I don’t hide that I’m a man who is on a spiritual journey through life. It’s my journey, and I don’t expect, or want, everyone to be like me. I don’t typically offer it up for discussion with those whom I share my life, whether I know them personally or professionally. I do want to share a little bit here with you, for the purpose of detailing something that worked for me.

My childhood home was a secular one. Because I wasn’t raised in a religious tradition, my relationship to them is probably different than those who were. As I became a seeker of spiritual truth, I went to the different religious and spiritual centers, here in Columbia, to have “an experience.” I’ve been to Baha’i, Zen Buddhist, Muslim, Universal Unitarian, and all varieties of Christian houses of worship. I have partaken in a variety of religious events, from Ramadan to Easter, with the intent of trying to “enlarge my heart,” as Pope Francis recommends to those who don’t have a specific belief. I wanted to have a better understanding of these faiths, because I know that it would make me a more effective therapist. If I got a little enlightenment out of the deal, I could call myself a double winner.

My seeking led to some time spent in the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches a few years ago. This was during the wane of wintertime and into the springtime bloom. Anyone who is familiar with these faiths know that Lenten Days are the days that led into Easter, and require that participants select something to relinquish for forty days and forty nights. It is a practice of self-denial and penitence that gives the participant a chance to practice discipline for a spiritual outcome. I wanted to have the full experience of the traditions that I had been visiting, so I decided that I would participate as well. I spent some time thinking about what distracted me from my life the most, and what would be very difficult to do without. I decided that giving up Facebook could be a task worthy of a Lenten sacrifice.

I made this choice with my memory of a time before social media. I can say that my memory of it has become hazy each year of displacement from the millennium’s turn. Saying those words give me the sound of an old man talking about his life before the horseless carriage.

“It’s obscene for anyone to move at that speed…”

But there was a time!

My relation to the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, certainly feels lifelong. There’s little memory of a day when they weren’t with me. In that time before now, I tell my present self, that my past self must have missed out on a lot back then. I’m sure that there were events and connections that were absolutely exceptional. My imagined moments, between people that I believe I would have wanted to be with, in places that that I would have wanted to be. I didn’t know what I was missing, but a “sting” is driven home in my mind today. I missed out on a few other things as well, but few recognize the nothing, until there is a something.

I was very confident that I could do without it, and it was just something that I looked at while I was waiting to do something else. It was just a method of staying in touch with friends that I have all over the world from the different times of my life. It’s just a more convenient method of communication, I wouldn’t miss it that much…

The words of a fool.

That “something” is considerable. Logging on anywhere avails me to “mental racket” that is of any social media outlet that has ever been born. It is an office refrigerator who’s hum and crackle is always in the background, taken for granted. When cooler breaks, its constant rattle gone, only empty space remains. There is no silence greater.

In short order, the reasons for my reliance went from knowing to understanding. I pined so dearly for the absence of distraction. The access to articles…To the controversy! THE DRAMA! The information about people’s lives that I could receive in no other forum. People that I knew, and the people that I could never know. The rush to let everyone know what I think is so vital about whatever topic was “de jour.” All those posts that I can’t remember now, but were so important that I speak out about then.

The noise.

It distracted me from the stillness that is within and without. I didn’t realize the volume till it was gone.

Before my personal lent began, I would reach for my phone at any moment of inactivity or absence of stimuli. By the time “Good Friday” had rolled around, I had stopped my instinctive phone grabbing; a gunslinger with a trigger finger itch. I had become more focused on what was right in front of me, in the moment. I was a present in my own life again.

In light of the current events, of the political, economic, and endless commentary on social media, I’m considering embarking on a “personal lent” again. I’m a little late as far as the season is concerned, but I don’t think that will be a problem. The constant back and forth between people that I know, and can’t know, in every place but here, still has the same power to distract, but I’m not the same anymore. I can remember my Lenten sacrifice. My memory is a little hazy, but I know that there was a time before, and a way to live, if I decide to do so.

Join me, if you dare.

By Patrick Pellicer | Thriveworks Columbia