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May 6, 2014

The Value of Disconnection.

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The internet is changing our lives and our minds, that much we know.

But just how and how much remains to be seen. Being so uber-connected all the time with so many forms of social media is, obviously, a relatively new phenomenon, in the whole scheme of things. I think it’s important that we all become more mindful of how we are using technology—and how we are letting it use us.

I recently went offline for a long weekend, as I was leading a yoga retreat across the lake, my first with my old friend Melissa who recently got certified, but my tenth or so retreat in all.

It went great. The group dynamic was ideal—eight expat women in various stages of their 20s and 30s—and everything seemed to flow more or less smoothly. We practiced a lot of yoga and mindfulness, made new friends, ate yummy food and did a lot of walking/hiking. Although there was free wifi at the hotel, I am proud to say I did not ask for the password or connect.

Instead, I talked to people. Face to face. I did yoga. I meditated. I read. I wrote. I did a Tarot reading. It was lovely to disconnect from the internet and reconnect with myself, nature and those around me. After just three days, I feel refreshed, inspired and renewed in my devotion to my daily life practices: writing, reading, parenting, yoga-ing, loving and teaching.

It’s not that yoga slash mindfulness and technology must be mutually exclusive, although I think there is a great value to consciously disconnecting for a day or three, or longer. Often, it can be difficult to maintain a balanced relationship with technology and our “devices.” Still, Facebook can be used mindfully. Email can be checked mindfully. Sometimes.

But they can also be used mindlessly, and I find that it’s a slippery slope to the useless habit of logging on to Facebook way too frequently. It’s the new TV, as we discussed at the retreat. The new reality TV show, starring you and everybody you know. The constant stream of updates, events, photos, links, articles—ideas—is overwhelming.

The natural world—flowers, trees, the breeze, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, the sea, the sky for Pete’s sake—is beautiful and so healing to spend time in, far from electrical outlets and the need to constantly share every thought that passes through our mind via social media.

Disconnecting is valuable, and reconnecting is also valuable.

It’s nice to be able to create a community of diverse yet like-minded thinkers. This weekend made me re-realize the importance of sangha (spiritual community). It’s something I’m lacking a bit at the moment, although I have many dear friends, most of them are far away living in the States and I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like.

I do have friends here in my current community, but my main focus right now is on my little family, my husband and daughter, and I’m not nearly as social as I used to be. I’ve become quite a homebody, actually! But this is starting to shift as my daughter recently weaned from breastfeeding, and I am simultaneously feeling the pull to start teaching more yoga again and devoting a bit more energy to my friendships and social life.

Even though it’s full of people whom I’ve never and likely will never meet in person, elephant journal is a sangha, a big one, and one that I’d bowed out of for the past few months. It was good and important for me to disconnect, for a while. It gave me perspective. Allowed me to rest and read more and write things not meant to be published, and publish things, elsewhere and way less often. But now I’m back, and it feels good and right.

We’re all interconnected, after all. Isolation is an illusion. Still, it’s good to reconnect.

~

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Linda V. Lewis May 8, 2014 7:19am

I appreciate your article. But now Canada is considering installing wifi in the national parks! Say it ain't so!

karen katz May 7, 2014 4:25pm

what a wonderful post.

I choose to get off FB about 6 months ago for many reasons. I found it very addictive, and as a single, older woman, it was very easy to log on and get disconnected from real life. Social media is a wonderful tool, but like many tools, sadly misused at times. I also have not had a TV for years-that was very easy to relinquish. I have an old fashioned flip phone that serves me well, and almost never text.

Elephant Journal also became my online sangha-I have a lot of friends, and an active life, but I think without Elephant Journal, getting off FB would have been more difficult.

Everyone needs to live more real life, and less virtual life, in my opinion.

Ed Herzog May 7, 2014 9:23am

Nice post! Several months ago, my girlfriend and I were sitting next to a waterfall in a secluded location and I commented to her "what else do we really need in life then to sit and stare at a beautiful waterfall?" So true and yet so easy to forget!

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom.

She has been a columnist on Elephant Journal since 2010 and has self-published inspiring books. She incorporates dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and pranayama into her teachings and practice. A former advertising copywriter and elementary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and translator. Michelle learned yoga from a book at age 12 and started teaching at 22. She met the Buddha in California at 23 and has been a student of the dharma ever since. Michelle is now approaching her forties with grace and gratitude.

Join Michelle for a writing and yoga retreat this summer at magical Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala!