Get More Social

By now, you know my feelings about the overuse and addictive characteristics of social media, particularly as it hampers one’s interest in human to human communication and experiencing the natural environment.  I offer Christina Farr’s article in the hopes it will help those of you trying to detox and return to a more serene, content and manageable life.  As a society, we do have the ability to take back our lives.  Have you noticed a recent wave of people saying, “Enough is enough” and unplugging to stop the progression of anxiety, depression, chaos and confusion that social media has introduced into their lives?

While Christina offers her personal experience of attending a formal camp to unplug, you can reduce stress and create a more rich and satisfying life by asking yourself a few introspective questions like:

  1. What is truly important to me?  Personal time with friends and loved ones, or how many likes I’ve received?
  2.  If I had one day left on this planet, what would I do — would I post on social media or respond to that inner nudge to do something I always wanted to do like mountain climb or learn to play a musical instrument?  What have I always wanted to do but spent my hours on social media instead?
  3. How do I feel inside when taking a walk in nature, looking at someone in the eye and seeing their smile versus hearing constant pings on my device?
  4. Is my time better spent helping someone through volunteer work or trying to impress and compete with the virtual lives of others?
  5. What makes me feel content?  What makes me feel anxious or depressed?

Make a list if you need to.  Let it look you squarely in the eye and you’ll know what you need to do to truly live a meaningful life.   Here’s how Christina handled her social media addiction:

Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Christina Farr used to spend 5 hours a week posting and interacting with friends on Instagram. She quit cold this summer, and her life changed dramatically for the better.

Source: Social media detox: Christina Farr quits Instagram, Facebook

Spring, Life’s New Start!

yellow tulipMissed starting over for the New Year, like so many do?  Don’t feel bad.  It may have been Day 1 on the calendar, but Mother Nature begins anew with Spring.  You can too.

Becoming more aware of the paradoxes of life while studying the Tao, I suppose it’s not so unusual that I occasionally rant about technology addiction.  Afterall, it’s the antithesis of nature (and of growing concern to me).  So, if you’re among the trapped “millions” who bought into technology to have the latest and greatest, be like your friends, were attracted by “convenience,” or became hooked on virtual life rather than “living” your real one, you already know how crummy you feel.  Be honest.  (If you don’t know or believe that technology is addictive, ask your Smartphone for the answer.)

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I’m not completely kicking technology in the butt.  I admit, there are “some” conveniences and I realize even flowers need rain.  But, I also see how easily the technological scales tip to losing one’s self (not just through identity theft either), a sense of community, and an appreciation of nature while adding stresses like being hacked, internet bullying, lost privacy, constant interruption and distraction, unrefreshing sleep, increased onset of macular degeneration, mood impairment, etc., etc. purple tulip(Isn’t that enough?)

Yes, it takes courage to change, to not follow the crowd, and the only one who can do it is you.  If you want to de-stress and take back control of your life (and mind) this recent article will help.  Remember, only in the dark can you see the light.  It’s time to turn over a new leaf — it’s Spring!

 

March 20 Second Stage

 

Stop the technology virus from mutating the human brain and natural living.  In 2014, there were 420 million internet addicts.  In 2012, 84% of the population couldn’t go a day without their phone.  What do you think the numbers are now?

 

What are we doing?

A young friend, who is a talented musician and new father, shared his disappointing Christmas with me.  When asking his brother if he would like to hear the latest song he  recorded, his brother’s response was, “Sorry man.  I can’t.  I have 10 seconds until the tournament starts.”

My friend then revealed to me that his brother is addicted to gaming.  “He’s usually stockpiled in his room, stacking empty dishes of food my mother brought him because he can’t tear himself away from the game.  I’ve told him he’s disgusting, often not showering for three days,” my friend said.  I shudder in the realization that this technology problem is much bigger than I surmised and a grave concern to what we are doing to our society.  Isn’t the opiod crisis enough?

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My young friend continued, “You remember Jack at my wedding?  We use to talk on my drive home from work and had big plans for recording together.  Then he told me he bought a gaming system and wanted me to get one too.  He doesn’t return my calls anymore.  He won’t even pick up the phone.  I know he’s addicted to gaming too.”

My friend, at age 30 is already a wise old soul.  I was proud of him when he announced he gave up his cell phone because he was texting while driving.  And when he fired the babysitter because she placed an I-phone in his infant’s hands, I felt more pleased.  “I want my son to experience life,” he said.  “I want to take him cross country to see the beauty of the land and meet different people.”

I then shared with him a startling conversation I had with my older and over-weight brother in-law during the holidays.  His wife (an I-phone and Candy Crush addict) proudly told me she could start her oven with her I-phone.  “Why would you want to?” I asked.  My brother in-laws response?  “So you don’t have to get off the couch.” I felt stunned.  We already have an obesity problem in America and now technology is helping people stay inactive, indoors and isolated.  What are we doing?

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I understand gaming rehabs are some of the most expensive and that a gaming addiction is as difficult to treat as bulimia.  Drug rehabs are big business and a revolving door of profits.  When will humans wake up to realize they are giving up free thought and subsequent health under the guise of convenience but the truth of corporate profit?

game over

Addictions — whether drugs,  technology, gambling, food, shopping, etc. — would doubtfully be so overwhelming if people tempered their device with the wisdom and beauty of Nature.  Nature is free and it’s everywhere, reliably standing by, willing to offer peace and insights for living life.  Take a hike.  Plant a garden with your child.  Walk the dog and say hi to the neighbors.  Get off the couch to cut your own grass, and turn on the oven yourself.

It all begins with one conscious choice.

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Presents

Madison Avenue says Christmas is about presents. Lots of them.

christmas presents galore

I say that’s a typo.  It’s about presence — lots of it.  Be present with yourself, loved ones, and each moment you (hopefully) come in contact with someone.  Well, anyone for that matter.  This is more than sitting next to someone while staring into a device.  It’s about being mentally present, focused on your interaction with that person.  Giving someone your attention is as true a gift as it gets.

It’s easy to “buy” some thing and hand it to someone or the more recent scenario of leaving it on someone’s desk or at their door.  How many obligatory gifts have you received that were a pre-packaged something-for-anyone that you didn’t use? same gift Note:  “re-gifting” was created for a reason.  Yes, some will say, “It’s the thought that counts.”  I counter, “How much thought was there?”  A sincere kind word or sentiment means more.  At least to me.

More precious and worthy than material gifts, giving time is a gift so large it can’t be wrapped in any box yet overflows the heart. Ask a soldier being deployed or a dying patient.  Ask your spouse.  Do they wish they had more time?  Do you feel overly stressed that there isn’t enough time?  Stopping the distraction and being present is the most generous gift of and to thyself.  (Hard lesson learned — see prior post “Meager.”)

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You can give yourself the gift of time by being in Nature.  Whether planting the season’s garden or trekking through the woods, time seems to slow without the constant pings of phones or e-mail.  The stillness of  Nature’s tranquil beauty reaches the soul.  Gift your time by being present with others this holiday season.  Play with your children.  Visit an elderly person.  Smile at the store clerk.

Feel the isolation and loneliness disappear as you put down your device and look into someone’s eyes when they speak to you.  Listen to what they have to say.  Offer something in return.  Maybe it’s just a hug, or thank you to Nature.

 Time – The Perfect Gift for You and Everyone on Your List white-male-1740707_1280

 

Taming the Holidays

“Ping!” my car doors locked as I headed toward the grocery store, dodging rush hour cars veering into tight parking spots then carts barreling into the entrance.   No one was smiling. Including me.

For years I’ve dreaded the Christmas holidays and for nearly as many years, I’ve sought to santa headache-1understand why.  Dysfunctional Christmases of my youth reveal anticipated Norman Rockwell (virtual) holidays severed by the reality of family arguments and chaos.  Young adulthood in a city several hours away still felt the angst of coming home for the holidays. By midlife when stores began pushing Christmas before Halloween and then Labor Day, I felt so weary of Christmas that I too jumped ahead, seeking spring’s relief (post Easter Bunny).

Wise counsel lessened the Christmas Madness.  “Make the holidays what you want them to be,” my friend said, “Not what others think you should do, or just because it’s always been done a particular way.  Create your own tradition or celebration.  You decide how much and what you want to do.”  Wow!  What a life changing concept.

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Several decades and layers of understanding later, I realize I can be free of holiday chaos and not be a scrooge.  Each year, I reassess my participation and focus on what is most important, what stirs my soul.  Baking cookies went by the way side.  Too many calories, too tempting, and too time consuming.  Besides, by January my regret would weigh as much as the extra pounds.  I reduced one hundred Christmas cards with personal messages to only contacting those farthest away or the elderly.  This year, those Christmas cards evolved to “giving thanks” cards in November — a more relaxed time to express heartfelt sentiments. Once I consciously chose to ignore marketing’s mantra to buy-buy-buy, and the stigma that Christmas should look like XYZ, I felt more free.

Back at the grocery store, a woman’s cart blocks the bread aisle.  Politely offering, “Excuse me,” I attempt to push past, discovering she is mid conversation on her phone.  Others wheel through the aisles, their eyes downcast to the left or right.  I wonder if they’re taking time to reflect what Christmas is supposed to be about or if they are consumed with get-get-get, then how to pay-pay-pay for all of the (mostly unnecessary) stuff.  Flashing Christmas lights and blinding glittery ornaments compete with well-worn carols and shopper specials blaring through the loudspeaker.  Rows of cash register dings punctuate long lines of overwhelming chatter and ring tones ranging from sirens to barking dogs.   No one smiles.

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I recall recent blog posts and news stories on Smartphone and social media addiction.  Unhappiness.  Loneliness.  Accelerated rates of depression linked to the number of hours on a device.  I see it on the faces around me.  And while my participation in these things is little to null, the over stimulation of Christmas is magnified for an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like me.

Do you have a hard time with the Christmas holidays?  Are you one of those persons who hear the shotgun start at Thanksgiving, rush breathlessly to Christmas, then drop across the finish line of New Years?  How do you cope with this season?  Do you wish you could blink your eyes and the holidays would be over?  (Not to rush your life, but…)

You have more control over this than you think you do.  And once you let go of the shoulds and obligatory traditions, engagements and gifts, you set yourself (and often pocketbook) free.  Consciously choosing to make the holiday manageable equates to a more enjoyable time for you and everyone around you.  Try it.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

stress-relax

 

 

Fake Holidays

At five years old, my birthday was my favorite time of year.  In my young adult dating years, Valentine’s Day ranked #1.   Christmas anticipation didn’t last long as my dysfunctional family of origin turned a Norman Rockwell holiday into one of chaos, anger and disappointment.  No fun.  For years, I dreaded winter holidays when stores began displaying Christmas decorations in September.  If I could only jump to January 2nd.  What happened to living in the moment — for merchants, or for me?

As I’ve become more spiritual, Thanksgiving moved into top position for favorite holiday.  I prefer the lower key ambience and taking more time to reflect deeply on the people who have given special meaning to my life — a simple kindness, a confidante’, an excellent health care provider…

But this year, things changed.  It occurred to me that many of our holidays have been virtual holidays, perhaps the precursor to the internet’s fake news.  After all, no one knows for sure if Christ’s birthday was December 25thValentine’s Day is just as mysterious.  And Thanksgiving — well what am I giving thanks for if my ancestors came to America, killed the Native American Indians then stole their homeland only to destroy it?  That reality sickens me.

I’ve long felt that Thanksgiving was the more solemn of holidays but now more deeply understand why.   No more “celebrating” fake holidays for me.  Expressing gratitude on any arbitrary day, and as many days as possible throughout the year are my days of thanks giving.  Now that’s something real, and worth celebrating.

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Main ingredient of my apple pie? Love. Lots of it!

There’s a traditional Native American Seneca greeting I love any time of the year:  Na:weh Skennio

It means Thank you for being!  For all that you do and for who you are, I thank you for being. – Jamie Sams in The Fabric of the Future

And that makes any day of the year a real holiday in my heart.

Don’t Jump in if You Don’t Want to Jump Out

Dr. Perry’s post on “Steps to Overcome Technology Addiction” confirms the feelings I’ve had about technology for a long time.  It is sadly deteriorating society, our peace, and our minds.  I wonder how this will affect the elderly when the tech generation rules.  How much empathy and compassion will be shown?  Will that be nonexistent like good manners?

More and more businesses and government herd people to the internet.  Blind “followers” are too willing to give up their personal information and freedoms.  I wonder what these techie minds will do when their computers are hacked.  Will they know how to think and problem solve on their own?  Seeing how people stumble into traffic while looking at their phones is a telltale sign.  People barely know their street address  or phone number anymore.

Many times I’d like to disconnect from e-mail as it robs me of precious time where I could be enjoying more fulfilling activities and interactions.  As previously shared, I’ve consciously chosen to avoid most social media for these and the reasons stated in the post.  Reading it reaffirms that my decisions have been worthy.  I hope reblogging it will help someone before they fall hopelessly into the black hole of disassociating with living real life.  I must continually uphold my values for connecting with humans and nature.  That is what brings me serenity and joy — not a nerve-wracking bell tieing me to a device even if it is only a PC.

Still, I don’t want to fall so far behind that I can no longer function in a technological world.  Trying to balance technology working for me without becoming enslaved to it is a constant struggle.  I use a landline and answering machine.  It works fine.  I don’t answer my pay as you go cell phone because it’s only for emergencies. When someone looks at me as not being “with it” then is distracted answering their cell phone or text, I wonder “who is the one not with it?” For a split second I may be tempted to fall into the traps of technology, but my go-to motto saves me: “Don’t jump in if you don’t want to jump out.”

Social Media aka S&M

Bam! Bam! Bam! Strangers pound on my door.   Ding. Ding. Ding! DING. DING. DING!  The PC shouts Facebook sent 26 e-mails!  Already?  Only a few days ago I dabbled on FB during our workshop.  Now voicemail haunts me with social media messages.  I feel alarmed.  The inferno is building, engulfing me and my time.  Hours sizzle away, days go up in smoke, night quickly singes morning then BOOSH!  My responsibilities topple over.  Hopes swirl around my peaceful life exploding into the black hole.  Like trying to contain a room ablaze, something tells me I’m better off not opening the door.  It’s not good to play with matches I’ve been told.

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Argh I get a little cranky when sleep deprived.  Time to go outside and breathe some fresh air.

The Authentic Life of Nature

Driving home on this rainy Saturday evening, the windshield wipers are paragraphs separating my thoughts.  I’ve been hand-drumming for 3 hours in a drum circle at the local health food store.  Some of the participants I’ve known for decades, others I met today.

The face of my friend flashes through my mind.  We lunched earlier at a neighborhood deli  whose house-made bread is better than anything in Manhattan for sure.   I met Meg through hand drumming a decade ago.  We smile, laugh, talk serious.  We are not looking down at our phones because we intentionally have unsophisticated, un-smart phones.  Just practical little devices for emergency.  That makes sense to us.  Neither of us wants to be tethered to technology.   We talk dogs, travel, gardening.  The wonder of a kindergartener seeing a real robin or eating a nasturtium.

“What does it taste like?” I am curious to know.

“A little peppery,” she says, and especially to a five-year old.

“Like arugula?”

“Exactly.”

“I’ve always wanted to grow asparagus,” I tell her.  “I put it in with rhubarb last year.”  She nods, confirming my assumption that they are good companions.  My friend teaches biology.  I hope she can teach me about growing asparagus.  “I didn’t know what to do with it at the end of last season…now I’ve got a 12” stalk like you see in the grocery store but next to it is a 4-5’ high, tree-like stalk but much thinner…” I show her with my hands.  “It’s actually got several thin branches that also look like asparagus…”

May 2017 015 Asparagus branches
asparagus branches…

“My friend Margaret grew asparagus.  I can ask her,” she offers.

“Great!  I’ll send you a photo to show her.”

“She doesn’t do e-mail so she would have to come to my house and look at my phone.”

If anyone can easily explain how to properly grow asparagus please contact me!

Hmmm.  This is interesting I think.  There are more people than the handful in my Social Media workshop and me who are intentionally not wired, or loosely.

My friend and I agree how much we love getting together for lunch or dinner, being in nature, the warmth of human communication.  Her eyes twinkle when I share a bit of synchronicity with her.  “Good thing you were aware, and paying attention to notice all those things,” she says.  Good thing you weren’t looking down at your phone and I could see your smile I think.

“I notice and appreciate nature more and more each year.  I’ve never considered myself very religious, but a spiritual person,” I tell her.  “I’ve been reading more of the Tao and it speaks truth to me.  Everywhere.”  Her smile confirms we are on the same page.  I like making eye contact and our welcome and parting hugs.

Swish-swish.  Swish-swish.  The parting conversation with another friend at the drum circle pops into my head.  “I’m addicted to my phone,” he confesses then shows me a photo another drumming friend posted 17 minutes ago.  I confide that I’ve signed-up for a Social Media workshop, that I’m hoping to find a balance so I can still function in a technological society but not become an addict.

“Did you see the 60 Minutes segment on technology intending to make you addicted to your phone?”  I ask, feeling fear and audacity rising within me.

“Well, I don’t think they want you to be addicted,” he says.  “Just use it a lot.”

I can’t imagine having to ask others to like me I think.  It just sounds so, so unnatural.  Either you like me or you don’t, but do you have to announce it to the world?  Is privacy passé?  Social media is the antithesis of my values.  I’ve never wanted 1,000 friends.  That sounds too exhausting.  I like the quality ones I have and they know it.  Solid, true friends sharing quality time together… Does the world need to know that?   Swish-swish.  Swish-swish.  The wipers clear away the thoughts that have kept me true to my values but from going with the crowd and against my own grain.

Faces of people I’ve hand-drummed with over the years are a slide show in my mind.  The deep connection we’ve developed through hand drumming is like the comfort of a best friend yet I may not know the person, their last name, career, education, socio-economic status, ethnicity, where they live, or any other defining label, and it doesn’t matter.   We speak a universal language that has no words but is expressed from hands to hearts, through conga drums, djembes, doumbeks, bongos, or any other piece of percussion (we are not prejudice).  Hand drumming is yin-yang conversing —  talking and listening at the same time.

I’ve often described hand drumming as cooking a large vat of soup where everyone adds a little something different be it a vegetable, herb, color or spice, and soon the flavor deepens, the aroma permeates the air and it’s evolved into something so darn good that I  wonder why people do recreational drugs when they can hand drum.

Dogwood's Grace

Swish-swish.  Slowing rain reveals the lush green mountainside.  Rounding the corner, I’m home now, welcomed by dogwoods brilliant as the full moon, and bursting pinks.   I’m breathless from the splendor of spring.  Can social media really do that for me?

Friends of Different Feathers

These guys (or gals) don’t look alike but they respectfully share from the same feeder, while happily chirping away.  People could learn a lot from them.

Friends
Cardinal and Chickadee

I learned a lot from Jamaicans when visiting their homeland.  Most Americans warned me ahead of time to “not go off the resort premises,” but strolling down the beach while mesmerized by the turquoise sea drew my curiosity beyond the boundary line. Haphazard tin-roofed shacks from whatever washed ashore leaned every which way — a yin-yang contrast to the well-manicured all-inclusive that was my home for 7 days.

The Jamaican Patois (pronounced Patwa) beckoned me into the makeshift beach mall.  My ear took some getting used to their creole language but I appreciated the creative twist on english.   In and out, I scanned the line of booths sand to ceiling but most of the wares were tchotchkes made in China that I could purchase in my hometown dollar store.  Still, each proprietor smiled widely while proclaiming, “Tank yuh.  Tank you fi looking. Tank you fi di respect.”

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Shop #12:  The more you smile, the less you pay

Most Jamaicans live in poverty.  Tourism, music or selling drugs sadly seem to be the major opportunities to increase their standard of living.  I’ve had panhandlers in other countries follow me into the water ruining an afternoon swim, or camp out just beyond the garden patio, calling for me to buy their goods.  (One couple from Manhattan quit their Grenada vacation early, stating, “The panhandling isn’t this bad at home.  We came here to relax…”) But, Jamaica was different.   The people spoke to my heart and I quickly understood a universal desire for respect.

“I love your food.  The Jamaican Jerk is delicious…nothing like back home,” I shared with the merchants.  “I’ve been listening to a lot of your music on MTV in my room.  I never knew there are so many types of Reggae.  Do you have Tanya Stephens or Beris Hammond? I’d love to take some CDs home,” I explained to the last few shopkeepers.  (Yes, I’m of the generation that still listens to an armoire full of CDs.  Just another segment of my staving off technology.)

Walking back to the resort, a young Jamaican boy ran down the hill toward me, waving his arms.  “Yuh di lady looking fi music?” he asked, showing me a handful of CDs.

“Well, yes I am.  What do you have there?”  The jewel cases sported homemade labels depicting the very artists I inquired about.  We exchanged smiles as I paid him then crossed the boundary line to the resort.

That night, I watched a Jamaican grandmother teach her granddaughter the art of basket weaving while a Rastafari man let me listen through his headphones to other Jamaican musicians I might like.  The next day, the little boy made me nearly a dozen more CDs which I carefully wrapped in the intricately hand-woven two-toned basket for my travels home.

For me, the best souvenir is a meaningful piece of culture.  The best vacation is connecting with natives of the homeland.  I travel to experience diversity.  Maybe that’s what the cardinals and chickadees do too.

It’s all a matter of respect.

Caribbean_general_map Some less respectful tidbits  about Jamaica…

Don’t refer to a Rastafari as a “rastafarian” as they connect “ians” and “isms” to oppression.  Likewise, referring to their philosophy as a “religion” or “ism” is against their beliefs.

Dudus (Christopher Michael) Coke led the violent Shower Posse drug gang that exported marijuana and cocaine to the United States.  In 1992 he took over his deceased father’s position as leader of the Tivoli Gardens community in West Kingston.  Providing programs to help the poor community garnered him so much local support that Jamaican police could not enter this neighborhood without community consent.