Cell Phone-Free Living

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One ringy-dingy…

Message for Lindsay Who Has No Cell Phone

This was the subject of the email I just received from someone in SF who read an interview I did with a blogger asking me about living without a cell phone. I never saw the blog post, so I asked this woman to send me a link… The interview is from 2 years ago…so now, I realize, it’s been 6 years that I’ve lived without a cell phone.

She wrote – “I read the lovely article about your not having a phone with a great smile on my face. I have lived in San Francisco for more than 30 years now – I’m 51 years old and have NEVER owned a cell phone! Just resisted it from the very beginning. And, yes, you are correct, SF is just about the worst place you could be as far as that goes.

When I travel to other states (I visited New England this spring), I was sooooo relieved to realize the rest of the U.S. is NOT as bad as all of this. It seems like a dystopian nightmare to me!

People are ALWAYS asking me what happens in an emergency and I tell them that the same thing will happen that happened in the 1980’s – it will get handled.

Here’s the interview, originally posted here.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Lindsay and I’m an herbalist, wellness guide, yoga teacher, poet, and small business owner with a former life (I suppose I’m old enough to have a former life now) in non-profit management and social services.  I geek out on plants every day.  I have a permanent reversed manicure of rich, black soil under my nails.

I don’t wear make-up but sometimes like to paint my face.  I sing whenever I want to and like the fact that “work” takes me out into the wilds, weeds, and hollers…  I seek out hot springs and count my pennies like my great grandmother would.  I count my blessings, too.  I’m 38 years young and falling in love with the challenges, heartbreaks, joys, and beauties of this world with each waning day.

How do you feel about technology in general?

I think that Einstein can preface my answer to this question ~

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Technology is linked with the rational mind.  To me, it is supposed to be a faithful servant to magic, intuition, tradition, art, and creativity.  Technology has instead become the means in which we go about relating to the world.  This is truly a crisis of the spirit.

Because I feel this way, I have created ways to lessen my interaction with technology.  Of course, there is only so much I can do in this sea of microchips and screens.  However, I do what I can.

I do not have a TV and do not watch shows.  I watch movies rarely.  I have a rule that if 3 people tell me to watch the same film in a short amount of time, I will watch that movie.  For example, many people told me about ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Avatar’ when they came out.  I watched those films.  The most recent movie that this happened with was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’, but I still haven’t seen it yet!

I do have the internet.  This is a challenge for me.  I co-own a small, plant-based apothecary (Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary) here in Mississippi.  We use social media for our business and it makes a huge difference.  So, yes I have the internet.

Why have you chosen not to have a cell phone?

About five years ago I moved from my home in San Francisco to Appalachia.  I had been living in SF for 7 years.  Before that Eastern Europe for 2 years.  I’m originally from Mississippi and had decided to move back South by some internal prodding of unknown source.  I followed this instinctual tug and found myself in a holler in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I lived in a small community called Spring Creek about 1 hr and 15 min NW of Asheville, NC.  I found a job as a Retreat Manager at a silent, contemplative retreat center.  And, because of my remote location my cell phone didn’t work!!!  After awhile, I thought to myself, why do I need this thing anyway?

So, it was not so intentional.  I just was weened off of it by mountain livin’ (of which I am deeply grateful for).  When I moved off the mountain three years ago and emerged back into the lowlands of Mississippi, I decided to continue the trend and only use landlines.

How do the people in your life feel about your lack of a cell phone?

Nobody really complains about it.  If I have to meet someone, they learn that they have to be more intentional about setting a good location and time as they know they can’t reach me if something goes awry.

The only concern I get is when I travel distances in my car.  My friends want me to have a phone for emergency purposes.  However, I keep my time on the road during the daytime and alert my friends when I’ll be traveling.  It’s worked out really well and I’ve never had an issue.  So many other people have cell phones, that it would be easy to contact help if I needed some.

Another interesting thing is dating.  I’m still in the dating period of my life.  And, I really love that men I am spending time with can’t just text me random thoughts.  I much prefer that he call me anyway.

Has it affected your personal life at all? Your professional life?

It hasn’t affected my professional life at all.  I’ve trained customers of the apothecary to pay with cash or check and that’s been fine.  Of course, there are moments when I lose a sale to someone who could really use my products.  But, they just bring cash next time.

It really hasn’t affected my personal life.  I’ve noticed that I have deeper and richer conversations with my friends over the phone.  I actually have a phone with a cord!  It makes me sit down and really be present with them.  I like that and it’s hard to find this kind of long-distance bonding (smile).

When I prepare for a phone call, it’s almost ritualistic.  I go to the bathroom if I need to…maybe pour some tea…  I find a comfy seat and then dial their number…  I’m THERE and the conversations are so rich.  It’s one of those small gifts I can offer my friends.

Many people want to “text me their number” and I tell them they can’t.  I’ve also learned to tell people when I give them my number that they can’t text me.  It’s really liberating that no one can send me absent-minded blurbs about whatever they are feeling.  I feel that they have to approach me with a lot more intention.  That’s how I roll.

Those moments when so many people use their phone to ‘fill in gaps’ – taking public transport, waiting for a friend, etc – what do you do?

I like this question.  I look around.  I look at people.  I look at the place I am waiting.  I feel things.  I sense things.  I work on being present and taking it all in.  I talk to people.  Sometimes I go through my paper planner and scratch some things off and write some things in…

I had an interesting experience this past May.  I visited San Francisco, my old stomping grounds, after not being back for 4 years.  I was horrified by how many people were on their phones.  I’ve never seen anything like it — anywhere.  Any empty space or free moment was filled with phone gazing.

Two weeks after my trip to San Francisco, I was in New Orleans teaching a workshop.  I didn’t see much of that.  A friend actually told me that there were fewer TVs in New Orleans, per capita, than any other major US city.  I suppose the music, arts, and culture has maintained some connectivity in New Orleans.  It was refreshing to be there after the intense shift I witnessed in San Francisco culture.

There are so many tools on modern cell phones – gps, camera, flashlight, etc. Do you use maps and a digital camera instead?

I just bought a digital camera about 2 months ago.  I mainly use it to log plants and herbs that I’m growing or harvesting from the wild.  I LOVE the macro lens and how it allows me to zoom in so close to plant loveliness!

As far as GPS goes.  I simply write down directions to places I commonly go to and keep them in my car.  I have a little bundle of directions that I leaf through when I hit the road.

What’s your preferred mode of communication?

I love talking in person.  When I am able, that’s what I make time and space for.  I also love movement and dance.  It’s a lovely form of communication.  I used to go to the Asheville Dance Collective’s dance ‘waves’ on Saturdays when I lived in Appalachia.  Everyone was to leave their cell phones outside the room.  When we entered the large, wooden floored room, we weren’t to talk — only dance.  We were led by a DJ from mellow music to ecstatic music and then back to serene sounds.  A wave would easily have 100 people present on a Saturday morning.  And, we would all be laying on the ground all sweaty by the end of the wave.  It was amazing.  My kind of communication!

In other places this experience has been called ‘Sweat Your Prayers,’ ‘Dance Church,’ ‘Ecstatic Dance,’ and ‘Five Rhythms.’

What are the benefits of not having a cell phone?

While not having a cell phone, I happened upon the documentary film ‘Full Signal’ (you can watch it on YouTube for free).  I realized that I was playing my small part in creating a safer, saner world by not using a cell phone.

I feel that cell phone free bars and restaurants of the future will be the equivalent to smoke-free bars and restaurants of the present.  At first, people will be offended.  But, later they will see they were submerged in a virtual smoke cloud.

Can you think of a scenario in which you’d get one?

If I were transient and wasn’t rooted in my home that I am in now, I might consider getting one.  But, considering that I’ve got 4 years under my belt, I think I could figure it out.

What advice would you give to others who are looking to live a more unplugged life?

Start small and simple.  Chose one thing and ‘fast’ for a month and see what happens.  My first fast was from movies and I did it for one year.  During that time, I really noticed how much my friends talked about movies they had seen or wanted to see.  It was really crazy and seemed obsessive!  I realized now much I engaged in those conversations at one time, as well.  Slowly, and without effort, people just stopped talking about movies with me.  And, I’ve really liked things this way.

I also fasted from the internet in 2008.  I only achieved one month and I was at Zen Buddhist Retreat Center.  But, it was amazing.  It shifted my mind and my mental state to be way more present with myself and others around me.

Fasting periods of 21 days, one month or three months seem to work for most people.  Try a “technology fast” of your choice.  Try it with a friend or group of friends so that you can compare notes and experiences.

I’ve found that lessening the amount of technology I use has opened up a wellspring of intuition and creativity.  I have had to rely more on my senses and I’ve freed up space for my mind to wander and create.  The mind likes this kind of un-constructive and free-form space.

Technology can be a tool for creativity and expression…but again, only when we’ve tapped into the wisdom and guidance of our own intuition and the present moment as it is.  This comes first…  Technology is just something to help it manifest more fully in the world.

2 thoughts on “Cell Phone-Free Living

  1. I’ve thought about giving up my cell phone. Relying on others who have cell phones seems to be a common dependency for those who don’t own a cell phone. What I come back to overtime– I’d rather be an independent owner of a cell phone and turn it off.

    • Yes, I typically don’t use other people’s cell phones. But, there are some funny instances that people found me by calling a tea house’s landline or calling a friends phone… However, now that I am married to Borys, I find that we do use his GPS system…and that comes in handy. As well, there are a handful of people who do text me through his phone (who prefer texting).

      Some, with good personal discipline…have found that they can leave their phone at home and/or turn it off. Some even forget about their phone! I think these are rare people ❤ You must be one of them!

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