Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

17 Important Insights from My Digital Break

Ahalanui Park After Iselle

Downed Tree after Hurricane Iselle, Ahalanui Park and Warm Pond, Hawaii

My digital break and time-off turned out to be more like Hurricane Iselle’s whirlwind visit to the Hawaiin Islands than the peaceful oasis I had longed for.  Iselle left a trail of downed trees, damaged homes, and broken power lines.  That’s how my life felt at times before, during, and after her appearance.  Luckily, she spared our homestead, only bending a few banana plants.

Yes, external events often pulled me into the fray during my digital hiatus.  But I wouldn’t have missed my digital sabbatical for the world.  In between the chaos and hard work,  I also enjoyed periods with:

  • Less pressure
  • Less stress
  • More space
  • More time
  • More enjoyment
  • More connection
  • More self-reflection

Does the idea of a a month-long digital break seem impossible or insane?   I understand; that’s a very long time.  And so much of modern life revolves around our digital devices.

But see if you could turn off your phone for an hour a day. Or forget social media for a few hours now and then.  Dare to give yourself some well-deserved space.  It’s so worth it to break away from the digital pack to touch base with your inner self and most cherished dreams.

The Most Important Insights from My Digital Break

Insights naturally dawn when you create space in your life.  Everyday, I found myself jotting new thoughts in my journal, ones I wanted to especially share with you.  These are the most important ones.

1. Relief

What a relief to be free of (most) must-dos, pressures, expectations, and constraints – at least for stretches of time.  Everyone deserves and needs to have a break from their responsibilities now and then.

2. Bliss

What bliss to take the space to meditate and nourish myself with profound inspiration.

3. Fascination

How fascinating to observe where my mind leans when it’s challenged by quiet.  In stillness, it’s so much easier to see the obsessions, desires, and aversions that pull and push my mind into the unnecessary.

4. Letting Go

How good to know, I don’t need to cave into every whim of my mind.

5. The Backlog

I confess, I couldn’t stop entirely on day one of my break, but I did disconnect from social media. There were taxes to be done and unavoidable commitments to complete.  They dragged on longer than I wished, taking almost a full week.

Here’s my secret:  I intermingled relaxation with tasks so it felt like my break had truly begun.  And now I know I need to shrink the backlog by committing to less.

The backlog showed me there’s a week’s worth of too much constantly sitting on my shoulders.  Do you have a backlog too?  How long would it take you to catch up?

6.  Fears

My initial fears – that nothing would change or that everything would change – disappeared immediately.  I realized it didn’t matter.  It’s better to simply be in this present moment, not wrapped up in these conceptual fears.

7. Boredom

Boredom will likely arise when you take a break.  Boredom may actually be the the first sign you’re going SANE.  It might be one of the first times – in a very long while – when your mind stopped functioning as an overstuffed warehouse of thoughts and emotions with new stock coming in as soon as anything goes out.

Boredom offers a chance to just be: look at the sky, listen to the birds, be aware of your mind without following after every thought.  Don’t run away from boredom!  It could be the start of a new, more natural way of being.

8. Frustration

Frustration could be my friend instead of my arch enemy.  It  shows me where I’m stuck, off-track, or pushing too hard.  But only if I’m willing to see.  I learned to stop when frustration appears and pull back.  In that space, new solutions can appear.

9. Fickle Mind

Anything can suddenly come up in the mind.  Here are a few of my unruly thoughts and their associated emotions:

  • “I live in the east rift volcanic zone!” (Fear)
  • “Who will take care of me when I’m older?” (Fear)
  • “What’s this sadness?” (Sadness)

Anything can bubble up and break through, but you don’t have to be ruled by it.  Try to have a sense of humor when your mind does its habitual thing.  If you can pull that off, gradually the habitual reactions will lessen.

10. A Retreat Hut

I really needed a retreat hut if I wanted to get away from the busyness of daily life.  Or, I could have gone on a group meditation retreat.  It can be difficult to fully retreat at home.

11. Dishonest People

Some people lie, cheat, and don’t care about you.  That’s why I spent a good part of my break embroiled in complicated communications and cleaning up the ensuing mess.  While I acted respectfully and with compassion as best I could, anger flared at times.  Like a mirror, an angry person will reflect any unresolved anger within you.  My recent experiences have made me even more committed to working skillfully with anger.  I’ll be writing more about anger here on Always Well Within.

12. A Question of Words

I barely wrote a word this month, aside from jotting these insights in my journal.  Occasionally, I felt like a fish out of water.  But, mostly I didn’t notice at all.

I do worry about words at times.  Is it the words that obscure true presence and keep me on the conceptual wheel?  Often, my words flow spontaneously without much thought. So perhaps my concepts about concepts are just another way I keep spinning my mind.

13. How to Listen

Listen with your heart instead of your head, and life will be quiet different.  It’s too easy to stay on the surface of your brain, but so much better to drop into your heart.

14.  Simplify More
This digital break showed me that I want to simplify even more, economize further, and ditch anything unnecessary.

15.  Mindful Living

I need to amplify my practice of mindfulness in daily life.  I practice on the cushion in the morning and in the evening, but true change comes about when we bring mindfulness and awareness into every moment of our life.

“You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose.”  – Indira Gandhi

16.  Restoration

It takes time to fully restore yourself.  It certainly didn’t happen for me this month.  But I’m not giving up!  I’m committed to a 1:2 work to play ratio so bring the restoration on!

17.  Digital Balance

I love writing for you and connecting on the web.  But I know I waste too much time online.  I’ll continue to tweak my life until I find a balance of both effectiveness and ease.

You Get What You Need

You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need, or so the Rolling Stones have declared.  I think they’re right.  My digital break and time off didn’t turn out to be the dream vacation I desired.  But, the month gave me important insights, enough play dates to balance the demands, and a new swimming hole.

So what do you think?  Did one of these insights resonate for you?

P. S.  What do you think of my new blog design?  I would love to hear your feedback.  I realize the new design has a different feel and energy and wonder how it feels for you.  I wanted to keep it simple, but easier to read.  I’m still making final tweaks and it will be a little while till I get the header mobile responsive.  Thanks for your patience.


I’m grateful for your time and attention.  If you have a moment, please help me reach others by sharing this post.  If you’re new, please consider subscribing for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

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48 Comments

  1. Great insights! I’ve had similar experiences during digital breaks, especially the backlog. Happily, I’ve gotten things now to where there isn’t much of one.

    I’ve been looking at my digital habits too, and I recently wrote a post about my thoughts: http://ourjourneytoithaca.com/2014/08/15/lesson-11-the-internet-its-complicated/

    Oh, and your design IS very clean and loads quickly! I tend to prefer colorful, flowery designs (within reason!), but this does work well.

    • Glad you liked the insights, Bethany and that they mirror your experience. The backlog was a teaching for me, indeed. I love the title of your post. So true!

      Thanks for your feedback on the design. It really helps. I could change the background to something soft and a bit flowery. I’ve experimented with that too. Not sure which way to go with that. We’ll see in time. Very good to know it loads quickly. Thank you.

  2. I let go of having a cell phone at all. And I like that. I also try to take long breaks during the day from social media. It feels great when I do. Glad you did not have damage from the hurricane. I thought about you. My sister and BIL are there now.

    • How wonderful that you’ve let go of your cell phone. I have one, but I only use it a few times a month when I drive to Hilo or times when I really need to be in communication. But those are rare and my husband is the only person with the number. It seems like you have found the perfect balance between being on social media and taking space. Love that!

      Thanks for thinking of me during the storm. The winds were strong and the rain hard, but it could have been much worse. We were so lucky! They are still repairing the electrical lines and phone lines too. We’re on solar so we had power the whole time.

  3. Hi Sandra,

    Welcome back! Your insights are so honest and speak eloquently! Boredom, frustration and fears are natural companions of such breaks and yours was a long one!! I am so happy for you that you could relax in the bliss of those hours. I know you must be bubbling with a lot of new ideas and emotions – yes! anger needs to be talked about more.

    Your new design is perfect, it resonates with your niche and moods of your articles. Thanks for sharing some superb thoughts!

    • It’s wonderful to be back, Balroop. It was a long break, wasn’t it! You’re right – I’m bubbling with new ideas.

      I’m glad you like the design. I’m still adjusting. I love the typography and the clean design, but I would somehow like to bring more beauty in.

  4. MaryJo Comins

    Thank you for this site, Sandra. I’ve never owned a cell phone and it seems whenever I consider one (as I had been recently), I see something like your digital break insights and decide “not yet.”

    I also love the way Spirit steps in with its profound sense of humor. At least, that’s what I saw in your insight #13, where you’ve written “Listen with your heart instead of your head, and life will be quiet different.” Perhaps you intended to write “quite” different and I loved the thought of “quiet different” because that is indeed the way of the heart!

    • You’re welcome, Mary Jo! I find it reassuring that there are some people who have never owned a cell phone. I have one, but just for trips to the city or emergencies and my husband is the only person who has the number. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have one, it’s just a matter of using it in a balanced way.

      You gave me a big laugh by picking up my typo. I love how you see it as spirit’s profound sense of humor. 🙂

  5. Jean Sampson

    Welcome back, Sandra! I wondered how you fared in the recent weather. Glad that you came through ok!
    I really like the new blog design! I think I like the bold simplicity of it!
    I resonated with the need to have a retreat hut away from everyone. Whenever a break comes for me (once a year when the center closes and I am between sessions of classes) people assume “Oh goodie! Now you can go here and there and do this and that” and—-well, you see how it is. I have one little day trip lined up and I am trying to not line much else up except to clean my house and finish up the black and white series of paintings I am doing for the Fall Decorators’ show in October. Geeze, I just realized that THAT does not sound at all like a break. Oh well, there will be another opportunity next year! 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed your break and learned some good things about how you want to live your non-break life. I am tossing out a bunch of stuff today in my on-going effort to clear clutter, even the invisible kind that is neatly organized in drawers. But I am doing it!

    • Dear Jean, I so hope you get your down time without anyone adding anything else in! Yes, you do have a few things to do. 🙂 I hope you get some relaxation in between. You seem to enjoy activity so maybe this is the right balance for you. Yeah for more tossing out!

      Thanks for your feedback on the blog design. I love how you have described it as “bold simplicity.” I like it too, but I’m still adapting and wondering if there is a way to bring more beauty in. I so appreciate your perspective as an artist.

  6. Hi Sandra,

    Welcome back and thanks for sharing your insights that arose during your break.

    I’m sorry that Hurricane Iselle’s ill-timed visit to the Islands drew your attention away from the tranquility you sought, but look at all the awareness that resulted. In addition, by sharing with us we benefit as well.

    I’ve never taken a full week’s digital break, but I’ve enjoyed occasional times away from my phone and computer when other activities drew my time and attention. I noticed that the world continued spinning without me, and some folks solved their issues without my input.

    I love your new design.

    • So nice to see you, Flora! I been thinking of you recently. Interesting, huh? Maybe our connections do run on subtle levels. 🙂 I agree, there’s so much goodness that came from my digital retreat. The world does go on spinning so we might as well take some time to enjoy ourselves. My faith in people’s abilities to solve their own issues is steadily growing as well. Thanks for connecting and for your feedback on my new blog design.

  7. Hi Sandra, so glad your back. Sorry to hear about the hurricane. Good thing for bendy banana plants. I don’t spend a lot of time online anymore, so I can relate to your relief. No obligations, no accountability mind trips… so great! Even if its just for a month. I like your new design. The logo stretches on my mobile, even when I turned my phone sideways, so I had to come to my computer to see what it was. I love the blue, it feels honest and sincere, and the white works well for the simplicity of your writing and its theme.

    • Dear Nicole,

      It’s so encouraging to hear that you are enjoying life without being online much. I feel happy for you. I haven’t set up the logo to be mobile responsive yet. I’ll be doing that soon as I don’t want to confuse people. Thanks for your feed back. I trust your inner sense and feeling of design!

  8. Manal

    Love the new design Sandra. Both the layout and color work really well. As for the post I can relate to a lot to your experience and insights. I’m there with you on the path to simplifying and letting go. Thanks for the reminders!

    • Dear Manal,

      I’m so happy we’re walking the path of simplicity together! I always resonate with your posts. Thanks for your feedback on the design. I so appreciate it.

  9. Boredom sets in. I love that concept, boredom taking you towards true sanity!
    As always Sandra, you speak words of wisdom that reach deep within. I have great respect and admiration for you dear one.
    And the new design is so YOU! e-hugs, Elle 🙂

    • Of course, you would fully understand what I mean when I speak about boredom in this way, Elle! It’s like our wisdom hearts are connecting and communicating with one another. Thank you for your beautiful words. I am so moved. And, I so appreciate your feedback on the design too. Much love to you.

    • Retha Handa

      I feel that Boredom is another word for Freedom. Boredom is a blessing, because our thoughts are free to roam and grow. A lot of creativity is born out of Boredom. Living in the digital age is a blessing and a curse. We intensely focus/harness our energy on a task that is mentally large, but it doesn’t use much of our physical energy. I compare it to how the sun warms so much of our planet at one time, but if you concentrate that energy with a magnifying glass, the sun becomes a very destructive force. “Enough” occupies a tiny sliver between “Lacking” and “I Can’t Take Anymore”

  10. Ron Nilson

    So much here, Sandra! Will have to re-read, maybe several times. One that caught my attention because it was so unexpected, was your reaction to boredom. Appears to have been a worthwhile practice for your own well being and to enlighten others. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much, Ron. I know you think deeply so please do enjoy whatever resonates for you at your own pace.

      To me it seems we often keep ourselves busy in our mind and in our activities as a way to avoid ourselves. And boredom seems to be one trigger that keeps us on the treadmill. I feel boredom can be like a doorway into a deeper connection to our true self. But that doesn’t mean we should necessarily get stuck in boredom!

  11. This is so true it’s funny. Boredom may actually be the the first sign you’re going SANE.
    I think often that my life isn’t very exciting because I’m too wise. Still laughing. Sane just isn’t comfortable some times. Thanks and congrats on your break. You’re leading the way! x

    • You have me smiling, Tess! Yes, we’d better put a break on getting wise. It might be too boring. 🙂 Just kidding, of course. I don’t think it’s a good idea to get stuck in boredom; just not to runaway from it. It will change just like everything in the mind does. Thanks for bringing some laughter into my day.

  12. Love this Sandra!

    I just got back from a break myself. I am diligent with blog posts and social networking etc and unplugging for a week really was needed. I sooooo related to much of what you talked about in this post. I’m glad to see others go through it and it’s not just me 🙂 The online world is a beautiful way to stay connected but as with all things balance is key. Thanks for sharing and welcome back!

    • Absolutely, it’s not just you, Melissa! I’m so glad you had a good week-long break. You fully deserve it. Even if we’re not addicted, it takes diligence to be successful online. And, we all need and deserve a break sometimes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  13. As I said before, I love the new layout.

    These are important insights to recognize. I think the feeling of boredom should be embraced and learn how to feel it. It seems that kids these days don’t know how to be bored and entertain themselves without a screen in front of them. Sad stuff.

    I think taking a break is great to really feel your emotions and get in touch with yourself. I am right there with you on creating a better digital and life balance.

    • Sebastian, I’m glad we’re walking this path together seeking the best balance between on and offline life. It’s nice to know your support is there. Our digital devices make it more challenging than ever for kids, don’t they? They are introduced to the screen so early now.

      You’re so right, taking a break is a perfect way to really feel our emotions and get in touch with ourselves.

  14. Oh yes letting go seems to be a big one for me, and something universe keeps reminding me of 🙂 Yes I agree that when one really wants to switch off, even though we both live in places where people holiday, to really switch off on needs a retreat hut. Unlike you I don’t feel the need for the digital switch off, although the days I do I know I feel so refreshed.
    Like you I think I would need at least 1 week to clear my back log- maybe i jut have to take some of those to dos off the list , the world won’t fall in
    Namaste xx

    • Dear Suzie,

      I so relate after reading your recent post. The universe has special ways of reminding me too. I fell on my bum last month and couldn’t sit for a week! Yes, isn’t it interesting that we live in paradise, but it can still be hard to switch off? I agree, the world won’t fall apart if we let go of some of those to dos!

  15. Sandra,

    Welcome back! I love the site! Beautiful.

    The one that stuck out to me was backlog, just because I can relate. For every day you’re not doing something, you’re thinking of the backlog. I have a really hard time staying away from email for that reason. Even when I make the effort to disconnect, I keep thinking about all that email that’s accumulating. I just go through and clean it up. I have to work REALLY hard to keep that phone off and not check email. 🙂

    I am so glad that you were able to take some time for reflection. It sounds like you had a lovely time and you benefitted greatly. Again, welcome back. 🙂

    -Victor

    • Thank you so much, Victor! I completely understand. When you stop, the backlog gets bigger. That’s something to think about. We need to be really skillful in our approach so we can get our breaks and not be overwhelmed by a backlog when we return. I understand that urge to want to clear things out.

  16. Raising my hand a little like Arnold Horseshack…Oh oh oh…#4 #4 #4! Let’s just say you hit a bullseye with that one!

    I’m about to take a bit of a digital sabatical while I’m in Ireland. Everyone wants to see pictures so I’ve promised to post one picture a day (might be of my coffee cup every morning…who knows!) but that’s IT. 🙂

    • Wonderful, Peggy! A picture a day sounds manageable and then the rest of the day, freedom! Enjoy every moment of your time in Ireland. We can practice letting go together.

  17. First time visitor and the first thought I had was how much I like the website design.

    I think you have a great approach in #9 with just allowing whatever bubbles up to just come up but not letting yourself be ruled by it. This is something I am working on and getting better at myself… I used to let myself get so carried away in an angry or upset stream of mind chatter. Now I’m actually learning to embrace it, giving it a hug so to speak, then letting it pass right through! And lovingly wave it good-bye.

    For particularly stubborn thoughts that bark and bark for attention I’ve been practicing Ho’oponopono which seems to really help. I recognize that whatever the issue is “out there” that I think I have a problem with, it isn’t really out there, it’s within me! I then take 100% responsibility to calm the issue.

    Look forward to reading more of your articles. Eric

    • Hi Eric! Welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from readers.

      I’m impressed by how well you are working with disturbing emotions. I deeply appreciate that you are willing to embrace whatever arises in your mind rather than make it an enemy, which only creates more struggle.

      I use the practice of Ho’oponopono too sometimes. It’s so simple and effective.

      It’s huge to recognize that the challenge isn’t out there, but within our own mind. It’s so inspiring to see how you are making progress. I’m sure your comment will inspire others as well.

      Take care and come by again.

  18. Thank you! This is excellent, an always-timely reminder to live life instead of merely documenting it. I will take stock accordingly!
    Kathryn

    • Thanks for how you phrased that, Kathryn! That is one of the challenges of our time, isn’t it? Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment.

  19. So glad the hurricane spared you! And I love #3, fascination. It is hard to be fascinated and amazed at the world if your head is buried in your smartphone. I’m as bad as anybody about it, and its one of the things I’m working to change. I am very glad that you are back!

    • Dear Charlotte,

      How interesting that you chose fascination! I love how we all have our different affinities. Yes, we were very lucky when it came to the hurricane. Some people still don’t have power although the crews are working very hard to get it all back up. We have solar and so we’ve had power the whole time. It’s easy to get into the habits like being buried in our smartphone! Good luck with that. I’m so happy to connect with you.

  20. Sandra,
    I loved hearing about your experience. (Though I am sorry about the Hurricane!)
    I, too, have taken some digital breaks and relished them. I agree about your creativity when your mind is actually allowed to be quiet and wander. And I’ve loved the extra time to read. What I’ve mostly missed during a digital break is the ability to have every question answered by google. I’m very curious and no longer have an encyclopedia!
    Great post!

    • Betsy,

      You seem to feel quite comfortable and cozy in your digital breaks. I’m happy for you. Being able to have access to such a vast amount of information is surely such a wonderful benefit of the internet! I can see why you missed that! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  21. Hi Sandra!

    It is funny because the idea of a digital break has been on my mind a lot lately. Recently, we went on a boat trip (actually we have been living on her for the last year and a half) and I just did not feel like blogging or spending much time online or, on social media at all. It was so fabulous. I actually got to be present with my hubby and myself.

    There is a lot of great content here. The website looks great and is easy to read. I will be coming back. thanks Sandra!
    thanks for sharing yourself with us.

    Jeanette

    • Welcome Jeanette! So happy to see you here.

      Going out on a boat seems the perfect way to take a digital break. I’m glad you had that time away with your husband and hope you get more.

      Thanks for the positive feedback on my blog. I love that it’s easy to read too!

      Look forward to seeing you again.

  22. Going through a tiny digital break right now with the server with my website and email having crashed. Last year all communication systems were wiped out in a storm so except for a daily trip to send updates, the rest of the day was digital free.

    Have to admit there’s a bit of anxiety at first until the realization sinks in I have my time back and actually feel more relaxed. That alone tells me a whole huge amount!!

    I wonder if people felt the same way when newspapers were first printed or after the telephone came into use. Each new level of connectedness launches us into a process of finding our way of being together without losing ourselves and the intimacy we’re really seeking.

    • Beautifully said, Lorraine! I would feel a wee bit of anxiety if my server crashed too. How amazing you have moved into relaxation and a sense of freedom so quickly. I’m impressed.

      These are wonderful insights on the historical impacts of new levels of connectedness. It’s a continuing dance, isn’t it!

  23. I’m happy you did this Sandra. I have to do this pretty regularly, sometimes on a whim. It’s very liberating. When I first started my work, I’d have a hard time leaving it. Now, I’ll leave it for 3-4 days in a row without thinking twice. I find that taking a break helps me do THE most important thing that I always, always forget to do no matter how careful my daily, self-care routine.

    I forget to read.

    When I unplug, I read so much. I needed it badly a few days ago – read a 400 page book in two days. And, now, the writing is flowing from me in rivers, uninvited but certainly welcome. I think that is my favourite thing about completely going away – the lack of needing to produce, able to just consume. Consume smells, sights, words, and those lovely sparkles in people’s eyes.

    Thank you for sharing this 🙂

    • You’ve expressed this in such a captivating way, Vironika! I feel your passion, whether you are producing or taking a break. It brings me so much joy to know that you can take a 3-4 day break without worry and enjoy it so much. I especially appreciate the way you see a balance between giving and receiving. I’m so happy you shared your experience with us.

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