In this hyper-connected age of multiple digital devices and social media overload, the real question should be can you not afford to disconnect for a while, particularly between jobs or when we have an opportunity for some extended time away?
The kind of break I'm talking about isn't the one where you barely manage a few days or a week between one job and the next, madly finishing all those tasks you've put off for weeks or months on end.
The other type we so often see or experience is taking a quick trip to a resort to sip cocktails by the pool while checking in on Facebook to let everyone know we finally took that long overdue holiday. Yes, I'm guilty of that one too...
Our lives have now become curated by social media and so connected by 'big data' that it can be hard to extricate ourselves from the multitude of distractions offered by cheap data access on every form of smart device we can pack into our luggage. When we do finally manage to switch off or take a "data holiday" we might experience some temporary panic. After that subsides and we get used to the silence our minds are suddenly free to just 'be' again.
On a trip a few years ago to the Himalayan foothills data access was still sketchy and although 4G has been promised soon, it hadn't yet arrived to the sub-alpine villages.
Thankfully the high meadows are still blissfully data free. Forced into patchy data hell reminiscent of when mobile phones hit the mainstream and cell towers weren't plentiful enough to cope with demand, the easiest thing to do was ignore the phone and get on with it.
If this sounds like your worst nightmare, I totally understand! There were moments of frustration when the data didn't work or when the power went down...but our group survived... social media was sporadically available but it wasn't always and there were plenty of other things to keep our senses occupied.
What became apparent in these moments of calm, was just how much we are distracted from the present moment; and from the very simple things that help us to realise just how many of our needs are being met.
In this particular corner of India, you won't find a 5 star resort brand, but the air is clear, store owners stop to chat at all times of the day, they remember your name and welcome you like an old friend. A coffee costs USD $1.40 and a 3 course meal <USD $10. Food is grown regionally if not in the terraces around the villages and much of what's available is also 'local' - if not made to order on site in front of you.
It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it does bring you back down to earth in a gentle way. There's luxury to be found for sure - it's just not in the form of the large hotel chains.
So what happened after a month in the Himalaya? Here's my experience...
Increased creativity for work and play
Fewer distractions allows the mind to create again and brings you closer to yourself. I noticed that, once afforded the opportunity to be carefree for a while, my mind was also free to wander, to daydream and express itself without the constraints imposed by a home or office. I'd chosen to spend 3.5 hours a day attempting pretzel like moves at yoga classes, but even as my body moved from one asana to the next, I had the privilege of thinking about nothing else. My ability to create and dream was immediately enhanced. This has done wonders for career planning, business planning and renewing my focus and clarity of mind.
Awareness of food addictions
One of the great experiments of my time away, was playing with 'addictions' (I'll use that term loosely) to sugar and caffeine. I started before I left and after a month off both, it was interesting to see how the mind and body responds.
The desires when they arose were largely mental - no doubt brought about by a physical draw as well, but the actual desire appeared as a thought rather than a physiological need.
Once I'd given in to one sugar-loaded coffee, it was hard to stop again! Just for fun, try it out and see how sugar in particular impacts your thinking and behaviours.
Focus on dreams and goals
Taking time away is hardly the moment when we want to think about work but it's inevitable that we'll reflect on our work or even stress about returning to it. Channeling that energy into planning for the future is a far better way to spend the time if you're going to think about it any way.
I found myself analysing the business side of the classes I took as means of looking at my own business and laying out my plans for the next 12 months.
While our mind is free to imagine, it is free to create, often inspired by what's happening around us. Perhaps it's time to change direction or re-invent a part of ourselves we've been neglecting?
One of the great things about starting a new job is that most people won't know our personal history; so we have a great opportunity to leave baggage behind and start again with clear-minded goals.
A deeper sense of happiness
Deepak Chopra suggests that lasting happiness can be observed at times when you are closer to yourself, when you feel appreciated and loved, when you feel safe, and appreciate your own existence.
Up in the high mountains, far away from the mundane, all of these things were available, even far away from family. However, these moments are available to us at any time and anywhere as Chopra suggests.
They can be fleeting in the hustle of our 'activity' and busy-ness but they are there. By eliminating the distractions, we can appreciate exactly what we have and be kinder to ourselves about what we don't. Perhaps we have far more than we realised and just didn't take the time to appreciate it?
Not everyone can afford the time and money to escape to India or some other far flung destination. Many of us have family and other commitments to consider; but there is a place not far from all of us that offers all of these characteristics, if only we take the opportunity to fall off the big data grid and immerse ourselves in the present moment.
At one company I know, the employees actually take holidays from work. Emails still arrive and urgent ones are redirected, but the rest get answered when the employee returns to work - it's a concept many of us have all but forgotten but the trend is returning as companies remember the benefits.
So, just for a while - disconnect the data and reconnect with life around you, maybe spend time with family, sharing precious moments that are just for you and become a present witness to the beauty of life as it unfolds in real time. I promise it's far more exciting than watching someone else's curated life play out on social media. It will also help you refocus your energy, dream your own dreams and plan for your future without distractions.
If anyone does want to know a place in the Himalayan foothills, inbox me.