What Meditation Made Me Realize about my iPhone Addiction. ~ Jenny Sansouci

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Last week I went up to Kripalu for a conference on yoga, meditation and addiction recovery.

One of the teachers of the conference was Noah Levine, author of a few books focusing on Buddhist teachings, including Against the Stream and Dharma Punx (I actually wrote a short post about him, punk rock and Buddhism back in 2008 when I first started blogging, which is mildly hilarious and awesome).

When I walked into the room in the morning to hear Noah speak, I wasn’t expecting the itinerary for the day to be what it was. I knew that Noah focuses a lot on mindfulness meditation, and I knew he led silent retreats, but what I didn’t know is that I was about to embark on an entire day of total silence.

I understand that to people who go on long silent retreats, eight hours probably sounds like a piece of cake. I’m sure there are people reading this thinking, “Try 10 days! Or six weeks!”

Trust me when I say that any amount of silence can flip some things around and bring some wild realizations.

The first thing I thought was funny was that I was there with my friend Gabby, who I’m rarely ever silent with. I knew it would be interesting in itself just to not talk to her all day long—but that wasn’t the scariest part.

Noah told us that using phones, email and social media isn’t considered silent, so we should put our phones away and not use them all day.

What?! My heart started beating faster.

I realized how addicted to my phone I am before the official silent period even started. As I sat there waiting for our meditation to begin, all I could think about is whether or not I should quickly post a Facebook status saying “About to embark on eight straight hours of silence!” (I did manage to sneak a tweet in).

I started wondering what I would do without being able to Instagram photos of inspiring things (or even just my lunch) and what would I do if I heard Noah say an inspirational quote and I couldn’t tweet it?

As soon as I realized the sheer amount of anxiety I was feeling at the thought of not being able to be digitally connected for a whole day, I actually had to laugh at the irony. Here I was at an addiction recovery conference, realizing I was totally addicted to my iPhone.


After I somehow reluctantly surrendered to the fact that I’d be phone-less all day, it actually began to feel surprisingly freeing. I realized that not only am I attached to the social media stuff, but the fact that I have my phone on me at all times means I’m available and extremely open to other people’s energy bombarding me at any given moment (via text, email, etc).

Things pop up as notifications all day long and I allow myself to be distracted by it. I usually feel the need to respond to people fairly quickly.

I realized that by giving myself permission to not focus on anybody else’s energy all day, and actually taking the time to feel my own feelings and focus on me, a lot of stuff came up.

Stuff I didn’t even realize was there—stuff I really needed to realize was there.

How can I be present with what’s going on in my actual reality, let alone what I’m really feeling when I’m allowing my energy to be digitally penetrated by other people all the time, without boundaries?


For instance, for part of the day we did a walking meditation. We were instructed to think of a person in our head who we had a lingering resentment towards. With each step, we had to say (in our mind), while picturing this person: “I forgive you. Please forgive me. I forgive myself.” This went on over and over for 30 minutes of walking.

At first, I didn’t think much of it, but it ended up being super emotionally intense. It made me realize that there were a lot of unresolved feelings that I may have never touched upon or attempted to heal if I didn’t take that silent time without interruptions and without distracting myself.

After the eight hours were up, I felt like I was able to actually navigate incoming messages and notifications on my phone with more intention. I found I could put my phone away for a few hours and then read my emails and texts when I was energetically ready to, instead of just being constantly available for distraction.

It felt more conscious, and less of an energy drain—like I could be more present and peaceful in my life.

I realize that social media and being digitally connected is part of my career and I love a lot of things about that. But I know now that I can be much more conscious about where my energy and attention are focused at any given moment, and notice when I’m allowing myself to be consistently distracted from the present.

I can also set the intention to take longer amounts of time for quiet stillness, meditation and just being.

If I could witness all of that about myself in just one day, imagine what a 10-day silent retreat would be like!? I’m seriously considering doing one.

Have you ever done a silent retreat? What did you learn from it?

I’m so fascinated by this and would love to hear your experience…


Jenny Sansouci is the publisher of HealthyCrush.com, where she writes about nutrition, health, yoga and personal development. She’s a certified health coach and graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, with a certificate in Food Therapy from the Natural Gourmet Institute. She works as a Health Coach for Dr. Frank Lipman at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, and she aims to show others that living a healthy life can be fun, pleasurable and delicious.






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Ed: Bryonie Wise


Source: Uploaded by user via Andrea on Pinterest


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anonymous May 18, 2015 4:47am

Good article.

Similar ideas can be found on this blog and specially in this article, which I find interesting:
White, white, white – white Apple http://apple-critic.com/2015/05/14/white-white-wh

anonymous Mar 29, 2014 8:24am

I did 36 hours of silence during a retreat last month and surprisingly I loved it. I ditched any form of modern technology for the whole week anyway but on silence day it was just me, my diary and pen and I found the whole experience incredible. I shed a lot of past worries and resentment and came out the other side realising that actually it's really important what you say, because being silent really is actually quite wonderful.

anonymous Mar 27, 2014 8:24am

Great article!

anonymous Oct 28, 2013 5:46am

In 2007 I did a 10 day vipassana retreat. I have never felt more peaceful, accepting of myself, of the world, of others, than I did during and immediately after that retreat. It was one of the hardest things I have done, but so so worth it. I still use the skills I learnt in that retreat today. I highly recommend it. Actually, after such a long break, I think it’s about time I prioritize doing another one. Thanks for reminding me!

anonymous May 26, 2013 3:17am

I was at Kripalu last weekend as well! Journey into Baptiste yoga.. amazing weekend! I find the silent breakfast hard enough lol! I like the challenge of 8hrs.. good way to start. I also like that meditation on lingering resentment. One person immediately came to my head.. so I am going to try that today on my run!
thank you

anonymous May 25, 2013 8:12pm

This post makes me feel like a 44-yr old fogie! I've been doing silent retreats since way before smartphones (and barely after dumbphones—aka cellphones) and I have seen the slow-motion colonization of the popular psyche by electronic gadgetry. I still have yet to get a smartphone, mainly because I fear becoming one of the cyborgs I see on buses and in other public spaces who seem to have forgotten how to interact with humans and/or nature in an unmediated way, how to appreciate the beauty around them, how to read a book, how to be present with their own experiences, including restlessness and boredom (but what is boredom except a desire to be elsewhere?). On one hand, I'm heartened by programs like "Digital Detox" that give people some insight into their own addictions to technology; on the other hand I can only imagine the trend getting worse as our society becomes ever more immersed in the technosphere. Someday (soon perhaps), you'll be in my shoes, saying "I remember when we only had smartphones instead of virtual reality implants!"

anonymous May 24, 2013 10:59am

You're welcome, thanks for sharing your insights.

anonymous May 23, 2013 10:52pm

Jenny, thanks a million for sharing this "mind-n-soul-relaxing" post with us. Yes, I have done a silent retreat like this for a couple of times and found it so helpful in getting rid of my daily excessive hectic routine. It really helps a lot to calm your mind and soul. It is sincerely recommendable for everyone especially on weekends.

anonymous May 23, 2013 10:30pm

"being constantly available for distraction" is a good way to put it!
i've been noticing lately how whenever there is even one moment of time to breathe, i just pick up the cell phone and check facebook or email or whatever. everyone at restaurants are all on their phones at the same table.. its crazy! it was kind of a good medium when we had cell phones but the cell phones didnt have internet. so we only checked facebook when we got home.

    anonymous May 24, 2013 10:58am

    Totally! I've even been noticing how annoyed I get when I'm in the subway and there's no internet service on my phone. Not being able to go for a 15-20 min commute without internet? That ain't cool. 🙂

anonymous May 23, 2013 4:47pm

Yes, I have done several silent retreats and each time so much more comes to be learned. I am happy for your discovery and new found awareness. It will be interesting to notice the difference in the people you are surrounded by when you give them more of your attention rather than attending to your phone. I know for me, when someone checks their phone while we are communicating, I feel unimportant and generally end the conversation.
Keep up the good work!

    anonymous May 24, 2013 10:56am

    Laurie, I agree! I've noticed a lot more lately when other people are checking their phone while I'm talking to them, and I am catching myself more when I'm doing it. Definitely feels better to be present with people.

anonymous May 23, 2013 3:13pm

Go to a three day then a five day then a ten day silent retreat. I recommend you build your skillfuless slowly. Teach others, especially children, how to be silent. Check in on the condition of your condition. 🙂 Enjoy!

    anonymous May 24, 2013 10:54am

    Thanks for the advice Kelly. I tend to jump into things headfirst so I like your advice of easing into it slowly. 🙂

anonymous May 23, 2013 11:12am

I'm commenting so that it pings you on your phone and notifies you that I care about you and your writing.

    anonymous May 24, 2013 10:52am

    Haha, thanks Kirk! I welcome phone distractions from you.

anonymous May 23, 2013 7:38am

Thank you for sharing this Sangye. I enjoyed this blog because of my walk between the line of keeping in "touch" with the World and wanting to completely disconnect. Your comment was very helpful. I already see the simple beauty in the dew drops and often admire the magic of Mother Nature everyday. But the "Chatter" is my curse. Nature is my Prozac if only for a moment. I am inspired to attend a retreat in silence and Kripalu is a lovely place to support it.

    anonymous May 23, 2013 9:26am

    "Nature is my Prozac if only for a moment." That's a blog in itself! Thank you for your insights.

anonymous May 22, 2013 3:57pm

I am a monk living in a buddhist community – i instagram during the middle of practice time photos of us all practicing just to show the people on facebook – "hey, look what is happening come down and join us". I have gone from no tech to too much tech, back to no tech. It is very hard to get it out of the picture and still be "in the world" but certainly i do have a phone but practicing has meant i can go days and days without using it – sometimes needing to recharge it before i even really used it.
I have closed my facebook, opened, closed – use every day – then don't touch it for 6 months and find all kinds of messages with people looking for me.
I don't see it as wrong, but we just need to be aware and that awareness requires practice and practice requires turning it off or just accepting that stuff will happen and its ok, we don't have to know for the rest of the day. I am running all the internet services and networks for this place i live and work at as a monk – so for me there is no complete escape – but i have found the middle way more and more appearing. People who say "don't need it" or "can't live without it" – those are extremes and they will one day find themselves on the opposite side and never get a handle on it. We can be just as addicted and habitual without technology.

    anonymous May 22, 2013 6:28pm

    Wow, thanks Sangye. I do truly believe that using social media (lately instagram is my favorite) can be an incredible way to inspire people and to be inspired, so I agree, instagramming photos of your buddhist community is a cool way to do it. I also like your idea of the middle way idea when it comes to this stuff. Right on.

anonymous May 22, 2013 2:10pm

Nice that once you were out of the meditation, you wrote a blog about the experience.LOL
When I was young, we didn't have cell phones, didn't exist. TV was boring, except for Flipper and Lassie, both animal companions who were way smarter than humans. My friends and I got on just fine. Social media was actually socializing with real people, playing cards or just talking. Go to a remote village in……Central……somewhere and you can find that same experience today.
How far we have come, how far away we are.

    anonymous May 22, 2013 6:24pm

    Flipper and Lassie!!!! Yes. That is the best comment ever.

anonymous May 22, 2013 1:42pm

Part of my Interfaith studies was a journey to Thailand to meditate in Bangkok and Chain Mai for six weeks. In the agreement we were having no contact with the outside world- no phone, computer, letter writing …….no contact with my husband or family members at all. I did learn a lot about myself and would do it again in a heart beat!

anonymous May 22, 2013 9:25am

Thanks for sharing that, Bert. I agree, being in silence can be a really profound experience, for any length of time. I look forward to experiencing longer silent retreats.

anonymous May 22, 2013 8:08am

I did a 10 day retreat. No dinner, no eye contact, no talking. People went mad. I left on the 7th day. Before, however, I had feelings of intense happiness and intense understanding. If you slow down enough, you find there is no such thing as the unconscious. It’s ALL still there, and you can meet with it consciously.

It’s not a trite thing to do to advance your career or toss a blog out though. It is intended to purify the mind, and it is very serious.

anonymous May 22, 2013 7:22am

I too have done a couple of silent retreats. One three day last year and just finished a seven day a week ago. I was astounded by the inane amount of "chatter" going on in my mind, about absolutely useless things. I did have a couple of profound moments and moments of extreme challenge, but it was the chatter that really surprised me, as well as the criticism of myself for "not being present," when I caught it. Over and over again. However, as the week wore on and I got support from others in their practice as well as two fabulous teachers, I began to also experience profound moments of calmness and clarity. Things became so much brighter, I began to notice things like dew drops, and began to eagerly anticipate rising for 6am sitting. The simplicity and the silence was rejuvenating. One thing that really stuck with me was the way animals were responding to me. I had so many actually just sit and watch me, some even come right up to me, obviously responding to my much calmer energy. It was an incredible experience which I have now committed to be a yearly event. I would highly recommend it!

    anonymous May 22, 2013 9:23am

    Mmm…profound moments of calmness and clarity…sign me up 🙂

anonymous May 22, 2013 5:02am

Yes indeed , I totally agree with your realization that phones and social media are a drain and escape mechanism from feeling what we need to feel in the moment ! Well done you for that powerful insight . I have done 3 silent meditation retreats over the last 10 yrs , they are brilliant for waking up to a deeper reality . The first few days are hardest as you really see how much garbage is going round and round the mind all day , so limiting and repetitive but once it starts to quiet I noticed first how bright and beautiful colours and nature became ! Walking outside was like tripping ! And then I began to feel the energy vibrations buzzing in my body and feel sensations deep in my body with pure awareness and no judgement. I highly recommend it!

    anonymous May 22, 2013 9:22am

    Thanks for sharing that, Pam. Would love to do a longer silent retreat!