When I was about 18 years old, I made a decision to stop smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol completely. I don’t believe that I had a problem with abuse, and my decision was of my own motivation. I was an experimenting teenager. However, I had been exposed to addiction in my family and possessed a healthy degree of vigilance around substances. I was also transitioning into adulthood, and I think that rite of passage encouraged me into a different way of being. Playing with mind-altering substances lost its intrigue.
I remember sitting in my living room armchair one day around this time and looking out my front window. Everything outside was so vivid. The world looked a little fresher to me. It was similar to an acid trip (something else I had experimented with as a youth). Everything was still intact and correlating to consensus reality, and yet, I was able to appreciate the beauty and encounter of the simple things. It reminds me of the time I put on my first pair of spectacles and realized that leaves are far more defined than I’d remembered.
Recently, I made a decision to deactivate my Facebook account. People who know me know that I love social networking, and so it was a challenge for me. However, I have many goals that I believe Facebook was interfering with, being the Pavlovian bell of a distraction that it can be. I did expect to get far more accomplished when leaving Facebook, and that expectation is proving to be true. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much more energy I seem to have than I previously thought. I didn’t expect to also be noticing the world in a more vivid manner as akin to the time at age 18 when I decided to stop experimenting with substances.
For instance, I was having lunch last week at a local restaurant, and had to stand in line to use the bathroom. I automatically reached for my phone to browse through the Facebook newsfeed, and felt that momentary flush of panic because my “drug” was not available to me. Still, after the initial shock, I looked around and was reminded of the enjoyment and value in just looking around at pictures, people watching, and even harmlessly eavesdropping on the conversation of other lunchtime folks.
It’s amazing to me how our numerous little addictions and preoccupations can take us away from the stuff of life. I think that people use addictions to anesthetize, but the flip side is that consciousness of the basic beatitudes of being is truncated. Basic existence is miraculous and gorgeous in many ways.
If we have our five senses and simple attention, we have unlimited access to sources of great pleasure and joy. It requires unplugging every now and then, whether it be from Facebook, our evening cocktail, shopping, gambling, porn surfing, or even working too hard. People don’t realize what they have access to. I actually believe that corporate culture doesn’t want us to know. If we did, we wouldn’t have this false feeling of starvation that motivates us to consume things that close our eyes rather than open them.
Think about the ways that you are plugged in to something that takes you away from yourself and your ability to encounter the natural world. If you can, just try to unplug for a while and simply “notice what you notice.” My hunch is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
— Candice Hershman