A Week Without You Guys

I missed you guys. No really, I did. In fact, c’mon, group hug!! Everyone, just bring it in…

*squeeze*

…ahh… there you go. That’s better. 🙂 Now, back to business…

It’s strange having a week off from the internet. To begin with you don’t know what to do with yourself. Normally I’d get up, check my e-mails, make some moves on itsyourturn, check flickr for new comments, see what activity there’s been on my blog, and then round it all off by catching up on any new posts on the many blogs I follow around the world.

But with no internet, no TV, and no music (I relaxed this rule on and off as the week went by), everything suddenly becomes very quiet and expansive. You end up with a lot of time on your hands. Admittedly, a lot of that I filled with reading, but there’s only so much book you can handle.

My first morning (relax, I’m not going to do a full blow by blow of the week) I managed to shower, do a good yoga session, make food for the day (which involved cooking pasta and the sauce to go with it), cook a full English breakfast, AND wash the dishes, and I still left early for work. With all of the above internet activity I barely had time to shower and knock out a few sun salutations before I was scrambling for the door. I even had time to bake cookies on the last two mornings, ready for my Brighton photo shoot the next day (more about that in the next post).

early morning cooking session

And work was different too. Avoiding watching movies and not going on the internet freed up my brain to connect with the people around me. I was a lot less uncommunicative and monosyllabic, as I tend to be when I’m half watching something and someone asks me a question (I can only do one thing at a time well, and TV tends to really suck me in if it’s on – that’s why I avoid it).

And it made me go out more. On the two days I did have off work I went out one day to help at the Sivananda Centre building bunk beds for their upcoming teacher training course, and the other I spent out meeting friends and enjoying the glorious sunshine.

All in all we’re talking about Mindfulness. The act of being where you are, being aware of where you are, of what you’re doing, and being conscious of yourself as you go through life. (NB: If anyone’s interested, I thoroughly recommend reading Mindfulness In Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana for some simple yet fascinating insights into how the mind works.) I was more concentrated, more focussed on what I was doing at any one time, and a heck of a lot calmer (in my mind) as I went about my day. It really was a most peaceful and positive experience which I’d recommend everyone try at least once.

Upon my return I found I had over 100 e-mails. 75 were porn spam, 20 were unsolicited marketing messages, 8 were solicited but general communications, and 3 were for me personally. Kind of says it all really. I don’t think I’ll be putting my computer on as much anymore. It certainly won’t be my default position from crawling out of bed first thing in the morning. I’ll be using it at my convenience, and not just to fill time. And when it’s not in use it’ll be off, and I’ll be doing something else. Life’s too short to spend it all in front of a computer screen.

A Week Off

I can fill an entire evening looking at stuff online, downloading pictures, blogging, creating playlists, watching movies, etc., etc.

It’s fun, but it is a bit of a waste of time. I’m not getting any writing done. I’ve been on a major baking tip these past weeks, trying to get recipes done for the recipe cards I want to do. And when I’ve not been baking I’ve been sleeping, thanks to two weeks of lovely night shifts, so there’s not been much else going on. Hence I’ve decided to take a week off.

That means no internet, no DVDs, no music – just me, my thoughts, a word processor, and a good book now and then (it’s an anti-electronic entertainment thing).

I did it last year and it was a revelation. Remove the distractions and you suddenly have a hell of a lot of time on your hands. Plus it’s when I discovered reading again. I’d forgotten how good it was to read, can you believe that. My week off reawakened my joy of words, and I’m hoping this one will have a similar effect.

Of course it’s a little bit of a misnomer, in that I will be working for 5 of those 7 days – with computers and TV screens everywhere – but as long as I don’t watch anything outside of the parameters of my job, and I stay away from the internet, I’ll still be staying within the spirit of the idea.

So, starting tomorrow expect 7 days of quiet.

See you all on the other side.

Week 21: In which our hero goes offline, then goes glamping

Such an odd week this week. As well as not drinking I decided to do away with electronic distractions also; namely no internet, no DVDs and no iPod. I did allow myself some music, but no radio, and I tried to avoid listening to podcasts. Also, where possible, I left the mobile at home too. As best I could it was pretty total.

library selection

First thing I did, I read a lot. Got through three whole books in the first four days or so, as well as various bits of others. Then I started thinking. That was the point you see, without games to play, e-mails to check, and films to watch, I was leaving myself no refuge. I had to deal with my thoughts, and everything that involved.

Now I can’t go into too much detail on the general subject matter, as it ranged over many topics for a great length of time, but I can share some of the conclusion I came to. Here’s two extracts from something I wrote that pretty much sums it up nicely.

“…be centre stage in your own life rather than a bit player. And above all enjoy the life you’ve chosen, because you’ve got to do something day to day, so you may as well enjoy it, because it happening whether you do or not…”

“And remember, most of what happens to you is a construct in your head. They’re your thoughts, and opinions, and ideas; your moods and your musings; and not immutable facts. So you may as well construct a world you enjoy…”

Buddhists and Taoists will recognise the idea, it’s not original, but putting it into my own words really helped me put it into action. So that’s what I’m doing now, constructing a fun world to be in, because if I don’t, who will? 🙂

first barbecue of the summer

Also, as a consequence of not sitting online for hours each day, I got out and did more stuff. Met up with the lovely Sarah and, in an effort to enjoy the glorious sunshine, we went for a walk down by the river, had a (non-alcoholic) drink in a couple of pubs by the Thames, then went back to mine for the first barbecue of the summer. The burgers were excellent (Redwood Company) but the kebabs were a little under-done. Also I normally put some tofu marinated in BBQ sauce on there to liven them up a bit. Still, as first barbies go it did the trick!

glamping

Later in the week I was very fortunate to go ‘glamping’ (glam camping) at the surprisingly lovely Layer Marney Tower near Tiptree in Essex. I went with the Badgers, a bunch who through many years attending The Big Chill, have gotten into the habit of going on mini adventures around the place together (usually Cornwall for a bit of surfing, but we’re open to possibilities).

We are most fortunate in that one of our number is the Travel Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine (I kid you not!) so we get to enjoy the generous fruits of the many publicity driven freebies she has offered to her (God bless you Mrs Mu!).

camping cornucopia

This was by far the swankiest bit of camping I’ve ever done. A massive hut that slept 6, proper plumbing, showers and even a hot tub! I was amazed, and very pleased (I am so over normal camping). A wood burning stove provided heat and cooking facilities – vegan curries and fried breakfasts were abound – and we were quite sated by the end. A good time was had by all, and even getting lost in the fields and absolutely soaked on a poorly planned ‘stroll’ to Tiptree didn’t dampen our spirits.

The interesting bit for me was that, without the internet, I had to go old skool and do everything by phone. From finding out about the unexpected trip, to planning the meet, getting train times and information, I am so used to just having all this at my finger tips. That’s where the internet comes into it’s own, as a resource. It only becomes a problem when it turns into a distraction.

I guess that’s what I have learnt from the whole experience, to keep things in perspective – life, the Universe, and everything – to get out more and just do stuff, and that 99% of how the world is is down to how I view things and what I do about them. As the late great Bill Hicks said, “How about waking up and enjoying the life you’ve chosen?” Amen brother.

ps: I’m famous! The very lovely and super cool Rickicupcake has featured me as this weeks Ask A Vegan on her brilliant blog Seitanic Vegan Heathen Check her out when you’ve got a mo, she’s the tops and well worth the effort. Cheers Ricki for the kudos. I’m well chuffed, hahaha 🙂