Always Well Within

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Wild Arisings! On Mindfulness, Loss, and Dropping Out

Water Lily Symbolizing Wild ArisingsMy mind gives rise to countless insights, dreams, and reflections. Wise or foolhardy, I’ll let you decide. This is a mix of a few of my wild arisings.

Dropping Out

Do you ever feel like dropping out? I do.

I fantasize about disappearing from modern life, including signing off from the internet. In my fantasy, I live simply, spend time in nature, and focus on spiritual practice.

The idea feels scary as my “identity” is still entwined with my external activity. But, ultimately, that’s what needs to be broken, isn’t it?

Do you sometimes dream of dropping out, too?  It may seem impossible if you need to make a living. But, maybe you can drop out for a day now and then. Or even a weekend, or an entire month.

Dare to drop out, even just a bit.  Let stillness and silence fracture your identity. Then see what’s left.  That’s what I tell myself.

No One Belongs to You

It’s normal to feel loss. But, if you recognize that the feeling of loss stems from the false notion that people belong to you, the pain may begin to soften.

No one belongs to you. Everyone is a temporary blessing through which you can learn to become more human, more vulnerable, more loving, and more compassionate.

Mindfulness Meditation Is Not

Mindfulness meditation is not the absence of thoughts. If anyone tells you this, please think about it twice. They are no doubt well-intentioned, but perhaps a bit misinformed.

Through practicing mindfulness mediation, you’ll gradually have fewer thoughts and a calmer, more spacious mind. You may sometimes experience the absence of thoughts. But, it’s only a temporary experience.

If you cling to the absence of thoughts instead of letting the experience pass, your attachment can become an obstacle in your meditation.

Mindfulness is simply being aware in the present moment, whether the mind is calm or in motion.  The mind will slowly settle on its own through the practice of awareness, but don’t cling to the space of no thoughts when it does arise.

Do you ever think about dropping out?  If so, what would you do?


Thank you for the gift of your time and attention.  If you liked this post, please share it with others.  And, if you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra


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36 Comments

  1. Yes, Sandra, I do think about dropping out of the “connected” digital world and it seems hard to do. I’ve unplugged a couple of times for 1 day. I’d love to go for a few or week in a row! 🙂

    And I watched a TED Talk on how can we use tech to improve our personal connections. I don’t remember the suggestions.

    Nice thoughtful post. Thanks,

    • Hi Brand, Nice to “see” you! Yes, I find it hard too. It’s said that digital activity can be like an addiction that stimulates dopamine in our brain – the biochemical that brings about a sense of reward. Even if we are not fully addicted, this can still be a factor that contributes to it being hard to let go. I’ve done longer digital breaks like a full week or month and it can indeed be hard at first. But, then so rewarding and so worth it. Good luck whether your on or offline!

  2. I fantasize about sailing around the world, and fully intend to do it in my lifetime. 🙂

    • Wow, Bethany! That would be amazing and afford plenty of time for solitude and disconnecting. May you wish come true.

  3. Jean Sampson

    Hi Sandra, loved this post! I am basically and introvert with a lot of extrovert energy (??) so, yes, I do think of dropping out of everything but the beautiful on-line friendships that have really changed my life and how I think about life. I’m having a little break from teaching right now because folks around here do NOT sign up for spring classes in the early evening after daylight savings time begins—-too many things to do outside after being cooped up all winter!!
    It was interesting that you spoke of people telling you that mindfulness meditation is absence of thought—-I could NEVER achieve that and it IS a sort of barrier between meditation and me! 🙂 I think I am doing mindful meditation whenever I stop completely and decide to pay total attention to everything, my thoughts, the sunlight on the floor, the birds singing, the way the air smells and feels, how it all makes me feel—just deciding to become aware of everything that I can notice in a moment that can last for however it lasts. I do this deliberately, so it does feel like meditation, but not the kind of meditation I have read about. It is an easy thing to do and is not hard, which I like 🙂

    • Hi Jean,

      I’m glad your getting this nice organically appearing break! I love my online connections too. I would like to take more breaks, but I won’t be disconnecting entirely. I’m always trying to find the most efficient way to be online so I have time for these other activities that are equally important to me.

      That’s mindfulness, Jean! It’s simply being aware of whatever arises in the moment without adding more thoughts. You seem to do quite well with it in these little doses. And, it’s said that very short periods of meditation like this are an excellent way to build up to more mindfulness in life.

      Great meditation teachers tell us it’s impossible to get rid of thoughts entirely unless someone knocks you out with an iron rod. So you are entirely right. Thinking is the natural activity of the mind. It will slow down with more mindfulness and you may begin to notice the gap between thoughts too. But it would be impossible to be in a continual state of no thoughts as long as we have karma arising. You seem right on track at least with moments of mindfulness! That’s wonderful.

  4. Hi Sandra,
    I don’t feel the need to sign off from the internet when reading such words give a spiritual solace…they spontaneously make you drop out of the humdrum of this world, transporting me into the imaginary world…reaching out to you, Sandra! A lovely fantasy!

    I love your beautiful reflection – no one belongs to us! Only if we succeed in convincing ourselves…only if we are able to reach that supreme stage! The mind settles no doubt…slowly, if we make an effort to talk it out of attachments.

    Thanks for beautiful insights within a few words, succinct articles are always more appealing.

    • Balroop,

      This is so beautiful said and it’s so true, there’s so much goodness and solace that we can find on the internet too. I love the way you say that words can help us drop out of the ordinary humdrum!

      Loss and grief are not easy, and of course we have attachment being normal humans. But, what if the person was actually in a happier place? I don’t think that’s always the case, but it is sometimes. Then our attachment is really for us not for them because who would want to hold them back?

      Thanks for your kind words. It’s interesting and helpful to hear that you enjoy succinct articles.

  5. Sandra, I often feel like dropping out. I love my business so I can only imagine what other people dream of when they are doing work they don’t enjoy. I long for a much simpler life – more space, slower pace, not ‘having’ to work. I’m moving towards that – got rid of my car a few months ago, just sold my houseboat, I’m moving back to New Zealand where I believe I can have the lifestyle I want. It’s not like I want to do nothing either – I want to be making a difference but long to have that be separate from having to make money. Living in a warm climate is part of what I long for too. I think I’m nearly there – and yes, the need to detach my identity from my external activity too.

    • Dear Vicky,

      You’re moving in a beautiful direction and I’m moving right along with you. It’s encouraging to hear about the changes you’ve made and how clear your vision is.

      I’m happy to also know that you see the value in detaching your identity from external activity too. I think that’s quite challenging to understand for many people. Our activity is like a gift we give to others, to the world, but ultimately all that we create is impermanent so best not to cling too tightly to it. At least that’s my view!

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I know it will inspire others.

  6. Beautifully, simple concept Sandra. It was such a soothing read. I don’t think I want to drop out for ever…I like participating in the world too much for that. Although I do enjoy the days when I choose to not be involved. Probably the most challenging thing in this whole post is dealing with the loss of loved ones…although I do understand why the pain might be lessened with the thought that everyone is a temporary blessing in our life. I so appreciate your thoughts Sandra. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    • Dear Elle,

      It looks like you have the best of both words, truly enjoying your engagement but also getting nourishing on days when you choose not to be involved. It says a lot that you can take and enjoy those days!

      Yes, I agree loss is very difficult. I know I would feel terrible sorrow should I lose people in my life. But, I know I would also keep turning to spiritual teachings like the simple reminder of these words for solace.

      I feel deep appreciation in your words. That means the world to me, Elle. Thank you so much!

  7. As a working mother, the only rare times I «drop out» are when I am sick. And even still, that rarely happens. But when it does, one of the first things I notice after coming back to my normal life is that the world kept on turning while I was knock out. Food for thought.

    • Yes, it is food for thought! It’s interesting to see how the world keeps turning and in some ways not that much has happened. It will be more challenging to drop out if you have kids, that’s for sure. There might be ways to get some alone time now and then. Good luck.

  8. I dream about dropping out a lot! There are a wide variety of fantasies but some are quite extreme like becoming a Buddhist nun and running way to Northern India. Setting up a wildlife refuge in South or Central America is another.

    I’m going to drop out for a weekend this weekend and do a retreat at a Buddhist community near my home. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

    • Dear Annabel,

      I’m not surprised! As you might guess, I think it’s rather sane to want to drop out from the craziness of this world. And you have a penchant for adventure. Those are beautiful dreams though radical they may seem in contrast to daily life. You never know! Pema Chodron was a regular married person and now she’s a famous Buddhist nun.

      Enjoy your weekend. And, I would love to hear about!

  9. I found myself unintentionally dropping out this weekend. A digital detox happened because the weather was beautiful, the yard was calling me, and a book became an obsession.

    Instead of worrying about all the things that needed to get done, I just let myself do what felt good. Which meant several naps.

    It was the recharge I needed. One that needs to happen more often.

    • Jacki,

      Yeah for you! Sometimes we just need a good weekend like this to get our mojo flowing again. This is such a great inspiration. You deserve a break after creating your new gorgeous website! Thanks for sharing with us.

  10. Wow, you’ve struck a chord with so many of us. I’m new here and it is so nice to meet you and follow your work.

    I too think about dropping out in hopes of doing something to re-energize me and to make a difference for others and the world. I often go offline for a weekend it can be wonderful and then I’m ready to dive back in come Monday.

    What’s hard is to keep my energy up not only with social media but from the always on action and the demands of the life I’ve established for myself. Most days I just yearn to make things simple and have been doing it a little at a time like dropping my satellite television service (4 months now) and I haven’t missed it a bit. I wish I had the clarity of Vicky and Annabel! Y’all rock!

    I don’t think I want to drop out (just take breaks) in fact, I want to bring offline experiences online in ways that make the experiences real and meaningful to people. We do better job of it everyday yet we still have a ways to go. I’ll know we’ve made it when we can meditate online by the sea and smell the salty air and feel the wind on our face! 🙂

    And so it is.

    • Welcome LaDonna! I’m glad you’re here. It sounds like you are moving in the right direction. That’s a big step to drop your satellite television service.

      I think you’re absolutely right, taking breaks is key to not burning out! I admire how you take your weekend breaks. And, I appreciate how dedicated you are to helping others. Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  11. Wow – this was so beautiful written Sandra: Let stillness and silence fracture your identity. So beautifully descriptive. Poetry! Well done!

    Sending Love!

  12. Hi Sandra,

    I do think of dropping out. A lot. In fact, it’s been the main focus of my writing these past few months. I know you read my blog post, I Quit, and how much spaciousness I opened up inside my head and my heart by dropping out of the good intentions of what other people think I’d be good at.

    Yes, I think about dropping out. I think I just dropped out 😉

    • Dear Peggy,

      I was positively blown away when I read your post. You are taking a huge and beautiful leap. I’m so happy for you. And I wish we would all quit what is wrong for us! Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. I’ve dropped out of the part of the business I don;t enjoy while on an unexpected hiatus. And I;m doing the parts of my business I love. Travel, art, photography, blogging. I think I may be on my way…not even sure where that is, but there is definitely a gradual change.

    • Bo,
      Is it amazing how the right circumstances come right along and show us what really lights up our heart. I hope whatever unfolds for you is perfect and in complete alignment with your truest wishes!

  14. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about dropping out—of the rat race, that is. Ideally, I would love to move to Panama and live a much simpler life, eating natural food, and devoting my days to writing. But since I have kids to marry off, this is more an ideal than a possibility. If I had to compromise, I would say a 50/50 trade-off between life in NY and life in Panama could possibly be achievable. With a little luck and a lot of work, but oh, it would be so worth it!

    • Sounds like a beautiful dream to me, Rachel. I hope it comes to fruition for you once your children are out of the nest. And, in the meantime, I hope you are able to spend some well-deserved time there. Good luck and thanks for sharing with us.

  15. I used to think of ‘dropping out’ – the thought felt so refreshing, it prompted me to really look at my life. I love my work (which is online) and I love hours in nature (offline) and I love connection in any realm. When I love something I want to be, and thoroughly enjoy being, fully present to it – I cherish the connection and arrange my time to have more presence with it. What I wanted to ‘drop out from’ was ‘should’s’ and ‘statistics’ and spaces that didn’t feel enlivening. So, I dropped all of *that* and using the internet is a joy and delights my heart as much as my time in nature; it’s all interwoven in my life, that joy keeps flowing and guiding me into new areas. (Also, sometimes when we went to drop out, it simply means we need a full body rest – that our entire being needs refreshment of base energy, something many of us don’t consistently gift our selves with).

    • Dear Joy,

      I love how you dropped out of all that isn’t enlivening for you and stay connected with what brings you joy and delight. I’m a little behind you on that path, but I am following along seeing your radiance beckoning me from ahead!

      Yes, I also vote for a refreshment of base energy. I bet so many people really need that!

  16. Hi Sandra,
    Like your attention to detail about the finer points of mindful meditaion.
    Totally agree with you there.
    Since I have been at “it” for more than a decade now,i can vouch for the savouring after effects.Mindfulness has everything to stay detached,to allow yourself to unstick from the world and its fragmented experiences.
    Thanks for the insights
    Mona

    • Thank you, Mona. It’s good to hear your experience with mindfulness and how beneficial it has been for you.

  17. Hi Sandra – I’m going to drop out for the next 3 months. I’m going to quit my job, well take a break anyway, travel, see my family and do more writing. At one point, I thought about dropping out later in life after retirement but that day isn’t quite promised to us! All we have is now so I’m planning to drop out in the now!

    I do on occassion also drop off my online activities (blogging, social media) for a couple weeks or months at a time. I realize that I have the flexibility and the discipline, and the choice even, to step away from it and not be bothered by it. This way my blog and the constant care and attention it deserves doesn’t feel overwhelming or like a burden.

    Enjoyed your reflections here on dropping out and letting go.

    • Wow, I so amazed by you! How brave it is to take a three month break from your job, Vishnu.

      It’s nice that you feel you can take long breaks from your blog too. It’s not good when a blog starts to feel overwhelming or like a burden.

      You’re an inspiration for us!

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