I take a silent day at least once a week (two if I can pull it off). Perhaps even more important than refraining from speech is my self-imposed “discipline” of no interaction with any screens, such as cell phone and computer. (I do run the risk of missing an urgent text message … but then, I don’t recall ever having received an urgent text.) I put the word discipline in quotes just now because the actual experience is a luxury, not a discipline.
Throughout the rest of the week, I check text messages and emails compulsively. I don’t keep my phone on me at all times and I actually leave the ringer off, but whenever I see it lying around – or I walk past it – I reflexively grab it to see if there’s been any action. And at any given moment in my day, when I’m not sure what to do next, I usually pick up the phone. If there are no messages for me, I might check Facebook or the New York Times or just browse the Web a little.
It’s amazing how time flies when I’m doodling with my cell phone. Can you relate?
And when I wake up on Saturday – which is normally my silent day – I do feel an impulse to check the phone, but I ignore it. And that’s as tough as it gets. For the remainder of the day – and sometimes the weekend – the phone just lies on its face, powerless, and I’m free. The world of the phone seems miles away.
My freedom is not always blissful. Often, the residual pain and confusion of the week is what I’m left with – all the convoluted, gnarly thoughts and feelings I’ve been numbing out with the help of the phone. All my unfulfilled longings, lingering regrets, and diminished dreams, not to mention existential fears. Some days that’s what silence seems to be all about for me.
Oh, and loneliness. That too.
And yet, it is still by far the richest day or two of my week. I look forward to it so much these days. I could almost say it’s what I live for.
I should mention that even on my silent days, I do read (books). And write. And put on music and sing too, for that matter, so technically speaking, I’m not entirely silent. One of these days, perhaps, I’ll take a more “meditative” silent day, with fewer stimuli, but I haven’t been moved to do that yet.
Sometimes I am suffused with such deep pure joy on a silent day – or at least for some part of it – that I never want to look at a phone or a computer screen ever again.
It’s amazing, really, the things that can happen when you simply take a break from screens and see how your mood is moving.
I used to search for happiness
I used to follow pleasure
But I found a door behind my mind
And that’s the greatest treasure.Robin Williamson, “October Song”
Sometimes that happens. It doesn’t last (for me) but it does happen. A lot!
However, it never happens when I’m looking at a phone.
[…] This recent piece by Ezra Klein from the New York Times really nails what I’ve been trying to express about why it’s healthy to take a break – at least an entire day once in a while – from all screens. […]