The UNPLUG experiment report
Updated: Jul 18, 2019
“Get out of our Mind and into your Life”
Despite everything I know, from personal experience and research, about the dangers of spending too much time in my mind, I find getting out of there rather challenging. Have you noticed that the mind can be like Velcro, with thoughts, even the disturbing ones (and maybe particularly those) holding us tight in their sticky grip?
My UNPLUG experiment made this so obvious... I had all the necessary conditions to be in the present moment: phone off, beautiful scenery, my child, no work to do… But with no agenda imposed by anyone, I found it necessary to imposed one on myself. My mind simply was not able to drop the habit of planning. I had to have a plan for everything: for the week, for the day, even for the next hour. I needed to know what the weather was going to be, how long the stores were open, what the shortest route to where I needed to get was… I would even be constantly sharing all my planning with my three-year-old, until I caught myself doing that and thought, “Ok, just keep it to yourself, she is perfectly happy not knowing about what time it is and what we are having for dinner”. It got a bit better by the end of the week, when I started to just go with the flow to a greater degree. This is when I spontaneously decided to go swimming even though it was cold and windy and I had not brought my swimming suit.
My phone being off allowed me to make these observations about my obsessive planning and eventually practice a little bit more mindfulness. Let me tell you about my favorite moments when I was able to be in the present as fully as I am capable of.
Sitting in the bakery for one and a half hours, drinking coffee, eating croissants, listening to Chopin (do you know of many bakeries that play classical music??), and people-watching. Both my daughter and I like to just watch people. I noticed that about her when she was about four months old, conscious enough to start observing the world around her. She’d be in her best mood whenever I took her to places where she could see other faces. Had I brought my phone to that bakery, I’d probably have been phone watching, not even noticing Chopin. No, I think I would notice. Music is one powerful force that can pull me out of thinking and make me stop and pay attention.
Biking through the forest lit by the evening sun. There is definitely something magical about Tisvilde Hegn. Every time I stroll or bike through that forest, and in particular in the evenings, when the sun is low, I look at the trees, the grass, the moss, all of it and can’t help but think, “This is perfection”. It could very well be that Tisvilde Hegn just reminds me of the forests back home where I grew up. I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia (or Leningrad, Soviet Union to be more precise) and spent every summer of my childhood at a datcha near the Baltic Sea. Same sea, different end…
Sitting on the top of a pine tree with a sea view and playing “letters” with my daughter. That was totally spontaneous. I saw a “climbable” pine tree and my childhood instincts woke up, so I got as high as I could. Of course, she also wanted to climb all the way up. To make her happy with sitting on the lower branch and to extend my time at the top, I asked her, “What’s the first letter of…” and she unexpectedly got very enthusiastic about the game. I didn’t notice the time because there was no clock I could look at on that tree, but it must have been at least 30 minutes we played that game.
After a long day of biking, swimming, and climbing trees, coming into my favorite pizzeria looking like god knows what, ordering a glass of red wine, and just sitting there, in the most visible spot, enjoying the sun, waiting for the pizza, being silly, and not giving a s…(econd thought) about what other people might think about my “hairstyle”. When growing up, that hairstyle used to be called, translated directly from Russian, “explosion at the pasta factory”. I suggest calling it “just spent a day having fun”.
After I’d put my daughter to bed, making myself a cup of tea and going to the cozy living room at the attic, where through the small cobweb-covered skylights I could look at the rain. I’d get under a home-woven blanket and spend two hours reading “Get out of our Mind and into your Life” by Steven Hayes. It’s a good book.