Unplug to Plug Back In

UnplugMy daughter might have said it best when she said “It sounds like camp for adults.” She was talking about my recent 6 day training at a yoga retreat. The place is called Kripalu and it’s located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts (Kripalu.org). Along with yoga, a spa, and hiking trails, they offer healthful choices in food. One of the most annoying and best features is that they discourage looking at glowing rectangles in any of the common areas.

Rushing through the Albany airport terminal and plunking down at the gate for the flight home, I was struck by the electronic indicators that I had returned to the “real” world. The TV was blaring news with sound that made me think of Charlie Brown’s mother, and almost everyone was looking down at some size of glowing rectangle. The looking down was striking in its own way. I had quickly gotten used to the others of the several hundred people (our group was about 35, and there were about 7 other groups of all different interests there as well) at the retreat looking at me and me at them, making eye contact, and almost always smiling and saying “Hi.”

Of further interest to a brain science hobbyist was how my social circuitry seemed to have become more alive in me even in that brief stay. I struck up conversations with ease and felt a connection with strangers that was in contrast to how I had spent the trip going to the retreat.

Coming home, I found I had little desire to “plug in” in my usual ways; watching and reading news, channel surfing just didn’t have the same attraction as turning it off and talking to my wife and daughters. I didn’t even remember that I played Scramble With Friends until two days after I got back (which might say more about my memory than the trip). I thought more about reaching out to people I hadn’t talked to in awhile. Had a couple of conversations I’d been putting off for a few weeks. And that’s just in the first couple of days back!

It will be interesting to see how quickly and how powerfully I am called back to the culture of checked out glowing rectangle downlookers. The hope is that this will represent a shift rather than a blip of change. I guess if I relapse, I could go back to Kripalu, do yoga twice a day and eat healthy food in between walks in the beautiful country (and do some work on myself as part of an advanced training in EMDR) for a week to gather more data. Research can be such hard work, but I’m willing!

These breaks both large and small are essential to our well being. Being able to unplug for a week, a weekend, or even the length of a therapy session can be just what we need to get back our balance, to reignite ignored neural pathways, to connect with what is most important – and what is too often drowned out in the hubbub of our modern lives. How do you do that for yourself, and what small step can you take this week?