The Experiment Begins
Good morning, silent unplugged Saturday! It’s 6 am and I’m excited to encounter a new and profound experience today! I’ve been inspired by a friend’s story about personal revelation during a 10-day silent retreat. Because of my potential insanity without anything “to do” for one day—let alone 10 days—I have opted for a 24-hour version.
For the next 24 hours, no technology (computer, phone, stove, etc.), no reading, no writing, no music, no people, no talking, no nothing. Just me, my thoughts and that spiritual presence I call God.
The birds are chirping just outside the bedroom window. It’s still dark outside but I see the beginning of sunrise on the horizon. I’m going to linger in bed for a while … after all, what’s the rush? I have nowhere to go. Nothing to do.
My legs complain, “We’re not ready to be awake,” with each step I take down the stairs to my morning coffee. So far this day is not that unusual. This is what I do every morning. The big difference today is I didn’t check my phone when I got out of bed, nor will I go into the office and turn on my computer.
I love coffee. The earthy aroma as it brews, the careful selection of the perfect mug, and the velvety flavor of that first swallow. The practice of waking up with a warm cup has been the only consistent ritual in my life.
The sun makes its appearance. The house is quiet. The birds still chatter. A train horn blows in the distance. My belly’s typical “coffee on an empty stomach” muffled-grumbling attracts my attention. I’ll make breakfast.
I bite into my banana, neglect my cereal and stare out the window. The forecast said 60s and sunshine today. I am looking forward to spending some time outdoors. I chew a spoonful of my favorite milk-covered organic grains. My monkey-mind is already fully engaged and stirring up trouble with thoughts that take me on the familiar emotional rollercoaster. I wash my bowl from breakfast and sit back down and look outside. It’s 10am.
I feel the tension in my chest as my thoughts continue their antics. I’ll go for a walk.
I dawdle along the 1.5-mile neighborhood loop of tree-lined streets and man-made lakes. No urgency. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be. Reminds me of my childhood, leisurely walking home from school while reading a book.
Today, many trees seem to have lost the battle with the ice storm last week. Broken limbs litter the ground, some severed completely while others barely cling to the trunks.
I cross the pond over a small bridge and around the corner ducklings are swimming on the lake. The bench by the water is calling me.
I sit. I ponder. I connect with a slow peaceful life pace. I connect with a new level of observation. My monkey-mind is no longer hijacking my brain with reactionary thoughts.
I invent stories about the ducklings. Two swim in a circle—they must be playing. Two older ducks make their way across the water to a grassy bank where several others are already basking in the sun—that must be the “hang out,” the duck “community beach.” They’re scoping for an unoccupied patch of land to rest their weary feathers. The location scout seems to quack, “Nope, not that space, too close to that duck family we don’t get along with. Nope, not that one either, most of the grass has been worn away.” And then, off they swim as if they changed their minds about joining the beach party.
Time to walk some more. The playground. Children laughing. No worries, just fun. I want to stop and watch them play, but I’m worried their parents will get concerned and think I’m some sort of stalker. Wow. The world has changed a lot in my lifetime.
At home again. My hunger reminds me I haven’t eaten since breakfast.
Gaze out the window.
All my life, the presence of God has been like breathing, it just is. Like breathing, I don’t question it. I’m not even sure how to think about it, it just is. It wasn’t until I was 9 years old that I learned that some people call this presence “God,” and have a whole bunch of ideas about what “God” is and does, which didn’t—and still doesn’t—always match up with my personal experience.
I sit quietly, close my eyes and seek that essence. It always takes a couple of minutes to relax enough to quit chasing my thoughts and feel that still, calm presence. But I always do. There you are. Hi God! How’s it going? You know, I feel really peaceful. I’m gonna just sit here and wait for you to tell me or show me something.
I wait. And wait. I see a thought. I see myself chasing my thought, like a greyhound chasing a rabbit around the racetrack. I build a story around it. There’s another thought. I build another story. Before I finish, another thought appears. Random events appear seemingly out of nowhere—an unpleasant memory from a moment at the Nashville airport over a decade ago. Next, a memory of sitting on a park bench in the Miami sunshine. Then there are thoughts that appear from association with other thoughts, images, sounds and smells. Tons of life experiences all trying to claim my attention and interfere with my ability to give focus to the current moment. I’m oddly both thinking the thoughts and observing myself thinking them. Watching the intricate pattern and structure of my mind at work. Wow. This is fascinating.
I’m sleepy. Must’ve been all that walking in the sunshine. I’ll just lie down for a little while.
Slept 20 minutes. Its 1:30p. Now what? I’ll go for another walk!
Home again. Time for a little something else to eat.
Uh Oh, Now What?
It’s 3pm. Now what?
I’m not hungry. I don’t feel like walking. I’m not interested in looking out the window.
So, now what?
I have at least 7 more hours before I can even contemplate going to sleep for the night.
So, now what?
Nothing left to “do.”
I’ve filled the first 9 hours with activity. Even being unplugged didn’t stop me. Wow. I’ve kept myself busy all day. Just like I do every day.
Nothing to do for 7 hours??!! Yikes! What have I gotten myself into?!
OK. Take a deep breath.
I haven’t even had a profound supernatural moment! More than halfway through the day and I’ve only managed to connect with God the same way I do every day.
Nothing left to do but be. Just me, my thoughts and God. Be still. My breathing slows and deepens.
It’s 4pm. I’m sleepy. I feel my head sink into the pillow as I close my eyes.
It’s 5pm. OK. Here we go again. Be still. Breathe.
I’m sleepy. What time is it now? It’s 6pm. I feel my eyes close as I lie down again.
What time is it? I can barely see the clock in the moonlit room. It’s 7pm. It’s still too early to sleep for the night. I turn the lamp switch and a soft glow permeates the darkness. Be still. Breathe.
8pm. It’s still too early to call it a night, but the weight of my eyelids persuades me to sleep again.
It’s 9pm. One more hour. With all the napping I’ve done today, will I even be able to sleep tonight? Quit worrying. Be still. Breathe.
It’s 10pm. Goodnight.
The Next Day
It’s morning. The light outside hints at sunrise. I’m calm … relaxed … at peace.
I could check my phone, but I don’t want to yet.
I’ll make my coffee and watch the sunrise. Yes. That’s it.
Each sip of the warm creamy liquid lingers deliciously on my palette. I wait for the sun to gradually rise in the sky. There’s a bright light in the distance. Is that a star? No, it’s moving. It’s the headlights of a jet, waiting its turn to land at the nearby airport.
The sky is getting brighter.
There it is. The sun. It’s going to be another beautiful sunny day.
I did it. I unplugged for 24 hours. I didn’t go crazy.
Yesterday, all my attempts to sit still and just breathe were limited to less than an hour, before I would feel my struggle to stay awake. Was that because I truly needed rest, or was it because of my relaxed state, or was it my Ego lulling me to sleep to avoid what was in the moment? I don’t know.
Are we capable of making the “not-of-this-world” experiences happen? I’ve had many significant spiritual moments in my life. But they’ve all occurred unexpectedly at the exact moment I needed them.
Yesterday, I didn’t have any major revelations, no profound spiritual experience. But, without the usual distractions, my connection with God was less like a conference call and more like a dedicated line.
And today … I’m different. My monkey-mind is quiet and I don’t feel any urgency to “get the day started.”