Jul 16 2009
(breadcrumbs are unavailable)
(breadcrumbs are unavailable)
Jul 16 2009
For those of you who may not have read the original post, a media fast is a complete abstention from all forms of media. That means: no books, magazines, NPR, TV, movies, music with lyrics, email, frantic reading of the back of cereal boxes, etc.
Julia Cameron is not the first to suggest a media fast as a tool for personal development. Many other self-help gurus (including my crush Tim Ferriss) recommend one ranging anywhere from a day to a month or more. In it’s purest form it could resemble a Buddhist-style monastic retreat from the world.
Ideally someone participating in a media fast would keep their computer shut down for the length of the fast. In my case, that was not possible based on the fact I telecommute for work and also had a minimal amount of non-work-related email and tasks to keep Coming Unmoored on track. However, for a week I gave up all TV, radio, movies, books, and magazines. I tried to only check more work email twice a day and limited my “blog support” time to no more than an hour a day.
I knew from my resistance to the exercise that the media fast was going to be a pretty radical departure from how I normally spent my time. But, until I started the actual fast, I had no idea how deeply entrenched my reliance on media actual was.
I won’t lie to you. My first 48 hours on the media fast were complete hell. I actually ended up having to de-program all the radio stations on my car radio and hide the internet browser icon on my computer desktop because 5-10 minutes into any kind of silence, I would just automatically turn on the radio or pull up Firefox. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. It was just that habitual.
That week at the grocery store, I also ended up automatically throwing the latest issues of two magazines I enjoy into my cart. The absurdity of buying magazines while I was on a media fast didn’t even hit me until I was home unpacking the groceries.
I also quickly realized just how little patience I have for waiting. Sitting on hold for a customer service representative to answer on the phone suddenly because a torturous affair when I didn’t have the option to scroll through 100+ colorfully attractive ApartmentTherapy stories while I waited.
During this time, my mind also went completely wild. It jabbered a loud, non-stop monologue about anything and everything desperately trying to fill the sudden silence. Imagine Rowan Atkinson with a bad case of Turretts and you’ll have a pretty good idea what was going on inside my head.
In the first two days I ended up sleeping an insane number of hours. This was in part due to the fact I simply couldn’t figure out what to do with my time. But also, without the distraction of constant input, I finally got in touch with the fact that I had been going on overdrive for quite awhile was bone-weary tired.
Somewhere at about 48 hours into the media fast, something shifted. My mind stopped frantically jabbering and fell into a profound sort of silence where it stayed for the remainder of the week. Perhaps it had simply exhausted all its available material. I’m really not sure.
I had thought I’d probably use much of my time during the week either writing or working on projects around the house. But once the silence descended, all I really wanted to do is curl up in one of the chairs on my porch under a blanket and watch the river. It’s hard to explain but it somehow became endlessly fascinating to me.
The rest of my week was spent rising with the sun, doing what I needed to get done for my job, sitting on my porch until sunset, and then sleeping deeper than I had in years. Rumi quickly fell into the rhythm of the exercise and was happy to spend the evenings in my lap rather than insisting on exploring the marina.
I was aware that some sort of wheels were busy churning deep inside me during this time, but whatever was going on was at a level I couldn’t consciously follow or describe. Something was just… happening.
Perhaps the most surprising revelation of all, however, was what happened when the media fast was over. Or rather, what didn’t happen. I had thought when the fast ended, I would go on some sort of media-laden binge. Instead, however, I seemed to have developed a profound aversion to “noise” which most of my previous media sources now felt like. I barely thumbed through the magazines I’d purchased. I ended up unsubscribing from roughly 2/3′s of the previous newsfeeds I had (and am still weeding through the remainder). Instead of surfing the net constantly, I now may check it briefly in the morning and for a bit longer in the evening if there’s time. And I have next to no patience for email lists. The only thing I really returned to was books. I’m still doing a significant amount of reading but I now seem to prefer focusing on one book at time.
It’s definitely been an interesting experience and I have a feeling I haven’t yet recognized the full impact. I’ll tell you this, though–even if you don’t have the time to do a media fast for an entire week, I’d strongly encourage you to try at least 24 hours. I can guarantee you’ll learn some interesting things about yourself and your habits.
Marina photo by Tammy at RowdyKittens