Week 4: Recovering a Sense of Integrity
Disclaimer: I am doing the Artist's Way 12-Week program and sharing my thoughts and experiences each week. If you're new to this blog series, click here to read the first post.
The name of the game during Week 4 of the Artist's Way is MEDIA DEPRIVATION.
What does that mean? Well, it was flexible, but for me, it meant no talk radio or audiobooks, no television or reading (except the Artist's Way), no YouTube or TedTalks, no news from any media outlet, and deleting the FB app off my phone.
This challenge was difficult when Julia Cameron first published the Artist's Way program in 1992, it's even harder in 2017. Regardless, I was surprised by how almost no one in my MeetUp group, despite their commitment to the program, even tried.
It just goes to show that media of all kinds - radio, TV, reading, news, social media, etc. - has become such an integral part of our daily lives that we can barely handle a moment without it.
My sister Grace and I didn't complete the challenge perfectly, but we did give it our all!
Here were my cheats: 1) I watched a movie in the Cardio Cinema at the gym, 2) I read emails, texts, and Instagram captions, and 3) I read one book besides the Artist's Way.
Doing a challenge like this, even a little, can be really eye-opening and beneficial, and we definitely learned a lot in the process!
Here are the 3 shifts I experienced during Week 4, and the lessons I learned from them:
1 - FROM BOREDOM TO CREATIVITY
As a highly sensitive individual with an overactive mind, boredom is not something I experience very often. However, by day 4 of the media deprivation challenge, that had started to change...
I got bored. Real bored. Grace and I both did.
The big problem was the time before bed. An established part of my nighttime routine is reading and/or watching TV. That's how I unwind and decompress from the day.
So, by Wednesday night, when I had done everything I wanted to that day, and Grace and I were both in the art studio, and she was painting, and I watching her paint, eventually I couldn't take it anymore, and blurted "I want to watch a movie!" Grace laughed, confessing that she did too, which, inevitably, led to a ridiculous and probably-not-historically-accurate conversation about what people did for fun before there was television. My favorite idea was to play the Victorian parlor game of blowing a ball of wool back and forth across a table (see video below).
Unfortunately, we didn't have a ball of wool, so we chose another classic: a card game. We played speed and drank Rootbeer Kombuchas and laughed. It ended up being nicer than I expected, and the lesson was familiar, but nevertheless significant: when you're bored, you have to get creative, and that creativity can lead to some great memories.
2 - FROM GOSSIP TO ENGAGEMENT
We all know big, important, and scary things are happening in the world... which makes it hard to stay away from the news. One argument made during my MeetUp group was that what's currently happening in America is too important to ignore for any amount of time.
Now I believe in being an informed citizen, but I also couldn't deny the MASSIVE relief I experienced when I cut out all news for a week. In addition, interestingly enough, I ended up feeling less burdened and overwhelmed and no less informed.
Instead of reading regurgitated, often biased or sensationalized updates online, I had switched to asking the people around me for the latest. Rather than the usual gossip-like conversations: ("I read this..." "I read that..." "No, that's not true..." "Did you see...?"), I spoke and thought more deeply, thoughtfully, and empathetically about the issues.
Clearing the air helped me to feel more present and engaged with my immediate, real-life surroundings. Besides paying more attention to my loved ones' thoughts and opinions (while figuring out my own), I also spent more time writing, painting, cooking, exercising, cleaning, sleeping, dancing, meditating, thinking, talking, and just plain being in the world.
3 - FROM CLOUDY TO CLEAR
Music became much more important to me during Week 4. I listened while I did just about everything: cleaning, cooking, painting, driving, Morning Pages, etc. I listened to music when I might otherwise have been watching Netflix or listening to an audiobook. I found that music didn't cloud my mind the way talk radio, audiobooks, and television often does.
Bottom line: the quiet and the music made me happy. I felt more inclined to move and dance. I felt less burdened, less distracted, and more grateful. I drank more tea and meditated longer. I spent more time with family and friends. I could hear my inner voice better and trusted my intuition more. I felt closer to God. I felt inspired and more creative.
As Julia Cameron says, "We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own."
Being addicted to media feeds the repression of our true selves. We fill our days, every spare moment, with noise. We don't realize how loud it is until we turn it off. Then it can become unbearably quiet, eerily quiet, because we're not used to it and we don't know what to do with ourselves.
Cutting out all media rarely seems feasible in modern society, but if you try it, even for a day, you may notice how being bored forces you to get creative, how your gossip becomes engagement, and how the fog that's been clouding your mind dissipates and your view of yourself and others and the world becomes suddenly, blazingly clear.