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Unplug. Retreat. Repeat.

Updated: Jan 16

Connectivity looks different on everyone. Some of us seek connection through social gatherings, others through book clubs, events, even weddings. While traveling through some of the busiest cities in the world there is still a noticeable craving for social interaction. Like your local bartender who’s just finished a busy shift serving hundreds of drinks to over a hundred different people...and still goes out after to enjoy the company of others.


I have been thinking a lot about what being connected means to me, personally. My version of connectivity is a much quieter one than the so called ‘norm’ and looks a lot more like unplugging. With an obvious irony to that self discovery, I still take pride in it. That to be able to connect, I have to be able to disconnect. Feeling best when I can allow myself the time to nurture my mind. After 17 years of working in hospitality, I quit my service job, moved to a small farm town, and found myself fortunate enough to attend a winter solstice retreat in Peebles, Ohio.


That retreat was a calmness I didn’t know I needed. A calmness I think a lot of people need, including you. In a world with constant stimulation and an ongoing pursuit of connection through social media, there is a deep rooted need for repose. Living far away from the city life I was raised in, I am finally able to take notes from mother nature. To slow down and allow myself breaks, to shed old layers, and to accept the changing seasons of my life. One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is to be comfortable with dormancy. Slowing down my routine and allowing myself a break like a perennial flower does after it blooms. Nature doesn’t rush. Neither should you.


The process of allowing yourself to commit to time off goes against the ‘hustle culture’ that we so often see. BUT YOU NEED IT. You owe it to yourself to tend toy our inner peace with scheduled time away. Away from your daily routines and distractions to focus on what your mind & body is asking for. Of course we all desire different outcomes from a retreat which is why there are no actual rules around them. So while some retreats will be completely silent and still while others are full of movement, there is a retreat out there for everybody. Whether you are immersed in group of strangers or choose to take on a retreat as a team with family, coworkers, or friends. We are all deserving of a safe space for expression and connection, however that looks to you.


FIVE WAYS TO UNPLUG.

1. Go outside. Yes, it’s that simple…step out of your abode. It is so easy to get sucked into our phones, computers, televisions, etc. Even chores can distract us. Chores that don’t actually NEED to get done RIGHT NOW. Of course this will ebb and flow depending on the season, but years ago I made a promise to myself that if the weather permits, I save the things that can be done inside for when the sun goes down.


2. Sketch. “But I’m not an artist.” is a sentence that should be erased from the English language. We are all artists, practicing with different mediums, in a vast array of creative outcomes. When it comes to sketch books there are quite literally no rules. In college, my (rather angry) professor would shout at us “Just draw what you see!” This was not helpful for me. So I won’t tell you what to draw or even how to but I’ll encourage you to get a pen and put it to some paper. You’re not in completion with anyone, including yourself. Stop holding yourself back and let it come to fruition naturally.


3. Grab a book. Again, I know this can be daunting for some of us. The idea of picking up a huge novel when there is a laundry list of things to do staring at you from the kitchen counter feels counter-productive. If this is you, grab a small book with smaller pages. Maybe you need something for a short attention span like poetry or short stories. As kids we are often told that books can help us escape into another world. As an adult, I find myself needing that escape more often than not. It doesn’t matter what you choose to read, as long as it eases your mind for a moment.


4. Morning routine. This is going to look different for everyone, and that’s okay. Whatever it is, however long your life allows, try to create a constant for each morning. Maybe this is as simple as making your bed and sitting on the edge to stretch your limbs while your favorite album plays. Maybe it looks more like a cup of coffee that you commit to drinking at home, out of a mug, in your favorite room in the house. While I both understand and deeply appreciate a coffee tumbler to take on the road when I have to hit the ground running, I have found the practice of being still and calm for my morning cup cultivates a calmness that I can carry into the next parts of my day. Heck, maybe your schedule allows for more time to be spent on your morning routine. This could look like twenty minutes of free flow writing in a journal, with your favorite candle or incense burning. To help in the fluid movement of this particular routine I suggest finding a home for your lighter and journal. This creates a time and space that’s not wasted on searching for what you need to even start the routine. So pick the part of your home that soothes you most, set up the things you want to incorporate and let them live there.


5. Write a letter. (Or postcard.) There is a reason the postal service is referred to as ‘snail mail’. There is a slowness in writing and receiving mail that holds a great deal of intention. We live in a world where you can order diapers and they’ll show up at your front door the next morning. While this is incredibly convenient in the modern age, it has simultaneously increased our lack of patience. There is a layer of romance in the art of sending letters. Sure, Facebook allows us to connect with family and loved ones who live far away and that has been a blessing for so many people, but when our mailboxes continue to be full of bills and promotions, it’s so nice to receive a hand written letter some an old friend. It feels just as good to create one.


Until soon.

COLLEEN CRAWFORD

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