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Hereâ€™s what my â€śTo Doâ€ť List on a recent day looked like:
And that was only about the first third of the list. I like having to â€śTo Doâ€ť lists. They give order to my day, and ensure that I (usually) donâ€™t forget to do what I need to get done on a given day. Plus, thereâ€™s that little rush I get when I cross something off the list. Even if itâ€™s a simple task that Iâ€™ve completed, I have at least a momentary sense of accomplishment and the thrill of seeing the number of things that have to get done lessened â€¦ at least until a few minutes later when I think of something new to add to the list.
I always have lots to â€śdoâ€ťâ€”and Iâ€™m really good at getting things â€śdone.â€ť But often, at the end of the day, itâ€™s not a sense of accomplishment that I feel, but a sense of exhaustion. I may have crossed many items off my â€śTo Doâ€ť list that day, but I already have a whole new list for the next day. And then there are those thingsâ€”really important thingsâ€”that too often havenâ€™t gotten the time and attention that they deserve; things like: hanging out with my kids (not in the car on the way to some activity or errand, but just on the couch); eating a relaxed meal; having an uninterrupted conversation with my husband; relaxing and reading a book; or meditating. These are things that arenâ€™t about â€śdoingâ€ť but simply about â€śbeing,â€ť and on most days I donâ€™t get to all, or sometimes any, of them.
And even worse, sometimes Iâ€™m so busy â€śdoingâ€ť the things on my oh-so-important listâ€”usually something like writing a text or email, or looking something up on my computer, something that involves being â€śconnectedâ€ťâ€”that when one of my kids is talking to me, sensing that Iâ€™m not fully present for them, theyâ€™ll say: â€śAre you listening?â€ť
Iâ€™ll respond half-heartedly: â€śOf course I am,â€ť as I go about my typing.
And then, theyâ€™ll call me on it: â€śWhat did I say?â€ť
â€śUm, I donâ€™t know exactly,â€ť comes my lame response, as my kidâ€™s eyes drop and they walk away.
Sometimes Iâ€™m so busy doing â€¦ and so â€śconnectedâ€ť â€¦ that I become â€śdisconnectedâ€ť from the people that matter the most.
Fortunately in Judaism we have a built-in mechanism that encourages us to â€śdisconnectâ€ť from our phones and other devices so that we can â€śconnectâ€ť with the people that matter to us â€¦ and to our own selves. Itâ€™s Shabbat. Shabbat reminds us of what we truly are: not â€śhuman DOINGSâ€ť but â€śhuman BEINGS.â€ť (For more on the idea that we are â€śhuman beingsâ€ť and not â€śhuman doings,â€ť you can read my blog on The Spirituality of Mindfulness Meditation.)
Observing Shabbat in a traditional manner involves lots of things that one canâ€™t â€śdo.â€ť For example, if youâ€™re Shomer Shabbat (i.e, if you â€śkeep Shabbatâ€ť according to the rules of traditional Jewish law) you donâ€™t drive on Shabbat, or use electricity or make phone calls. Often, I hear people who, like myself, arenâ€™t Shomer Shabbat, say that observing Shabbat in a traditional sense sounds too difficult, perhaps even unpleasant. Most of all, they canâ€™t imagine being â€śunpluggedâ€ť for an entire day.
But honestly, I long for a day of being totally unplugged â€¦ totally â€śdisconnected.â€ť And thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m going to participate in the National Day of Unplugging on March 4-5, 2016.
Why am I so excited about unplugging from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown? Because if I canâ€™t â€śdoâ€ť things like check my email, texts and voice messages, itâ€™ll force me to put a lot more focus on â€śbeing.â€ť After returning home from Shabbat morning services and lunch at my synagogue on Saturday, Iâ€™ll be able to: spend time hanging out with my husband and kids; read a book; play with my dog; or maybe just take a well-needed nap, not worrying that the sound of my phone ringing will wake me up.
I know it wonâ€™t be easy to spend an entire day totally unplugged â€¦ Iâ€™ll miss that rush of dopamine that I get when I see a new text or email come in. But I also know of the benefits that can come if I resist the cravings to connect to technology for a whole day. And if Iâ€™m lucky, really lucky, I may just be able to sense what the rabbis meant when they spoke of Shabbat as â€śa taste of the World to Come.â€ť
Rather than making a â€śTo Doâ€ť list for the National Day of Unplugging, Iâ€™ve made a â€śTo Beâ€ť list, and hereâ€™s what it says:
Will you join me in unplugging on March 4-5, 2016? Here are some ideas of ways to unplug with your family.