What I Learned From Two Weeks Without A Cell Phone

Carly BensonPersonal Development, Transformation0 Comments

non attachment, life without a cell phone, playa del carmen mexico

Most people plan to go off the grid whether they lock themselves in a cabin with no service, turn their phone in for a retreat or shut their phone off for a weekend. While I knew I would be off the map because I was out the country, what I didn’t know is there was a much bigger plan in store for my travels.

I landed in sunny Cancun, Mexico and headed south to Playa Del Carmen. Sandy beaches, amazing music, dancing and spending time with someone special were in the forecast. What could go wrong?

After two short days, on a Friday night, we adventured out into the busy streets of Playa. It had been nothing short of a magical, quaint place so far. It began to rain and I had long, flowy pants on. We weren’t far from our destination, when I stopped in the street at the top of small hill to put my phone in my purse  to hold my pants up so they didn’t get wet.

As we submerged into a crowd of people surrounded by five or so restaurants, each with music blaring so loudly that the sounds melted into each other, my eyes were focused on getting through the line and into the beach club. It was chaotic and there was so much commotion going on it was hard to navigate.

Success. We made it in pretty quickly. As I walked to the door and looked down, my purse was unzipped, wide open.

Within 200 feet and two minutes, a pickpocket whisked away my phone right from underneath me completely unbeknownst to me.

Middle of Mexico.

Cell phone gone.

Heart sinking.

That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you lose something that begins to radiate through your whole body.

Devastation set in as I realized that really just happened. I was flooded with emotions. A $900 iPhone with my life inside of it; vanished. Poof. Gone, just like that. I had to venture on the rest of the trip without one and when I returned dealing with insurance proved to be harder than I imagined. All in all, I was without a phone for just shy of two weeks.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that there were so many lessons locked inside of this mishap. Here is what I learned from two weeks without a cell phone.

1. “The root of suffering is attachment.” -Buddha

The attachment to my phone was absolutely the cause of my suffering in the moments following the realization that something I use for everything was no longer available. I was attached to the habit of it. I was attached to the instantaneousness of what a cell phone offers. I was attached to social media. I was attached to the photos and being able to document everything. Non-attachment doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own anything, but it does mean we shouldn’t let things own us. By detaching from things and even people, we allow ourselves the freedom to experience life with more openness.

2. Letting go of what we cannot change is the truest practice of surrender.

I had two choices: wallow in it or let it go with acceptance to enjoy all that Mexico had to offer. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t need a breather or that I didn’t say much for a couple hours, but eventually, I reminded myself that I couldn’t change what happened. I had to let it go. Deep breaths (and deep beats of music) helped me slowly release the situation, surrender to the fact that this was where I was and remind myself that everything happens with a purpose. Maybe the purpose was so I would be more in the moment and less concerned with getting an epic photo or video. Maybe the purpose was so that someone could feed their family with the proceeds of my iPhone. Either way, it was another opportunity for me to practice the delicate art of letting go.

3. Non-judgment isn’t truly put to the test until we have been wronged.

As much as I wanted to curse out the person who did this, I tucked those devilish thoughts away and reminded myself that I don’t know this person. I don’t know where they come from. I don’t know hard life may be for them. Rather than judging them to be a horrible person, I prayed that they would be saved from the life they were living. I prayed that they would find peace instead of having to roam the streets looking for pockets to pick. We can’t exercise non-judgment unless we are presented with someone who challenges us to strive for higher perspective.

4. Keep things important to you close by.

I know it was just a phone, but had I been holding it a little closer or paying more attention to it, it may still have been with me. This made me realize that we can get so caught up in the chaos of life, that we get loose with our attention to people who are important to us because we think they will always be there. Life happens quickly and you never know when it may be the last time you can hold someone, tell them you love them or show them appreciation. If something is important to you hold it in high regard and remember that showing admiration towards others is an essential part of real connection.

5. It’s up to us to find beauty in the ugliest situations.

Here I was in a beautiful destination only some get to travel to in their lives, at an event that is one of the most coveted in the electronic music arena, with someone special, dancing under the stars on the beach. The beauty of the trip didn’t need to be discounted because my phone was stolen. Instead, these were the things I decided to put on repeat in my mind. I wasn’t going to let anything ruin the beauty that remained before my eyes and in my heart. What we see depends on what we are looking for. Beauty surrounds us at every corner and turn in life. Choose to see it and let the ugly things fall back from your vision.

6. If we aren’t careful, the things we take for granted can get taken.

I live in Naples. It’s a sleepy beach town with low crime. When I’m home I’m relaxed and not too worried about much. Sometimes I forget how good I have it. Or how good WE have it as Americans with resources at our disposal. There are so many people that would die to live the lifestyles we are blessed with. There wasn’t a thought in my mind that my phone would be stolen out of my purse. I took for granted the safety I experience in little old Naples. It reminded me that we shouldn’t take any thing of importance in our lives for granted. Our freedoms. Our loved ones. The blessings God has given us. The ability to build our dreams. We have so much to be thankful for. Let us always count our blessings.

7. Owning our part in a situation is what allows us to grow.

I should have left my phone in the safe at the hotel and realized I could take photos with my GoPro. I should have used a better purse that wasn’t so easy to unzip. I should have put my purse in front of me, under my arm or held on to it instead of worrying about my pants getting wet. I could have been more mindful of walking into a crowd. The person who took it was likely watching me and I was an easy target with an easily accessible device. Could have, should have, would have. I had to own my part in this exchange, but I also had to be careful not to beat myself up for the bad actions of another. Claiming what we could have done differently or seeing how we participated in a situation is the cornerstone of personal growth. Understanding what we can do differently for the future to allow for better outcomes is how we grow.

8. Memories are not replaceable, but we always keep them in our heart.

I was most upset that 2 days of photos and videos were gone. I had not sent them to the cloud. Luckily I backed up my phone the morning of the flight, so I didn’t lose everything. However, I couldn’t help but think of what I would do if I hadn’t backed it up and lost months of memories. Photos and videos are great, but let us not forget to value moments in our mind and heart too. We never know when a moment is turning into a treasured memory. Just because we don’t have a photo for everything of significance, doesn’t mean the memory can’t be etched into our souls or burned into the safest of spots in our head.

9. It takes strength and awareness to be on guard. It also takes courage to let our guard down. Knowing when each is appropriate takes wisdom.

I let my guard down in a place where it should have been in high gear. I was careful of my surroundings not to get mugged or be in the wrong place, but I was not on guard about my belongings. There are times where our walls should be up high and we should be hyper sensitive to what is going on around us. There are also times when we need to gracefully let our guards down and allow our most authentic selves to shine through to those that need to see it. Wisdom lies in knowing when to exercise the suiting up and removal of our armor.

10. Being optimistic in hard times shows us what we are made of.

This may date me, but I’ve carried a cell phone for over 15 years and I’ve never lost it once. I’ve dropped it in water a few times but it’s never been lost or stolen. I’d say that’s a pretty good run. That’s the optimistic side of the coin. It’s easy to get down and out when something bad happens. We tend to focus on everything that is going wrong, which doesn’t contribute to making things right. We can chose to focus on the silver lining of the situation or get lost in the madness. We always have a choice in how we react with our thoughts and attitude around what happens to us. Choose to live on the bright side and watch how quickly a bad situation can dissolve.

Having my iPhone jacked offered up some pretty awesome lessons that I get to share with you. I’m back in business with a new phone and hardly lost anything but a few photos, some time and a little dinero. In the grand scheme of things, being off the grid wasn’t so bad. It was slightly thrilling that no one could get in touch with me in my mysterious disappearance from cellular land. And then again, it proved to be pretty frustrating at times. Overall, it shaped up to be an experience that I’ll never forget for reasons beyond this little ditty.

So, the next time you have to put your phone down for a moment with someone you love or to focus on something important, remember it’s good to unplug sometimes, even when it’s not planned. Life is full of moments and sometimes there is an enlightening experience waiting for us when we unglue our eyes from our screens. Buenos dias mis amigos!