Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The BART Unplugged Experiment: There's Got to Be a Morning After

Okay, all last week I went cold turkey: during my morning and afternoon commutes on BART, I kept my phone off and as safely tucked away as I would on a place during take off and landing. You may recall that what prompted all this was the realize that I was so addicted to my iPhone that I began missing my stops, and didn't even notice that someone had passed out in front of me until the train was stopped and EMTs were working on him!

It wasn't easy, this low tech ride through high tech country.  Looking around at my fellow commuters, it was hard to find someone who wasn't plugged in. Conversations were not with seatmates, but with the digitalized disembodied voices. texts, and emails. But I learned a great deal last week, and recognized that time unplugged can actually be a good thing, helping me not only tune in to my outer surroundings, but also my inner landscape.

But, as the song goes, "There's got to be a morning after."  What is most telling about an addiction is not so much what happens when you are not engaged in the addictive behavior, but what happens when you resume the behavior.

So what happened Monday morning?

Feeling oh-so-smug I waited to pull out my iPhone until we were WAY underway (look at my. I made it to Daly City without my ear phones on, without checking email, and without playing one number in Suduko. But then it sucked me in!

Old habits die hard: I looked up to get off at my Powell St. stop, and discovered that we had gone one stop beyond and I was at Montgomery.


The BART Unplugged Experiment: Day Five

My Fridays are not commute days. Fridays are either my Sabbath, a day to rest and renew for the work week that begins on Sunday, or it is my sermon writing day, which I do from home. Day Five of the BART Unplugged Experiment found me working on my sermon for Sunday.

A week of being unplugged did seem to have an unexpected result. I usually write sermons by multi-tasking: writing, doing the laundry, writing, checking up on emails, writing, listening to music, writing, putting the dishes away...writing in very short increments that resemble more sprints than actual focused writing.

But this day was different.

I found that I was not needing other stimulation in order to get my thoughts in order. I was able to concentrate. Words, sentences, thoughts flowed freely. "Wow," I thought, "This is great!."

I don't know if it was from intentionally unplugging for most of the week, or if I had just put a lot of preliminary thought into the sermon prior to Friday, or if it was simpy the Spirit at work! I have a hunch, however, that giving my mind some breathing room, without filling it up with one kind of stimulation or another, helped the process.

What an illuminating and interesting week!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The BART Unplugged Experiment: Day Four

The ride home today was tough. I write my sermons from home on Fridays, so Thursday's ride marked the end of my commute week. There was a weariness, but also an undercurrent of adrenaline, like a shifting tide as I began to move from the extroverted "the-pastor-is-in" mode to the more reflective and quiet sermon-writing mode (one Glide members calls me "The Sermonator" when I am in this mode). So in this in-between space, I wanted to keep the weariness at bay and DO something.

BART is not a conducive environment for DOING.

I looked around at my fellow commuters. Eyes were closed, faces were in a book, or, yes, thumbs were flying on the smartphone keyboard. But no one was talking. Upwards to 200 people were sharing a very confined space, but there was no interaction, no conversation, no connecting.

What opportunities are we missing when we fail to connect with the person right beside us?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The BART Unplugged Experiment: Day Three

Today started out great. The BART train I took into the City originated from the airport, so there were lots of tourists on the train. "OOOoooo," I thought, "Those researchers are so right. Plugging into our smartphones really does stop us from interacting with each other. But look at me now!" Before I even got to my seat, someone asked me if this was a train that goes to Powell Street. Then the couple across the aisle needed help figuring which train would get them to Hayward. Then the first guy and I struck up a conversation. Yup, I was CONNECTING!

My work day ended on a very painful note. Sometimes, being a pastor is heart-breaking work, and my last appointment of the day weighed heavy on me.  It was all I could do to pack up my bag and head to the BART station. Getting on the train, all I wanted to do was to plug in and tune out.

But there was no plugging in for me this time.  I reflected on my last appointment and couldn't avoid the flood of feelings within me.  Unable to back burner, avoid, or push away the feelings, I reached for the one thing that could help me the most: prayer. So as the train made its way southward, I took a journey to God, carrying all the feelings and laying them before God.

Plugging in is a great avoidance, but once the batteries run out, I am still left with whatever was bothering me. Prayer, I was reminded once again, is a way to sink into the feelings and surface with greater clarity and peace.

Maybe I'm learning a thing or two through this whole unplugging experience.

The BART Unplugged Experiment: Day Two

Tuesday, August 9. Day two of commuting without being plugged into my iPhone.

What really surprised me today was that my mind wandered...unfettered of music, news articles, emails, voicemails, it was free to roam wherever it wanted to go. I found myself thinking, wondering, dreaming on a mental map with no road signs.

It made me realize how rarely I leave myself with time to day dream. Most of the time, I am directing my thinking, in one way or the other. I often listen to music on my commute. Or I am looking at my calendar and planning the day's meetings and activities, or analyzing the game board for my next move.

So today was a day of liberation! It reminded me that creativity requires space for exploration and a willingness to enter into the unstructured so we can be led to a new and unexpected place.

Here's to more time to day dream!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The BART Unplugged Experiment: Day One

Monday, August 8, was the first day of commuting without being attached to my iPhone. For my entire commute to work, my iPhone stayed in my bag. I didn't text anyone, didn't check emails, didn't listen to music, didn't play a game, didn't even (gasp) call my mother. Instead, I listened to the sounds around me, looked out at the passing scenery, took glances at my fellow passengers, and even took a quick nap. this is commuting life without technology.

Until I saw the bed bug sign.

Taking time to look around at the BART car, I saw the ad "Got Bed Bugs?". Ewwwwww.

Those "Got Milk?" commercials are cute. Good looking celebrities (often with their kids) display those tell-tale milk moustaches, making me wish I had a tall cold one.

But "Got Bed Bugs?"  Talk about bad ad placement. I looked around at my BART seat and got a little nervous.

Now I wonder if, in addition to keeping my iPhone stashed, if I also have to stand for the duration of my commute...

Monday, August 8, 2011

BART Unplugged

At Glide, we say that everyone is in recovery for something. I confess that as I read a recent online report on the web browser of my iPhone, I got in touch with an issue that is requiring recovery: my addiction to my iPhone.

Research shows I am not alone. Psychologists are worried that while we are connecting with our mobile device more, we are connecting with each other less.

I first recognized that I might have a problem when I was riding BART to Glide one day and looked up from my Sudoku app to realize that the train was stopped. Then I looked up the aisle and saw a man passed out on the floor, surrounded by paramedics. How long had we been stopped? How long had that man been laying there and I simply didn’t see him?

There are other warning signs as well: twice within the last month, I missed my home station, only to leave the train and look around bewildered, “How did I get here?”

I know I’m not the only one to have this smart phone addiction. I looked around my BART car recently and saw passenger after passenger not speaking to anyone, not looking around, but texting, surfing, listening to music, watching videos…everything but being present to their surroundings and fellow passengers.

So I am making a commitment. Starting with my commute into Glide on Monday, August 8, I am going to keep my iPhone in my pocket for the entire week (!) of commuting back and forth. I want to see what and who I’ve been missing. Who knows what I will discover from this tech-free commute?

Care to try it with me?