THE BLOG
09/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Unplugging: Four Steps to Reconnecting With What Matters

Sitting at Starbuck's on Lake Street, sipping tea, I'm wondering if you've given yourself permission to take a pause today? Or, if not a pause, then at least a 'pause-ette.' It's tricky these days, isn't it? So much to do, so little time.

With some degree of nostalgia, fondly I remember the days before e-mail, the Web, the laptop. The days before those dinosaur computers at the university computer lab when the apparatus filled up an entire room, when collecting data meant schlepping cardboard boxes just to store the output so that you could carry them without spillage all over tarnation. Gone are the days when there were neither voicemail, nor cell phones. If someone was talking solo in a restaurant and no one else was present, there was fairly good assurance that this individual needed some special help. Now, we are bombarded with conversations with people seemingly talking to 'thin air.' You find yourself somehow entangled in their cellular exchange messes with who-knows-who. Just a few days ago on a Los Angeles flight, the 4A was shouting orders to his divorce attorney about the settlement, while 4D let someone named Helene know about her plunging stock and job security sketchiness in Corporation X. No wonder iPods are so popular! They help us at least choose our noise!

Although I readily admit I'm a brontosaurus when it comes to gadgets and technology, and I realize that I reap the benefits of many advances, the truth is that I am well aware of the toll this takes on the human psyche. The ever present sense of surround-sound striving is pretty much everywhere you look. Every day, I see the price tag of living in this unconnected way in my practice. But you don't have to have your own business to bear witness.

Take just now, for instance. Two minutes ago, while on my little rant, I noticed a 30-ish young woman racing by my window, across the street. Like a bat out of hell, her ponytail flying in the wind beneath her red baseball hat, holding a cell to one ear, a Starbuck's cup, in the other, as she zooms down the road in full-tilt sprint. Did I mention that she was steering a stroller with one finger, while balancing her coffee with the same hand? No doubt, she was multi-tasking. True story. You should have seen the expression of terror on her little girl's face. Screaming at the top of her lungs, eyes wide open, her baby clad in pink. "Pinky" looks positively frozen. She's not having fun. Mommy's not exactly within eye range. No contact. No connection. Only speed. No more than four feet away, cars moving at a clip to beat the morning rush hour. Rushing to beat the rush.

Who amongst us cannot understand? I'm afraid it's come to this. Fewer and fewer in number can remember the time when this was not the case. Fewer and fewer remember when the weekends were not about more work, when they were not about a mall, because there was no mall. Fewer remember 'going visiting', or Sunday drives. As a culture, it is highly unlikely that we will be going back to that time anytime soon.

Yet, I cannot help but fantasize when I see young mothers like the one I just described. It seems a 'no-brainer' that babies with such little opportunity for attachment will be showing up in droves for mental health assistance. Believe me, it is happening already. Now, what I am about to say is going to tick off a lot of people. The truth is that the numbers of young people needing extra support is growing to such a degree that we simply cannot get them in for appointments. Too often, pills are given as a substitute for human contact. Not only the 'patient' is taking them, by the way! It does not work. Because as they get older, they move into monumental depression, and in some cases, violence, because no matter how many toys and gadgets they have been given, it does not substitute for what they really want: to be held, honored, seen, heard, touched, taken seriously.

So does mama and papa. The look of parental distress, at seeing unrest, disappointment, and disillusionment in their children could send you to the hills like a screaming meme, for lack of time and practitioners. The children are bereft of their parents' undivided attention. The parents are bereft for a lack of time to simply be with their kids without distraction. One thing I know for certain: we cannot build a better world if we race by our children. They, and we, need ground. They, and we, need time to simply be, to simply remember what is most important, and to simply lay down the burden of what keeps us traveling in warp-speed lanes, and disconnecting from what renews, re-nourishes, regenerates. They, and we, need to unplug from what ails us, and reconnect with what heals us. To do this, however, takes a bit of re-thinking priorities in order to practice four crucial steps to reconnect.

Prescription:

1. Pausette moments: Practice 4 times/day, or more, as needed. Notice what holds fondness for your heart. Just notice. At the end of your day, record. It is no accident that what delights your heart delights your heart. This is good medicine for what ails you.

2. Pause from what burdens you, for at least two minutes. Take a breath. Four deep ones, to be exact. Stand up, stretch, flex your fingers and toes. Four more deep breaths.

3. Re-plug into what replenishes you, what uplifts your Spirit by recalling a favorite scene, memory, scent, song, sound, sensation. Savor it for 90 seconds.

4. Reconnect with what is before you, finding increased compassion for you, and it. Psychologically, 'there is no one else out there.' That young racing woman, as well as her baby, reflects our own race, and our own longing for more. What a beautiful reminder she gives us that multi-tasking is not all it is cracked up to be. Time for tea, anyone?

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