Monday, July 09, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, July 09, 2012 28 comments
As I was getting ready for work this morning, I heard this interview with psychologist Dan Gottlieb reflecting on the idea of "absolute rest." He was responding to questions about a new study on therapy for concussions, but went on to discuss the possible wider implications. It's worth a listen (click the audio player on the page I linked above).

I was particularly struck by Dr. Gottlieb's description of taking a "silent retreat" as beginning with a 24-hour painful withdrawal process, of "detoxing" from the "drugs" that are familiar to us all: technology, speed and distraction. He noted that we fill our lives with so many distracting gadgets that "we often can't even feel our own bodies." Ouch. So true. I had my personal wake-up call on that front last fall (my poem "Anemia" in Poetry Pact vol. 1 describes some of it). Now that I'm on the other side of the tests and treatment, I know it will take concerted effort to fully live in my skin, not just my brain.  

I'm intrigued with the idea of technology detox. I generally stay off the interwebs over the weekends in order to focus on my family. And yet, I wonder if two days is enough to do what I really need--get my head cleared out and my creativity fully energized.

Do you find you live in your mind more than in your body?  Do you ever truly rest? Have you tried abstaining from all technology for a period? What was that like?


image credit: Dorne, www.morguefile.com

28 comments:

  1. I think those are some great points. Though I do have a computer and internet for writing, I leave it shut at least on Sunday. (If I feel I must write, I do it in a notebook.) And I'm glad to say I have no cell phone, ipad, music devices, e-readers, or any of it. People think I'm crazy, but I'm so much happier without it.

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    1. I don't think you're crazy, but wise and self-aware. How many of these devices do we truly need, really?

      I think every person has a certain level of what I'd call "noise tolerance." For some, distractions and buzz actually help their creativity. I just don't happen to be one of those people--for me it creates stress.

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  2. When I'm on vacation or away for a weekend, the break is nice. And that's when I realize how much i didn't really miss! :) And if I did miss big news, I can catch up pretty easily.

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    1. I take hiatuses now and then, too, and it does reduce my stress level quite a lot. As you say, social media wants us to believe "news" lasts all of three minutes, but that's not entirely true. You can catch up later. Being an early adopter and first responder doesn't have to be one's life goal, right? :-)

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  3. This is really interesting as my husband just had a concussion. I definitely notice a difference when I don't spend all day on my computer, especially the weekends.

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    1. Dr. Gottlieb seemed to indicate that our brain is in some senses like another muscle that can be over-taxed. Rest is healthy for it, whether it has been traumatically injured or not.

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  4. I take a walk every day where I take no technology with me. I don't have a smartphone, so I don't check messages and blogs and such all day long. I have a certain time each day for "plugging in."

    Still, a couple of times a year, I unplug from the internet and computer altogether (and often TV and radio, too, depending on where we go), for about a week at a time.

    Overall, I don't feel overwhelmed, but that might be because I seem to be less "plugged in" overall. I'm not even on Facebook!

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    1. I spend a lot of the day techno-free also, but the nagging sensation that I'm missing out or slacking has begun lately. I know that fake senses of obligation are usually a bad sign! :-)

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  5. I think it would be wonderful to take a week off from technology. I often wonder what it's doing to us. Between all the connectivity and portability, we are constantly being entertained. I suspect it leaves very little time for thinking.

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    1. That's exactly what Dr. Gottlieb concluded, Connie. If we want to think deeply and live fully, we need to reduce our need to be constantly entertained. Couldn't agree more.

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  6. This is a great topic, and a discussion I think is really needed. I also take the weekend off of my computer, usually, but I need to work on getting off technology more. The phone, especially, I feel tied to.

    Every summer we spend a week at the beach, and there is almost no technology involved. It's delicious. :)

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    1. You almost feel like a different person without all the buzz, right? I know my creativity becomes less vital when I'm too scattered. Removing distractions for a period sure helps me.

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  7. I sometimes long for those days in childhood when there was nothing but the earth and sky and whatever we made up.
    I rarely get away from technology, but I'm going to a writers retreat in September that will be free of a lot of tech except for laptops for working on WIPs. I hope it's a wonderful as I envision.

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    1. Ah, yes. You've described so well what creative life once felt like for me, too. I hope you have a wonderful time on your retreat!

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  8. I find myself day dreaming of a long weekend up in some remote cabin in the mountains, not even with a laptop, just a pen and notebook.

    I think our bodies need an absolute rest more than we think. And our minds, too, maybe. I see my stepdaughter on her iPhone ALL DAY and inwardly cringe... but I probably would've been too, at that age (17).

    Very thought-provoking

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    1. I'm reminded of the concept of sabbath, and how our natural inclination is to see it as robbing us rather than as a gift. I agree that we DO need more rest than we think.

      I was a terrible phone addict at 17. I think the constraints of corded land lines (in which you're stuck in one place) helped keep me from giving my life over to connections across distance.

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  9. I used to be able to walk the beach every day so that was my "down-time". Now I find it hard to actually "rest" my brain. I've been looking for something to take the walk's place but so far haven't found anything.

    And yes, I've gotten away from technology for periods at a time and find it helpful, but not by much. I find when I get back to it, I feel overwhelmed that I may have missed something, which is usually not the case. But it's that Type-A personality trait rearing her ugly head.

    I think we all need to go back to the 1950's when a phone booth was in vogue and tv was something you did as a family.

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    1. Your idea sounds fun, Anne. We can call it Retro Week. :-)

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  10. Hi
    thanks for your visit to me - this is a lovely blog! Glad I have found you - and no, I don't believe I ever really rest, these days, though I was very good at it when I was young! I seem to be like a cat on pins, the whole time - perhaps with a sense of having so much to do, and hoping I've got time to do it all in ... Yet I live in the original 'silent retreat' as regards my location - 1000 feet up a welsh mountain, mostly with only myself, my animals and the birds for company - which just goes to show, peace must first be in the mind :-)

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    1. I think you're right that peace must be in the mind first. There's something about adult obligations that make it very hard to fully let go of the "shoulds" and really rest.

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  11. So interesting! I take frequent breaks from my computer and telephone during the summer months, which feels soooo good. But when I "come back," I feel so out of touch with everyone, like the world spun without me and getting back in makes me dizzy. I think a lot of it is my ego, but let's not talk about that right now, haha.

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    1. I know what you mean. When I had surgery earlier this year, I felt terrible that I missed so much. It's probably a sign of warped thinking--or having unrealistic expectations of myself.

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  12. What an interesting concept: living in your mind more than your body... I think as writers we fight htis all the time, yes? I think a detox is in order. Thanks, Laurel! :o) <3

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    1. I see a lot of writers joke about this, but the long-term effects of not sensing and caring for your body can be really, really bad. Beyond weight gain, there's heart disease and diabetes to mention a few.

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  13. No, I'm not sure we ever truly rest. And if you mainly work on your computer, and get away from it for a while, you have all the catch-up waiting when you return. Maybe the only way to have a chance at rest is to work at a type of job that doesn't pile up during your time off.

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    1. Dr. Gottlieb seemed to advocate taking a total rest break periodically, and to get support to make it happen. But I agree, it is hard to not dread the pile up that absence will cause.

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  14. I try to abstain from technology on weekends, too!

    And I wonder if this is maybe why I'm resisting e-readers. When I'm reading, I like it to be just me on the sofa (or in bed or by the beach or...) with the book. Especially if it's a good one :-)

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    1. For me, it was always the expense that held me back. Then I got a Kindle as a gift and realize what a treat it is to carry dozens of books at a time with no extra weight. I can have five or six books going at a time. This is especially helpful with nonfiction, which I don't absorb as well in big helpings.

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