Lately I’ve found myself longing for the days of simple technology. I’m dreaming about installing a corded phone in my house so if I choose to put my cell phone away my friends can reach me “the old fashioned way.” Doesn’t that sound silly? My wildest dream right now is having a hard-wired telephone?! Of course technology has its perks, and I sure do love them—traveling across the globe with an on-demand map of the world in my pocket? Amazing! The ability to research a fact at the drop of a hat? So helpful sometimes! But the flip side of that is that we are always “connected” and that connection, I’m finding, is taking away some of the ways in which I deeply connect to others … and to myself.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that sometimes I pick up my phone for a very specific reason and emerge, bleary eyed, about 45 minutes later after endlessly scrolling through social media and the news all while forgetting what I originally intended to do! What did I once do with all of those hours that are now dedicated to mindlessly staring at my phone? I used to draw, write letters to friends, read books—all things that recharge me on a deep soul level. I still do all of those things, but I feel like my time for disconnected activity is at an all time low. Even when I take a moment of quiet, I am often interrupted by the buzz of my phone. It’s hard not to check it! What if someone is having a problem, or needs to reach me immediately? More often than not, it’s just a new email dinging in, or a notification from an app prompting me to keep on scrolling. I often long to slow things down, take breaks from my connection to technology, and reconnect with myself.
Once the weather starts to warm up, and I start dreaming about my first trip of the season back to the A.R.E. Camp Valley, my heart breathes a sigh of relief. I think often about why A.R.E. Camp is so special for so many different people. While there are multitudes of reasons, I think at its core, Camp is so beautifully simple; and it’s in that simplicity of space that we actually have time to create deep connection with ourselves and with others. At Camp, we’re free from our daily jobs, free from technology, and free from the constant stream of input. We can wake up to the sound of a distant bell ringing instead of the vibration of our cell phone alarm clock, which often prompts us to roll over and start scrolling. When I wake up at Camp, I am able to lie in bed and listen to the sounds in the forest while gently recalling my dreams and entering into the conscious world. I begin my day feeling the fresh air on my skin and indulge in gentle Cayce-based exercises and meditation instead of plopping down at my computer. Starting the day this way at Camp makes my heart feel wide open. I do not immediately read the news and begin to feel disheartened by the weight of the world. Instead, I hug a friend and sip a steaming cup of coffee while overlooking a sundrenched mountain ridge. This way of being leaves me so open to have genuine interactions with others all day long.
At A.R.E. Camp, I can look across the dining hall and see people laughing, talking, mindfully eating—REALLY enjoying their meal! When I enter a restaurant outside of Camp, I commonly observe couples eating together and not saying a word, folks constantly pulling out their phones, and a sort of sad malaise during what should be a joyful nurturing time. In the weeks and months leading up to Camp, I reassure parents that their children will be fine without their video game addiction, their cell phones, and their recorded music. In fact, I tell them that their children will likely return to them with a fresh sparkle in their eyes, full of stories of the friends they made, the songs they learned, and the time they spent deeply connecting in nature. Camp is one of the only places I know of where people are embarking on true digital detox, and the results truly are remarkable. Everyone seems to have such a beautiful lightness, blissfully unaware of the messages and notifications stacking up in their inboxes.
I grew up as a kid who spent most of her time in the woods—reading books, getting muddy, playing made up games with friends. I was without a simple cell phone until I was nearly 20 years old. For me, this untethered way of being feels so much more normal … but how did it change so subtly over the years after that first flip phone fell into my pocket? As technology steadily creeps forward, it has infused itself into every part of my everyday life, but really I just think it’s all simple habit. For me, it’s the muscle memory of unlocking my phone and immediately clicking the social media icons without pausing to think why I am looking at my phone in the first place. How can we take healthy breaks and untangle some of these habits?
This year, I don’t want to wait to go to Camp to experience time disconnecting. I’m taking my lessons learned from Camp into my everyday habits now. I want to relish the beauty of spring as she unfolds and blooms all around me. I want to try to begin my days feeling as open hearted as I do when I’m in the Camp Valley. I want to arrive in the Camp valley ready to digital detox for a week or more! I hope you’ll join me.