I gave up my Netflix account a few months ago in an effort to spend less time in front of my screen, especially at night.
I did this because I had this gnawing feeling I could no longer ignore, (as is with most gnawing feelings, their innate and inevitable unignorabality) that I was avoiding something.
I didn’t know what, but I’ve been doing enough work on the path to self mastery that I trusted it would come to me if I just stopped, if I got still (albeit uncomfortably so) and waited. I wish I could tell you that the moment I stopped watching TV series and movies and whatever else animated my screen, that a blinding epiphany came to me and filled me with a deeper sense of self and connection to everything and everyone, but that’s not what happened.
Here’s what did happen however.
Because I’ve always loved to read, and knew that I missed reading as much as I used to – Thank you Netflix, Instagram (and other more boring and awful social media platforms) and general life-related business,
I decided to start reading again. To fill the time I would’ve spent zoned out in front of my screen, rather instead of a book. A paper one.
This in and of itself was really difficult.
I realised, with shocking clarity that I struggled to focus as easily as I used to. Thank you again, my beautiful but dangerous IPhone, proving the science (again) that constant, short bursts of 15 -45 seconds of focus (The amount of time it takes to check your phone) is making us more stupid and decreasing our ability to focus for longer periods of time.
I struggled to find a book I could really engage with.
I tried all my go-to self mastery titles and authors, nothing. I tried fiction, nothing. I was like an listless addict uninterested in the things that used to engage my interest and imagination.
In hindsight I think I was in a kind of detox process. I had to just get through it.
After a few weeks, the habit was broken and I found myself simply doing other things. Going out a bit more, pushing through books, even when it seemed a bit boring (at least they put me to sleep), and generally getting used to just being. As in the more being less doing kind of way.
Just being is a hard thing to do, especially when we are trying to (unconsciously or not) avoid something, which as I mentioned, I was.
I was avoiding my creativity. My writing. I was avoiding creating and writing because I was avoiding the feelings that go along with my creativity and my writing.
I had to the icky job of feeling my feelings again, being with me, being in my body, out of my head, (oh my god, all the things I teach and coach). I had temporarily forgotten myself.
It’s a tricky thing when your work is what you live. After a full day of teaching and coaching yoga and methods to self-mastery, guess what I want to do? Take a break from yoga and self-mastery tools and practices, and yet they are the very tools that keep me happy and fulfilled.
I abandoned that unproductive line of thinking, named it a non-dilemma, pulled up my big girl panties, and swiftly put my own principles back into practice and came back to myself.
I didn’t need a break from my life’s work; I needed to engage with the space I had been filling with screen time.
I got myself off to a second hand bookstore, because I love everything about second hand bookstores; The smell, the energy of millions of words still living on pages written by those long dead (well some of them). I feel like the wealthiest woman in the world standing in the section mostly dedicated to thinkers, philosophers and revolutionaries. For about €7 a book, I can access worlds and ideas and basically converse with the dead. I had found my love for books again.
I also had time away. I had time away from teaching and coaching. I had nothing but space to fill and feelings to feel and books to read.
I started with the Unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera, (the irony not wasted on me). I was unbearably light. Our colours and all that make us spectacularly human (if felt at the depths we have capacity for) being the lightness that makes living almost unbearable at times.
I think that’s why we hide in the things that make us feel numb, we avoid our potential, we avoid our humanity, we avoid the magnificent sadness, the joy, the everything because it’s easier.
It’s easier until it isn’t.
Last night I fell off the wagon and started a series on Netflix (not my account – I wasn’t prepared to take that step). I struggled to sleep after two episodes of whatever it was I watched.
I instantly missed myself. I’m no longer comfortable in the avoidance. I woke up and recommitted again to my books and to my writing.
This is the result.
Thank you for reading.
I teach play and creativity as being vital to enhancing our lives and as I get back to my own creative process, I encourage you to get back to yours.
Creativity is not a hobby, and optional extra, any more than sleeping is a hobby or an optional extra. Creativity is an essential outlet to keeping us happy and fulfilled.
So, go ahead, create like no one is watching, because they aren’t (they’re checking their phones). I totally stole at least half of that line from someone else.
What habits do you have in your life that you use a tool to avoid your greatness?
Commit to reducing that thing even by a fraction at a time, in an effort to spend those 5, 10, 15 , 45 minutes doing something that sets you on fire.
I remember reading somewhere that television is like spray paint to your third eye. I usually hate any statement that uses the third eye as a meaningless yoga analogy but this one is good. It can stay. You can use it too :-)