Why I Take a Cyber Sabbath (Apr 2021)
Leave your cell phone behind and rest — and see what wonder this world has to offer!
Daily spiritual exercises keep me mostly present and close to God. Sometimes, though I need to make more effort to create space for cultivating presence.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
When I need more, I aerate with a cyber sabbath. Ways I have managed unfettered technological contact with the world include a yearly retreat, a weekly cyber fast on a month of Sundays, and a seasonal social media/news restraint for Lent or Advent.
Sabbath (from Hebrew shabbat meaning rest) is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work. Traditionally it meant to spend the day in prayer, visiting with loved ones, reflecting, resting from the work of the other 6 days. Sabbath can also extend to other types of breaks.
More and more I have experienced how critical a personal cyber sabbath is to my well-being. Technology is a wonderful invention, especially cell phones. They have so many necessary and fun uses that enhance our lives yet, yet when I over use it, and I observe my body response, I notice a hyper-alertness in my nervous system, a subtle digestive discomfort and mild headache. For me, this ever-present companion, when unrestrained, becomes addictive with symptoms such as distraction, avoidance of other duties, mindlessness and craving for the next dopamine hit. It disturbs my inner focus, pulls me from presence towards gossipy sort of news, feeds negative desires through entertainment and impedes my creativity.
Respite from technology aerates my day so I can review my choices. A pause leaves room to water seeds of reflection, observation, to ask “What draws me towards or keeps me away from the Holy One - the Sacred Union my soul longs for?”
Yoga psychology and Ayurveda suggest many techniques for managing desires and changing unhealthy habits like cyber addiction. Two that have helped me are dinacharya (daily routine) and brahmacharya (routine of God awareness by moderating the senses). Dinacharya has helped to steer my habits towards what serves my highest good and away from what doesn’t. Brahmacharya advises moderation. It advises balance of sensorial pleasure managed by the wiser witnessing part of the mind to avoid excess or austerity. Both have helped me build discipline while gradually releasing negative habits. They give structure to my days just as the idea of a 7th day of rest or a seasonal or yearly retreat gives structure to the week/year.
Every time I create a cyber sabbath, it feels like a new beginning: I release stress and gain energy, clarity and gratitude. One time at 5 pm on a Sunday, I was wandering around the house wondering what ‘to do next’. On any other day, I would have checked email and social media and news. Instead, I walked into my office and wrote out a chart for a concept I had been wrestling with for weeks. It poured out of me because I had given it time and space. I reaped because I sowed.
IF YOU FIND YOU COULD USE A RESET REGARDING TECHNOLOGY USE, CONSIDER ONE OF THESE OPTIONS:
CPY retreat June 4-6 where we intentionally include 12 hours of suggested silence (9pm - 9 am ish) and encourage limited or no phone use to allow for a rich observation, and time for deep listening. Learn more here.
A month of Sundays (or another day)
A liturgical season
HOW TO CYBER SABBATH This experiment can be done with just the cell phone or include all technology.
Set an Intention for your practice. Here are two examples:
In this time I rest from busyness (and business). I honor the Divine in both time and space.
Decide which hours and which devices.
Tell your loved ones your plan and agree on a way to reach you in an emergency.
Pick ahead of time nourishing activities by asking: “What supports my spiritual path?” For example:
Read scripture slowly and ponder it
Slow down regular activities and observe more; notice finer details
Practice other presence tools - meditation, sacred movement, systematic relaxation, longer prayer session
Nap, take a bath, stay in your PJ’s ALL DAY!
Go out in nature. Slow down. Observe. Play. Breathe deeply.
Spend time with family and friends without technology
Reclaim an old hobby
Play an instrument, listen to music, dance
Flip through cookbooks, make a meal (only if this is fun for you)
Bake or cook for a neighbor or create a care package for a student
Sew, knit, craft
Sort through old photos
Write, journal, draw, color, create a scrapbook, read
Play board games, puzzles
Reflections on the experiment
Observe the desire to check the phone or computer. How many times? (Chuckle if it is like 50 times in the first hour.)
Notice how your body responds at first. Watch where the mind goes.
Notice any emotional responses like fear of not being in touch or tension.
When technology is back on, observe body, mind, emotions.
Ponder your work-rest relationship and attitude towards them.
Refine your practice for the next cyber sabbath.
While this is a serious practice, have fun with it too. Let me know how it goes. I love hearing from readers. Another article on taking a cyber sabbath.