So the Universe gave me a gift: it disconnected me from the virtual world for almost 24 hours. No phones. No internet. No email. No Roku. Nothing. It all went down. Yikes! OMG! What’s a person to do! In my case, I did my best to turn the forced “isolation” into an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. By getting unplugged from the distracting energies of modern life, I learned more about focusing on the things that really matter. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself that gift as well. Why not consider the possibility with me, as we work our way through today’s Provision?
This Provision series on Cultivating Mindfulness has included a lot of reflection on the notion of standing still. In Provision #842, Not Knowing Soul, I included several poems that urged us to stand still in order to hear the message of the flowers, the birds, and the wind. It’s hard enough to hear that message when we are standing still; it’s next to impossible to hear it when we are busy-busy and constantly on-the-go. It is only through silence that we can appreciate and learn from the sounds of life.
A month later, in Provision #848, Time to Stand Still, I tackled the subject again with a few reflections on my own life experiences. It’s amazing what I have been able to hear just by listening. The poets are right: the flowers, birds, and winds have much to share when we pay attention. But it’s not just a matter of paying attention, we have to pay attention with the right frame of mind. We have to listen quietly, intently, and curiously. When we pay attention in order to find opportunities to assert ourselves and our agendas out in the world, the messages that life has to teach us go by unnoticed and unappreciated. When we pay attention as a way of unplugging, listening, and transforming ourselves – all that begins to change.
Today I want to reflect on how hard it is to adopt this frame of mind and these practices in the context of the modern world. And, although this topic fits in perfectly, it was not what I intended to write about at all for this week’s Provision. But at the beginning of the week the Universe spoke in a way that could not be ignored. It unplugged me from the modern world. I’m not sure what caused the outage, perhaps road construction, but whatever it was, it took down my cable phone lines as well as my connection to the Internet. I had been literally “unplugged”.
What fascinated me was not the outage itself – those kinds of things happen – what fascinated me was my reaction to the outage. Instead of being upset that I could no longer do my work as usual, I received the outage as a gift. And it wasn’t even hard to do. I had been unplugged through no fault of my own. No one could call me and I could not call anyone. No one could email me and I could not email anyone. I could not visit any websites. And, given my mobility limitations (I’m not legally allowed to drive and it’s risky business to ride my bicycle) I couldn’t just grab my laptop, throw it in my backpack, and go to a coffee shop to take care of business. I was, in other words, more or less isolated from the world at large.
And what a gift that proved to be! I decided to use that relative isolation as a time to cultivate mindfulness. I spent more time than usual rehearsing and reflecting on my day. I started reviewing the books on my bookshelf (all of which I have read and most of which I have forgotten). I engaged in deep breathing exercises. And I closed my eyes to rest. I unplugged my mind from the mundane in order to plug into the profound and vital rhythms of life.
Perhaps that’s why I had no seizures on Monday. None. Not even a twinge. By unplugging from the business of modern life, my brain was perhaps able to heal a bit more and to recover a greater sense of wholeness. That’s at least as good a theory as any.
But we don’t have to wait for outages to get unplugged. We can just decide to make it happen and act accordingly. We can take the phone off the hook, walk away from the computer, turn off the television, and just be alone with our own thoughts or together with the ones we love. That was, of course, the way of things for most of human history. There were no phones, computers, or worldwide webs. There was no electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing. People were either alone, on their own, or working directly with others to meet their survival, social, and spiritual needs.
I encourage you to go back to that time, however briefly, at least once during the week ahead. Better yet: do it once a day. Plan to make such times to happen. Put them on your calendar, if that works best, or do them spontaneously. Either way, do them and then claim them as gifts. Yesterday morning, for example, I went running, which I still do rather tentatively. My wife, in fact, had to give me a little push. “If you want to,” she said, “then go do it. The doctors have said there’s nothing stopping you from running.” Amazingly, given my love of running, I had forgotten that fact. So out the door I went.
And what a time I had. I decided to claim that run as a chance to get unplugged. I wasn’t thinking about what I had to do (which I often forget anyway) or what was waiting for me back home. I wasn’t even thinking about the time of day or my pace. Indeed, I did not have on any kind of watch at all. I was just running for the pure love of running. And it was, indeed, a love. I probably went about 5 miles or 8 kilometers around one street after another. Sure, I started getting tired towards the end of the run, but that was easy to deal with: I just started walking more than running. No matter. I was still moving. I was still burning calories. I was still getting a little more into shape. And I was getting unplugged from the business of life.
That may be what I love most about running. I get lost in the run. I get unplugged from everything else and I just become present in the moment to rhythm of the run, the sound of my breathing, and the natural world around me. Running – getting unplugged – reminds me how truly great it is to be alive.
At the end of my run I had the fun of talking with one of my old running buddies. He was in his car, coming back from the long, Saturday-morning group run that used to be a regular part of my routine. It was great to see him again, to catch up on how things are going, and to find out about some of my old buddies in the group. It may be time for me to start going on those runs again which, ironically, would be another way to unplug. Unplugging is not necessarily retreating away from the world; it can well be retreating from one’s natural routine in order to experiment with supernatural routines. And that’s what happened to me.
I say “supernatural” not in the sense of “super human”. I say “supernatural” only in the way such routines have an almost transcendent power to take us beyond the natural order and rhythms of life. Anyone can find and adopt such routines. We just have to look for them, experiment until we find the ones that are right for us, and then practice them consistently. That really is the formula for getting unplugged: stepping away from the ordinary and stepping into the extraordinary. I encourage you to do that today, or as soon as you are able, and then to develop a pattern for unplugging that feeds and nourishes your soul. Therein lays the key to being seized by life.
Coaching Inquiries: What would it take for you to release any negative images you may hold about yourself and to claim yourself as already a winner? How could you make that shift and who could assist you to do so? Why not find that friend, partner, or coach and do so today?
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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.
The provision on mindfulness led me to the experience of thankfulness. Yours was an outstanding posting and I will be reading it and re-reading again. Way to go Bob
You speak my mind, but much better than I can speak my mind! Thank you!
It is so hard for people to know, really KNOW, that just being alive is enough. You know. Thank you for preaching that gospel.
I have listened and re-listened to many of your sessions while being certified through Wellcoaches Corp. Very helpful and enjoyable.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, joy, and health.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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