Last week, I attended Heal for Life Philippines. It is a five-day intensive residential program designed to help people heal from childhood issues and trauma. One of the major things they require is that we surrender our phones, not bring our laptops and not watch any TV while there. It was somehow a threat for me because I work online. I check my email everyday, am on Facebook daily and I just need – need to be able to communicate with my family.
Since this is a requirement, I talked to my family about this, and with so much resistance, they finally agreed to let me go. I assured them that they can always contact my sister who can also contact the person-in-charge at Heal for Life Philippines. Of course, we also knew that my sister being a part of this foundation would mean that it’ll take a real emergency before they can contact me.
So off I went to my healing week. When I got there, one of the first things they did was to try and take my phone from me. Oh gosh, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t let go of my last “area” of control of my life. For five whole days, I’ll be without cell phone and internet access. The thought of doing it brought so much anxiety to me thinking I still have to contact my husband and my children. I kept my phone with me for about an hour more, sending a few more texts to my hubby, then I finally had to surrender my phones. Ugh!
I was very anxious the first half of the day because we didn’t have a sure plan of how I can get home. I wanted to settle that with my husband first. That worry preyed on my mind so much that I couldn’t concentrate on what we were doing. I had to tell our leader about it and she conceded to letting me send a last text to my husband. After that, I put myself fully in the experience of healing.
I got my phone back on the last day. Of course, by then I was excited to call my husband and kids. When I sent my first text message, the reply I got was “Mommy, you’re back!!! Finally!” I felt the same way. I was so happy to talk to them, to hear their voices. I did learn a few things during the five days that I was disconnected and I’d like to share them with you.
THERE’S NO NEED TO BE CONNECTED ALL THE TIME
Yep! That’s the truth. I’ve become so used to responding immediately to texts, PMs, and emails that I feel like I have to have my phone with me all the time. I even sleep with it beside me. I bet many of you can relate to that. The truth is we don’t have to reply immediately to all of our messages. Most of them can and will wait until you reply to them. I guess it does perpetuate that feeling of busyness when you have to reply to each and every email as soon as you receive them, but it is not the truth. The only thing it proves is that you’re accessing your social media and email accounts as much as possible in a day.
You know what’s the funny thing? On the fifth day, when I finally got my phone back, aside from calling my husband and kids, I wasn’t in any hurry to check my email or even Facebook.
YOU’RE TOTALLY PRESENT IN EVERY SITUATION, NO DISTRACTIONS
I’m ashamed to say that it is my kids who tell me to stop using my phone all the time. Because Facebook, Viber, email and text is just a finger tap away, I’ve gotten into the habit of looking and reading whatever is the latest that’s on my phone. This has caused me not to be fully present in any situation I am in. I am distracted most of the time, not giving full attention to whoever I am talking to. I do this even while watching TV, watching movies, and even while listening to seminars and workshops that I paid for. By being distracted most of the time with what’s on my phone, I usually miss the important things.
During the five-day healing week, I was able to participate fully and absorb all the new information I was being given. Because of this, I gained the most benefit. I also slept early, woke up early and attended all my group classes on time. Looking at my social media accounts is usually the culprit when I’m late to my appointments.
YOU GET TO KNOW OTHERS WELL
When we first got there, I knew none of the people involved. I was embarking on a week-long activity with strangers. It was scary, but in an isolated place where all you can really do is relate to each other, that was exactly what we did. I was able to focus on getting to know my new friends and was even able to observe if they were struggling with something. All of us had no distractions so by the end of the week, we knew each other quite well. Personally, I wish to be among my new found friends because with them, I felt free to be myself.
THERE’S MORE TIME FOR PRAYER AND INTROSPECTION
Sorry to say that I am one of those people who open Facebook everyday. It’s not a nice habit to have but that’s how it’s been for the last 3 years. At first, I reasoned that it was because of my job as a social media analyst. Now that I no longer hold that position, I still have that ugly habit of having the need to find out what’s happening around me. Not just the news, but what was going on with my friends’ lives. My daily discipline of reading the Bible and praying to God has been replaced by Facebook, IG and email. It’s sad and I don’t like it but I couldn’t seem to kick it. Little did I know that all I really needed was to live without my phone for five days and I could finally curb that appetite for going online.
While at the Healing Week, I spend my mornings and other free times reading God’s word and praying. I realized there how much I missed personal worship, Bible study and prayer. Before I had a smart phone, I worked on the discipline of getting up early to read the Bible and pray. I set aside time each week to be alone and study God’s word deeper. When I had a smart phone, I usually check my emails and social media accounts first before I open my Bible.
AFTER THE HEALING WEEK
When I finally got my phone back just before leaving for home. The first thing I did was to call up the hubby and kids. I was so happy to hear their voices and very excited that I’ll finally be seeing them in a few hours. I knew that there were a lot of emails waiting up for me, my business colleagues would probably have several messages for me BUT I truly saw and appreciated the beauty of disconnecting. For the whole weekend that I was back with my family, I almost had no interest on checking my email or Facebook. I spent much of my time just being with my family and enjoying our time together. They noticed it, too. They made a comment to me a week after that they don’t see me as much on my laptop or my phone as before.
Surrendering my phone, my connection to the world, threatened me at first. I even felt anxious right after I gave up my phone. But after having experienced those five days without my phone, I’m willing to keep doing it over and over again. It’s been three weeks since I got out of healing week and I still haven’t gotten back to my regular time of working online. I spent more time caring for my kids, playing with them, talking to my hubby and working offline. I still have to kick that habit of checking Facebook in the morning and get back to my regular morning devotions and prayer, but I am slowly getting there.
I hope that you, too, after reading this will be encouraged to put down your phone and focus on the present. Focusing on the present will give you clarity of thought, will let you see the opportunities around you and will let you get to know the people around you, too.
Thanks for reading.