This summer I am yet again sorting through my extensive library, which is the result of a lifetime of voracious reading and a deep love of words and books. I have done this every summer for years now and Moe’s Books in Berkeley has been the happy recipient of a lot of these purges. As I was flipping through a book, weighing whether or not I could let it slip from my life without just one more read, I ran across this quote -
I could survive without the comfort sucked from silken stroking by significant people. Being alone, shorn of my assorted emotional crutches, was just a way of clearing the decks. Aloneness is no magic entree to God; it is just a way of cleaning out the clutter that tends to clog the valves of deeper feelings.
When I have no tv, I cannot run away in order to watch the news or the game. When I have no book to read, I find it just a little harder to stifle feelings in a blanket of ideas. When I have no people to chatter with, it is a little harder for me to turn God off so I can gab [twitter, text, call, or connect] with a friend.
So I merely closed down a few of my routine escape routes — and then heard God’s voice speaking into my soul yet again.” Dr. Lewis Smedes
As a therapist, I am struck with the fact increasingly my clients find it torturous and sometimes impossible to actually turn off their cell phones during a counseling session. When a beep lets them know a text has come in, they are distracted until they can just quickly check to see who needs to connect with them.
Seven years ago I made the decision to keep my office free of a landline, of a computer, and a fax machine. It’s one of the few places I think my clients can actually come to be focused, reflective, and have a simple, quiet place to be heard.
And yet, we all (me included) bring noise and distraction into places where we need silence. My clients bring their cell phones into a session and often feel anxious about turning them off for 50 minutes. I am one of the first ones on the plane to switch my phone back on the moment we land. Our pastors remind us every Sunday, please turn off the electronic ‘stuff’.
I love the quote I shared earlier (thank you, Dr. Lewis Smedes) because it was a powerful reminder to me 30 years ago, and still is today, that I have to fight the urge (every day) to embrace the noise, intrusiveness and interruptions that I allow into my world — which in turn, create a constant buzz of decision making, responding, talking, listening — NOISE.
I have a new routine I am trying this year. I keep the television off all morning; I try hard NOT to check email or my cell phone before 9 on weekdays and noon on weekends. In the morning hours, I read, pray, bake, fold laundry (that is actually relaxing to me!), and write cards or notes to friends. My husband (recently retired) is a late sleeper so this allows for silence and I’m not tempted to chat with him as he is happily sleeping in our bedroom. And I’m amazed that this routine is resulting in a surge in physical energy, more positive mental outlook, emotionally happier, spiritually more ‘in tune’, and generally, more connected with myself.
I am convinced that with each new technological toy that crosses our path, we have to be intentional about weighing how much noise, access, and intrusiveness we allow into our lives. We actually control whether our cell phone is on; whether our television is flickering in our living rooms or bedroom; if our ipod is playing; or if we are sitting in front of a computer screen checking email.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow made the statement that ‘peak experiences are our healthiest moments. They are those times when we feel the most alive, the most tuned in and balanced — moments when we are clear, free, unencumbered, living at our optimum potential, the best we’ve ever been.’
To get there, we have to sometimes unplug and create a simple lifestyle in the midst of a demanding, noisy, and overwhelming lifestyle.