But what does unplugging really mean? And can a resort help you do it?
For me, to unplug is to give up craving, to live mindfully, to move toward nirvana (Sanskrit for "complete liberation").
Today, we suffer from a constant craving for information and the need to blast out whatever is on our minds to the rest of the world—thanks to social media. Unfortunately, all addictive behavior creates grief. And our addictive need to consume and share information is no different.
The Buddha—who knew a thing or two about unplugging—said:
"From craving grief arises,
From craving arises fear,
For him who is free from craving
There is no grief, then whence comes fear?
As a tree with firm, uninjured
Roots, though cut down grows up again,
So when latent craving is not rooted out
Suffering again and again arises."
This passage has had a profound impact on my personal thinking. It refers to detachment as a practice to end craving and suffering. If we look at unplugging from this point of view, a few days of digital detox will be the equivalent to "cutting down a few roots" of a well-grown tree: Craving will not stop.
Therefore, to truly unplug requires a disciplined approach to mentally detach from the in- and outflow of useless information. This detachment then becomes about—and maybe comes from—being mindful about what we do every day. Mindfulness has been described as "bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis." It does not imply taking a vacation every other month or putting away your digital devices for a day or two to reach a fleeting grasp of what might feel like nirvana.
In my case, contrary to popular belief, my digital devices actually have been daily aids to my practices and rituals of meditation, writing, being entertained, reading books (unrelated to my work or of this era), and being inspired by humanity from faraway lands. Most of the time, I don't wake up at the crack of dawn to tune into news media, write emails, hop on social media, or to dive into work-related matters. My dawns are my time to unplug—using my digital devices. And that sets the promise of my day: focus, creativity, and positivity.
We want to unplug in order to recharge. Recharging allows us to:
Connect with our soul: If we are constantly overwhelmed with sound bites, we aren't allowed to discover what we are capable of and who we are.
Create authentic vision: You need the discipline to create the space to find what's next.
Lead others to create a sustainable future: To lead teams and cultivate fluid organizations, you need to begin with leading yourself.
Since we need to connect, create, and lead regularly, it is our obligation to recharge everyday. Being mindful creates serenity needed to be productive, one task at a time. But if our peace depends upon conditions being a certain way (aka visiting a "digital detox spa"), then we will get very attached. We become enslaved to our expectations, we want to control our situation, and then we become more upset if anything disrupts it and gets in the way of our peace.
In his book The Way It Is, monk and scholar Ajhan Sumedho writes:
"(You may think) 'I've got to find some place—a cave. I've got to get my own sensory deprivation tank and find the ideal situation. Set up all the conditions where I can keep everything at bay so I can just abide in the blissful serenity of the purity of the mind. But then you see, the view is based on craving, isn't it? It’s a self-view, a desire to have that experience because you remember it, liked it, and want it again."
That craving and desire is a momentary delusion. Since most of us can't fly off to an exotic island, visit a detox spa, or leave the Internet for a few weeks, we all need to find our own ways to unplug daily to connect and to lead.
Alternatively, if you must visit a digital detox spa, here is a video blurb that may just point you in the right direction. Happy trails. . . .
[Image: Flickr user Charmar]