I checked myself into a three day retreat, locked up my phone and computer during my time there and spent the weekend without any technology. I lived to tell the tale. Here is my story.
I took myself to the social and digital limits during the month of May. From creating and hosting eight events, organizing a Mothers Day STAYcation, heading off island for my sister’s baby shower, toasting in Sconset during Daffodil Weekend, sipping and schmoozing around Wine Fest Weeknd, sailing and celebrating during Memorial Day Weekend, to producing and launching the second printed blACKbook, (and doing all this while documenting almost every minute on social media!) Let’s just say that these past five weeks had me glued to my screen, attached to my computer and using my phone as a lifeline.
And the craziest part? I didn’t even notice I had any sort of “blogger burnout” until my mentor sat me down and said “I’m gonna get real with you right now…” Uh oh… I thought. I came in thinking we were chatting strategy while she clearly had something else on the tip of her tongue.
She said that if I was to continue with a thriving business at the level that I was at, I HAD TO take a step back and truly disconnect to reconnect. She said a retreat would be good for me. “But a digital detox retreat is gonna be tough for you,” she told me. “You’re really going to have to feel your feelings.” I took her advice seriously and with the help of my assistant, booked the first opening in my schedule with a weekend in the Berkshires to a place called KRIPALU. I promised myself as soon as the GPS brought me to this yoga & wellness center, I would go without the phone and computer for a three days away.
So… I left Nantucket last Thursday on the 6:30AM slow boat so I could get a solid two hours and fifteen minutes of work in. I drove my jeep off the ferry directly to the Starbucks Cafe at Barnes & Noble, for an obscene amount of caffeine and another three hours of emails, posts, blogging, and an overwhelming feeling of anxiety about getting it all in. I reluctantly got on the road at noon and blasted TED talk after TED talk,
with a sampling of the the latest Kygo
album in between, basically anything to distract me from what I was actually doing.
I got off at the Kripalu exit and made a B-line at 3:30PM for Micky-D’s, for the free WiFi, not the food, duh. It was there that I put up a vacation message on my Gmail. (Thank you for your email. I am out of the office with
little… no access
to email until Sunday.) I logged out of every app and hoped I would remember the passwords. I sent my family the “in case of emergency” telephone number at Kripalu
and finished it off by posting one final “inspirational” instagram
and thought about setting the location to the Berkshires. Nah, kept it blank. (God Holly, keep something sacred!)
At the ripe hour of 4PM, I drove the half mile up to the Kripalu Welcome Center. I saw my point person Henry, who said “are you…?” as I looked at him and said “are you…?” and we hugged (heart to heart as Henry requested) and I almost started to cry from the immediate sense of home…
And with that, I swiftly handed over my iPhone and my MacBook like it was a bag of dope and a needle.
I am here.
I have arrived.
This is good.
This is necessary.
These three days away will change my life.
I know it.
These are my first words in my journal when I arrived. I had to keep telling myself this, because Lord knows some seriously uneasy feelings settled in to my mind as I began to fully process what I had just done. My brain began running wild. What happens if the site crashes? What if someone puts up a nasty post on Facebook or a mean blACKbook tweet goes viral? All of this weighed heavily on me that first evening. Without the constant distractions and notifications from my inbox to instagram, I had some tough questions at the forefront. Who was I again before I blogged all the time? What did I use to do with my time before I was always putting my life on social media and my days in front of my computer? Didn’t I have hobbies? Or more importantly, what are my daily habit? And then it hit me… I couldn’t even remember the last time I consciously took a day off.
The three days at Kripalu had me examining myself … and trying my best to do so without judgement. I signed up for an “R&R Retreat”
at this Center for Yoga and Wellness and throughout my time there I worked on one mantra… To be present.
At first it seemed so odd to do so without my phone. How could I be present if I didn’t even know what the hell time it was? And there were so many beautiful scenes that kept coming into my horizon, so how in God’s name was I going to document them? How would I describe this place to anyone and let them know I truly did get away!?!
And eating, well that was another story. At first, it felt really weird to have dinner alone. (And not just solo at a bar with a glass of wine and full social feed of Facebook) But actually sitting down at a communal table by myself, and trying to figure out how to eat and act with no phone, no booze and no bartender to make small talk with. And the interesting part was without all the socializing, I got to listen a lot more. It reminded me of my early bartending days when I used to nonchalantly eavesdrop on conversations. People are fascinating… especially when you don’t know them. “We’re women of extremes,” one diner said to another. And with the situation that I had just placed myself in, I had to nod and agree.
I went to bed after a bath and a gentle yoga class and said a prayer for the safety of my digital life. I awoke to the sound of an ACTUAL alarm clock and the sight of the sunrise over the mountains. And just like a beautiful morning will do to you, all of a sudden I felt so motivated and ready to make a new habit… which was eating a solid breakfast. At Kripalu, breakfast turns out to be a silent meal. It helps you have a calm and mindful start to your day with a quiet meal. To me, this simple practice was fascinating. The only sounds were that of forks in scrambled eggs and a spoon scraping the oatmeal out of the side of a bowl. So other than getting used to the sound of my own chewing, it was a totally enlightening experiece. I ate seven of my eight meals alone and savored each one in a different way.
I felt completely free, like I was at summer camp again. I was able to sign up and do whatever I wanted and not think twice about any one else’s weekend schedule or producing any blACKbook events. I was lusciously selfish, filling my days practicing mindfulness, taking Kripalu’s YogaDance
, savoring the healing arts of reiki and deep tissue massage, and reading random books I found in the library on the fourth floor of the Sunset Room. It was amazing how much more free time I had without looking down at my phone all the time.
I took a writers workshop on “The Travelers Mindset” about how our eyes are so open while we travel and everything from a stoplight to a barber shop seems beautiful, so why don’t we take those same eyes and use them on our everyday life? We were all supposed to write free form about one place that we traveled to that we loved. I wrote about Punta Del Diablo and my time in this sleepy surf beach town in northern Uruguay. Feeling both nervous and open, I shared my draft. At the end of the class, an English teacher from Brooklyn came up and said are you a writer? “Ummmm, yeah, I guess,” I stammered. “Well I could have read 400 more pages of your writing.” she replied.
Well, I better get on that, I thought. Note to SELF: write more.
From what I have learned, yoga is all about coming back to the breath… it’s the connection between the body and the mind. And over the past few years, as I’ve dropped in on as much restorative yoga as well as a few vinyasa classes, and I have realized that I have a really hard time focusing on my breath. (I used to think I only enjoyed yoga because it is the one activity that if I took out my phone take a photo of someones headstand, I would asked to leave. Again, another example of why I needed to get away from my phone.)
But back to the breath… when you are so fixated on a screen (or the next post, the next meeting, the next event, the next big party) it becomes literally impossible to focus on the here and now. That’s where the breath comes in… it’s all about the present. Just breathing in and breathing out. And I’ll be honest here, I have never been one to focus on the present, so this concept of spending time to completely focus on the inhales and the exhales, the pausing, the sighs, and the movement tied to the breath… it enraptured me and consumed my brain for my time at Kripalu. It made it so much easier to come in to the present by just doing something as simple as focusing on the thing we all do every damn day.
I spent my days in ten second increments…. inhale count to five… exhale count to five… I swear these small pauses are going to change my habits somehow. Need to respond to an unfriendly email? Now I’m going to pause… inhale (1,2,3,4,5) exhale (1,2,3,4,5) … and respond… not react. Social media getting me down? I’m going to log out of whatever I’m are doing and focus on my breath and show gratitude for being alive. I decided it was high time to put some time into enjoying the moment.
Focusing on the breath literally changed everything. It helped me get out of my head (and off of my phone) and back to the basics. Next goal? Everything in moderation. We’ll follow up on that one later:)
F L O W .
What I started to realize, while that phone wasn’t ringing and that computer wasn’t dinging, was that when you turn some things off, it becomes easier to tune in to others. So I leave with you with this…
During an incredible guided kayak along the Kriplau Lake, I had this moment where everything came together… my strokes cut the lake like a knife and I inhaled with every left stroke and exhaled with every right. I mean, a freaking bald eagle flew over me as our group rounded a corner to sit and mediate amongst Lily Pads. YES! This happened. The old me would have been silently screaming, if I could have just instagramed this moment! But the new me, the more present me, well I just closed my eyes and relished it. That precious moment, when all felt right with the world, that sacred moment, when everything was just in F L O W…. well I finally realized there was no need to document that.
… because that moment was my life, just patiently waiting for me to come back and live it again.
For more information on KRIPALU or to book your R&R retreat… click here. Clearly, I highly recommend it!