This week I did the unthinkable. I unplugged from technology for five days.
During my last vacation, I found myself answering emails, making calls, looking for story ideas, scheduling appointments and writing. I knew that the only way to distance myself from my work would be to disconnect altogether. This vacation would be different.
My laptop lay lifeless on my desk, a shiny, black, unopened box, along with the cell phone silenced nearby.
With no email, Google, Facebook, Twitter and text messages at my fingertips, I literally dropped off the planet. I was unreachable.
Unable to respond to the stream of summons that sought me every minute of the day, I discovered a new kind of freedom.
“The noise of the world is preventing us from hearing the gentle voice within that always counsels us,” writes Matthew Kelly in “The Rhythm of Life.” “We will begin to hear this voice again only when we make a habit of withdrawing from the noise of the world and immersing ourselves in silence.”
The first thing I noticed was the absence of the sound of my own voice. There was no need to carry on ordinary conversation or to respond to something I didn’t want to think about.
Consequently, my thoughts turned inward; and my senses sharpened. I marveled at the sound of my own breath, the beat of my own heart.
One of my favorite biblical passages is when God told the prophet Elijah to go outside and stand on the mountain because He would be passing by. (1 Kings 19:11-12):
“A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a still small voice.”
Like Elijah, I listen, longing to recognize the presence of the Divine.
With a heightened sense of awareness, I walked the seashore. The wind urged me forward over the uneven, rounded stones that littered the beach at high tide, insisting that it had something to show me.
For a long time, I sat on a boulder and listened to the gentle lapping of the blue-grey sea as it rhythmically raked over the pebbles.
But the Lord was not in the waves.
I meandered through the salt marsh straining to hear the whisper of the sea grass yielding to the wind.
But the Lord was not in the breeze.
Outboard engines groaned in the bay, and a small plane puttered overhead.
But the Lord was not in the din.
A fisherman cast his line into the water, and the spinning reel whirred.
But the Lord was not in the cranking sound.
Trudging through the wet sand, I heard the crunch of broken shells underfoot.
But the Lord was not in the tinkling patter.
The cries of crows and gulls continued to interrupt my thoughts, and I grew tired of their squawking.
“Lord, where are you?” I asked in my silent prayer.
“Plug in,” said a still small voice.