eyes and get direction from the female meditation teacher on how to comfort the meditator or track down where they went.

“A new female manager halfway into a 10-day silent meditation course, there really is no other worse thing that I can think of to happen.  Every student is such in a difficult spot, I really can’t think of a more challenging situation occurring than this” the kitchen female manager stated to me as I walked into the kitchen on my first “official” day of being the female students manager.  I took a deep breath and realized that my meditation practice had prepped me for that exact kind of situation to arise.  And from that moment forward I stayed present with every single situation that arose, including assisting with five ladies over the next few days that made the difficult decision to leave the 10-day retreat early.  I was constantly on my feet and always alert during the group meditation to make sure I wasn’t missing any direction from the meditation teacher.

Before I knew it, the last morning of the meditation retreat arrived and I decided to go AWOL as soon as the last group meditation was over.  When the ladies at the retreat were able to talk on the previous day, I graciously accepted a few compliments from them, but I decided I wanted to take off before any more compliments could be said.  It hit me that I completely followed my heart correctly with that retreat, coming in to volunteer instead of being a student was exactly what was needed.  In the spirit of modesty though, I didn’t want to hear any more compliments.

Into the foggy clouds I went back up to Portland where I reorganized my backpacks and tied up a few loose ends before taking a flight out to Reykjavik, Iceland.  The flight was booked rather impulsively months prior when a friend invited me to travel with her and her husband throughout Ireland, Reykjavik was a relatively cheap stop-over flight to Ireland.  Reykjavik had been on my radar for a while as some friends had recently told me about how amazing it was and it was a quick stop over flight before Ireland.  I figured that it would be great to have some solo travel before joining them.

Cutting this short and will make a part two about Iceland and Ireland, so I hope that you stay tuned :)!

No Cell Zone

11924908_10153548606591678_5412554973075458375_n

 

They’re everywhere.  They’re standing in the middle of walkways, at the grocery stores, at shopping malls, walking down city sidewalks, they are your own friends that you haven’t seen in months sitting across from you at the restaurant booth.  They are all doing that familiar thing, that incredibly common sight this day in age.  Come on…you know what I am talking about by now, right?  I am talking about that human with their head faced down and that far away glaze in their eyes as they look down at a tiny screen on a gadget that fits ever so perfectly between their hands.

I’m guilty of it.  You’re guilty of it.  Anyone that owns a cell phone, whether or not it’s a “smart” phone is guilty of it.  I guarantee that in your time of owning a cell phone you have either tripped over uneven sidewalk, ignored your friend, or blocked someone’s way in a store aisle because of cell phone distraction.  I absolutely guarantee it, we are glued to them.  They hold the whole world inside of them.  We feel naked leaving the house without them.  With the push of a button we can find newer and better of anything: cars, houses, lovers.

12932633_10209366005293676_752540994435098412_n

A few weekends ago, I decided to have a cell phone fast for one day.  The battery on my phone had died the Friday evening before and I decided that I would just not plug it into a charger until Sunday afternoon.  To my surprise, as soon as I set the cell phone fast as an intention, I felt incredibly at peace and had a sense of relief when I realized I wouldn’t have to respond to anyone or anything on a tiny screen until Sunday.  I became excited at thought of not having to feel guilty in not responding to someone.

I caught up on so many things that I had been putting off for so long.  I finished chores around the house, including the two loads of laundry and washing the pile of dishes stacked like a Jenga tower on my bedroom desk.  I finished a library book that had been racking up an over due fine for well over a month.  I went on a two-hour nature walk/jog and locked eyes or smiled with a few other passersby.  I caught up with two of my roommates who I have had more interaction with on Facebook messenger than in real life.

Call me crazy but, I imagine a world where we smile when we have low batteries
Cause that will mean we’ll be one bar closer – to humanity

–Prince Ea

I have realized that my addiction to my cell phone has become just as bad as any other addiction that I have ever had.  It is just another distraction keeping me from what I really want or should be doing.  It has become a way to numb my brain out from thinking about thoughts that I don’t want to face.  It is another way to avoid facing up to things that are hurting me or things that I need to heal.  There are so many options and possibilities of things to do on my cell phone, it’s like being at a virtual amusement park for adults.

I understand that there is the other side of the coin.  I know that cell phones are devices of convenience and helpful in many aspects.  I know that it is part of what is able to connect us to everyone and everything.  Someone in another country might be reading these very words I am typing out right now and that is absolutely amazing.  But what gets me, what really gets me is this: what if it were all to crash tomorrow?  I mean truly, everything changes and nothing stays the same.

I just want to be more alert and aware of when I reach down for my phone, what is it that is drawing me there?  What is it within me that is feeling so uncomfortable with my own thoughts that I need to distract my mind with external validation from technology?  I want to change my ways.  I think I want to dedicate a time to look at it, maybe instead of first thing in the morning, I can look at it briefly at my lunch hour and for a set time after work: thirty minutes or less and that’s it.  I just want more moment-to-moment awareness and connection, how about you?