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Reclaiming Life Offline

For a long time, I was holding onto my online life, quite tightly.

In a gap between daily tasks, I’d grab onto a quick check of my texts/emails/social media. And I would end up tumbling down the online rabbit hole. From there, I’d emerge disorientated and distracted, one step removed from my embodied experience. Scattered and foggy-headed, sometimes I’d feel like I barely had the headspace left to figure out what to cook for dinner.

This was enough to persuade me to Let Go.

In an experiment, I have cut back my time online time to include only the unavoidable, or the highly valued.

Of course, it’s a work-in-progress, and my mindfulness practice helps me navigate the challenges.

For some time now, I’ve been working with a particular type of imagery in meditation. It’s a practice of letting go of the energy I don’t need, and taking in the qualities I do need.

It’s become so embedded that it breaks through into ordinary moments in my day. Each out-breath – with its energy of surrender – helping to prepare me for positive change. Each in-breath – with its energy of receptivity, of receiving nourishment – sustaining and recharging me, lighting me up.

When working in this way, it’s tempting to focus primarily on what we want to gain. But I realise now that what we’re prepared to lose can be just as important.

There can be more power in the letting go than in the taking in.

Right now, the trees are letting go of their leaves, surrendering to nakedness. Far from becoming more vulnerable, it turns out that this affords a protective benefit for some trees. Reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Secret Life Of Trees, I learned that being leafless can help some trees to avoid damage from strong winds: their resistance is reduced, and so their capacity to ride out the storm without losing branches is enhanced.

We humans, too, can benefit from letting go of the resistance that hampers our efforts to find freedom and peace. Mindfulness has taught me that fighting with difficult feelings leads mostly to exhaustion, whereas surrendering to flow is liberating.

Ironically, the defences we construct can actually get in the way of protecting ourselves. Like the leaves, they might be creating unnecessary resistance to whatever energy is passing through. If we can let go of unhelpful defensive strategies, we might be better equipped to ride out the storm, naked and stronger for it.

As I step away from the online life, rife with the emotional contagion of communal outrage and self-importance, I recognise how some of my own ‘defences’ may not actually have been helping me. (And I’ll admit that this awareness was helped by online resources such as the documentary The Social Dilemma, and this article).

In my efforts to reclaim a life offline, I have traded a holding-on for a letting go. I had thought I needed to acquire a stockpile of analogue pursuits, to replace the online time-wastey-places (as my friend calls them).

But actually, I’m loving the spaces that are left when I don’t keep grabbing for my phone. Perhaps there’s no need to fill emptiness with more things to hold onto.

When left open and empty, these spaces naturally fill with ungrasped-for rewards: a sense of magic or mystery, a skyscape as rich as artwork, a moment of deep connection with someone I love, here, in our shared life offline.

So I don’t have to worry about what to hold onto. As long as I maintain the strength to keep letting go.

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in Adventures In Analogue.

And if you’re curious about the practice I referred to, you can find one variant of it on the Meditations page, called ‘Supported By The Earth’.

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