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  • Writer's pictureCory McGowan

Disconnect to Reconnect

I recently listened to an interesting episode of a podcast I enjoy from time to time called the Happiness Lab that was about the Jewish tradition of Shabbat (day of rest).

I was raised Christian, and am familiar with the sabbath day being a day of rest. But as religion stopped having much of a role in my life since becoming an adult, that concept had somehow slipped away as an intentional practice until recently.

As I listened, what struck me about this tradition when strictly observed is just how specific the activities are that are not allowed.

Some prohibited activities are not so relevant to most of us these days: Threshing

Shearing wool


But some certainly are:

Writing/erasing two or more letters

Putting the finishing touch on an object




Now, I’m not considering converting to Judaism, although I’m sure being Jewish is great. But this sure did get me thinking. In particular not using electricity, which would mean not using our mobile devices. Yikes, right? That requires a level of disconnection most of us are not even willing to consider, especially in these trying times of isolation.

Photo: Joe Mather

But I’m starting to play with it, both as a concept and as a practice. And during this practice on a recent Sunday where I didn’t use a device or the internet at all (almost), having that space allowed me to think about how disconnecting can allow us to reconnect.

What is it that I aim to disconnect from exactly? Two things come to mind. The first is mobile/screened devices. I am not a luddite, and most of my work is possible thanks specifically to these devices and being able to connect with people virtually. But I see their insidious advance into our lives. How quickly my wife and I get on our phones after dinner. How my boys are starting to copy that behavior. And not knowing what the hell do to about it. How, even though I don’t use notifications on my phone at all, it still seems to call me from across the room wondering what critical thing I am missing out on, need to research, must fill my time with.

I’m also keen to disconnect from the over achiever/overly driven culture. I don’t need to go into this much other than the fact that this post is even relevant to people (including myself) - somehow we need to justify even really taking one day off. And constantly needing to better ourselves, have SMART goals, outperform our fathers (oops, how did that get in there?!) is exhausting. The word 'ontology' has only recently found its way into my vocabulary, and it's one I look forward to cultivating a deeper understanding and experiencing of.

When I think about the rewards of disconnecting, even for 24 hours or so, what is it that I hope to reconnect with? The first thing that comes to mind is reconnecting with our natural environment. Our move out to the mountains a few years ago was really about this, but I am still amazed how often I can go for days doing stuff in the outdoors without paying attention to my surroundings. Because Sundays can be reserved for chopping/splitting wood, working in the garden, going for big runs/bike rides, right? When I really disconnect from the need to do/achieve anything I notice the richness that our local environment has to offer, particularly this time of year when against all odds, flowers break through the ground that was frozen just weeks ago, and the leaves make an almost magical appearance out of the branches of trees, like getting to watch a birthing process that takes place tenderly over days.

I also hope to reconnect with something put beautifully by Micheal Meade (who I feel more inspired by every time I listen to him):

“…things that are timeless. Things that are outside time. That turn out to be the only thing that can make life, that can make suffering truly meaningful, and make genuine change possible. On the edge of change what is needed is a renewed connection to the timeless realms where the water of life flows, where both nature and human nature can tap the deep resources of the soul and the roots of renewal.”

His point is that there has never been a more important time to find our renewed connection to these things as we teeter on the edge between transformational times, indeed that our very existence could depend on it. And I am exploring the possibility of disconnecting as a way to find that reconnection.

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