July 6, 2011

No WiFi?! Meditate. ~ Alli Barocas

Photo: Mo Riza.

So, I walk into a restaurant in Denver…

(And no, this is not the beginning of a really funny joke.)

And, before I come in to enjoy a meal and a few cocktails, I quickly ask (of course): Is there Wifi?

The hostess responds: Chicken and waffles…

“One word. All lowercase.”

After a puzzled look, I realize that this is the password to the network. Cute, I guess.

I’m eating alone, which I often do, and I am sat at a cozy corner booth by the bar.  I promptly open my laptop, type in the clever password and wait… And wait… The rainbow wheel of death keeps turning… I keep waiting… and then, Invalid password.

I try again. No luck. I try the guest network. Nothing. I try the password again.

I catch the first waitress I can and, confused, I ask her how she can fix it. She simply says: Yeah, sorry. It doesn’t always work. Well, that’s no excuse and it doesn’t seem like an acceptable answer. I ask another server.  She has no solutions.

At this point, I’m starting to panic. It has been a long, hectic day, but I still have more work to do, more emails to respond to and more appointments to book.

The world can’t stop just because I have to eat a meal once in a while. And quite honestly, I would have sat at a coffee shop rather than eaten if I knew I couldn’t get work done.

I explain to the manager that I came in to do work…as well as eat a meal. And I can’t do that without wifi. He apologizes profusely and I tell him I understand (even though, quite honestly, I don’t).

I order a drink and a meal and fidget with my phone. I check my email, text and facebook on my Pphone. I scan the menu a third or fourth time, even though I have already ordered and then…

Then, I stop. I just, stop.

I realize that this is the first time I am sitting down today, if you don’t count driving (which you shouldn’t).

Who cares if I don’t have wifi for an hour while I eat my meal? Really. I mean, I spend all day coming and going and talking and texting and doing 12 things at once and I never just stop.

I actually enjoyed my food. I savored the taste of what I was eating. I focused on one thing at one time and with intention. I just stopped all the other noise around me.

Photo: Mo Riza

All too often we take pride in how busy we are. It is as if the less time we have for leisure, the more we consider ourselves hard-working people leading worthwhile lives. But in all honesty, it’s just a bunch of nonsense.

How often do we go through a 9 to 5 day (if not longer), doing a million things at once, working nonstop or running errands with any free-time we have and by the end of it simply plop down on the couch and think, what just happened?

It all becomes a blur, and I do it all the time.  When someone asks me how I’m doing I simply respond, O.K, Very Busy. And they respond, Oh, Good.

It reminds me of the meditation lecture that Waylon Lewis hosted at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder during the Hanuman Festival.

I was excited and nervous to attend. I had never meditated before and I was under the impression that I just couldn’t. My mind was filled with too many thoughts, I didn’t have the time, I was too busy…

But, Waylon assured the attendees that if we thought we couldn’t meditate because we were too speedy or distracted or busy, then we were in fact the perfect candidates. And it’s the truth.

For five minutes I focused on nothing but my breath and labeling the thoughts coming through as Thinking before sending them away with my breath. Flowing in and out like waves, I focused.

I sat up straight, with my pelvic bones grounded. I kept my eyes open and my gaze low. I breathed and I breathed and I thought and I labeled those thoughts Thinking and I sent them away.

The practice seems easy. It is and it isn’t. As soon as I thought I’m Doing It!, then I wasn’t. But the point is, I had intention.

Those few minutes of meditation prepared me for a day of nonstop emails, phone calls, appointments and more. But, I also realize that even if I don’t find the time to sit and meditate, just focusing on one thing and one time—like a nice meal at a nice restaurant alone, is just as helpful and necessary.

Photo: Minoru Nitta

Of course, saying is easier than doing. I still find myself fidgeting with my phone in between any time I have alone or waiting. I am never comfortable with just being.

And even eating a meal is hard to do without a computer screen in front of me. I don’t know whether this is out of boredom, insecurity, or simply the reaction to the day in age we live in.

But, I’m learning. I’m learning to be comfortable in the space and I am learning that it doesn’t always need to be filled.

By the end of my evening at the restaurant, the waitress brought me my check and apologized for the inconvenience for the wifi not working. She told me that the restaurant took care of my cocktail and to come back soon.

I felt guilty for complaining but at that point I just thanked her: That really wasn’t necessary, but Thank You. Really, I needed to eat my meal and just do that one thing. I needed to not write and text and talk.  I just needed to be.  Thank You.

She touched my arm and said, I completely understand.


For more: classic Meditation instruction.


Allison Barocas is an undergraduate Senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in environmental studies and currently interning with elephant journal. Allison was born and raised on Long Island, New York and completed high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. She loves to spend her free time outdoors, going to concerts, running around Denver and traveling.

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