I used to go on retreats that I actually called "advances" or "dwelves" because the word retreat always seemed to connote going backwards to me. Oh, I know it's supposed to mean a retreat from the larger world pushing up against us like a vise, yet that word retreat repeatedly conjured a defeated army, head down in shame, shuffling off. So no retreats for me.
My first advance I called a Clarity Quest, and I entered Druid archways and hidden raven tales by solo backpacking into an unexpected windstorm in Canyonlands National Park. Other years, it was a gentle fairy meander through the meadows and hilly oak groves in a cabin twenty minutes and twenty centuries from the bustling Silicon Valley I lived at that time. I'd leave the world behind for anywhere from 3-7 days. Cell phones didn't work and that was the point. I'd bring hiking shoes (even though I was a long-distance runner at the time, I decided running was too much of a blur to inhale the orange of poppies), journals and colored pens, and simple food. Not much else.
The term "media fast" may not be evoking the right sensation. Like retreat, the word fast connotes a deprivation of sorts.
We might call it a media detox, that's better. Imagine a spiritual quest in situ, a creative staycation, a spontaneous sabbatical. (I'll share later how to get away from home and create your own inexpensive 4-day retreat. For this one week, we're not going away from home, and you can keep your day job if you wish, it's your off hours that you're in your inner haven.)
"As artists, we must learn to create our own safe environments." - Julia Cameron
Ten years ago, I took a 12-week course in The Artist's Way. I was a computer engineer who morphed into a software marketing geek at the time. All business. I was totally stunned when Rick, our instructor, said we were going to do without media for a week. Well, I simply couldn't do it. I justified it because I was a real rebel. As if devouring the latest Wired and The Industry Standard was revolutionary. In Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, she writes:
"When we engage in a creativity recovery, we enter into a withdrawal process from life as we know it. Withdrawal is another way of saying detachment or nonattachment, which is emblematic of consistent work with any meditation practice.
In movie terms [Julia Cameron is filmmaker], we slowly pull focus, lifting up and away from being embedded in our lives until we attain an overview. This overview empowers us to make valid creative choices. Think of it as a journey with difficult, varied, and fascinating terrain. You are moving to higher ground. The fruit of your withdrawal is what you need to understand as a positive process, both painful and exhilarating.
Many of us find that we have squandered our own creative energies investing disproportionately in the lives, hopes, dreams, and plans of others. Their lives have obscured and detoured our own. As we consolidate a core through our withdrawal process, we become more able to articulate our own boundaries, dreams, and authentic goals. Our personal flexibility increases while our malleability to the whims of others decreases. We experience a heightened sense of autonomy and possibility.
Ordinarily, when we speak of withdrawal, we think of having a substance removed from us. We give up alcohol, drugs, sugar, fats, caffeine, nicotine -- and we suffer a withdrawal. It's useful to view creative withdrawal a little differently. We ourselves are the substance we withdraw to, not from, as we pull our overextended and misplaced creative energy back into our own core."
In the week or so ahead, I encourage you to experiment with alternatives to packaged media, and make your own creative play-dates and projects:
"Spending time in solitude with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing. A long country walk, a solitary expedition to the beach for a sunrise or sunset, a sortie out to a strange church to hear gospel music, to an ethic neighborhood to taste foreign sights and sounds - your artist might enjoy any of these. Or your artist might like bowling." - Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
Here's my own detox list below. I'm going for a little longer than a week myself - through August 1st - in case someone joins in with us in next few days they can go a full week. Keep creating. So go right ahead with producing a video or writing a blog or playing your guitar, for instance. It's the consumption of outer entertainment and entrainment I'm withdrawing from.