A year ago, the only way I could access email or Facebook was from my desktop computer at home. The rest of the time, I was blissfully internet-free. Then, about a year ago, I acquired a tablet - an iPad - so I could run my Wilderness Mysticism slideshows. It also enabled me to join Instagram, which people had been telling me was a necessary component for spreading the word about my business. However, since the iPad could only run off Wifi, I still remained internet-free whenever I wasn't encased within the walls of a building. Then, four months ago, I finally bought a smartphone for the express purpose of taking iPhone videos and posting them for my business on Facebook. I'd been resisting getting a smartphone for many years because I didn't want to be almost continually "plugged in." However, with the smartphone, I now had the capacity for checking email, Facebook and Instagram not only at home and in other buildings, but also while recreating in many outdoor locations. Fortunately, in Colorado, we still have quite a few backcountry areas where cell phone service does not reach. That includes the 60-mile Poudre Canyon (located just a few miles from my home) and many sections of Rocky Mountain National Park. But I'm sure this will eventually change as technology advances and cell phone service is then available virtually everywhere.
While having the capacity to be "plugged in" so frequently has its obvious advantages, I'm discovering that it also means the potential for becoming addicted to social media - especially to "Likes," "Comments" and personal messages. It is of course always possible to justify this need for connection because it is related to business concerns - which for me means more Spiritual Direction clients, the scheduling of workshops and enhanced interest in my photography - but it also means that I subtly begin to become more dependent on the opinions and responses of others. This stands in stark contrast to the previous three decades of my life, when I could spend most of the day focusing my attention on the development of inner creativity. In those days, any momentary experience of boredom was channeled immediately into developing creative insights. Today, I am, like most of us, tempted to take the same boredom and instead check for Likes and Comments on the cell phone.
Recently, however, I've begun leaving my cell phone in the car, or putting it on Airplane Mode. Now, whenever the yearning for connection occurs, I find myself funneling that desire instead into my union and love affair with the Divine - especially within beautiful landscape settings - which represents a partial return to the way I lived for most of my life. For me, this "fasting" from internet connection for extended periods of time each day brings with it an increased sense of personal agency, creativity and peace. It also reawakens the realization that ultimately, my life - like that of ALL of us - dwells in the midst of a profound communion with both God and Goddess - the Great Beyond and the Sacred Earth - who are, after all, the only Ultimate Realities in the cosmos. For all of us human beings - together with our numerous "Likes," "Comments," and Messages - are at root simply expressions of the union of those Two Fundamental Presences.
Now, whenever I feel the longing to check my phone for messages, I know I have a golden opportunity - at least a portion of the time - to realize my insatiable desire for Divine communion instead. Thus, what begins as a potential for distraction turns at last into a reminder to engage in meaningful spiritual practice. For, as the 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich reminds us, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Photos: Blue ice on Lake Haiyaha, tree snag and the Twin Owls, and Pasqueflowers, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
For Spiritual Direction or Workshops, please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.