My brother-in-law is learning how to sail. Yesterday he took me out on a Hobie Cat. It was a perfect day to be on the water, and we had a great hour of riding on the fairly calm waves of the Long Island Sound, feeling the wind and the warmth and the water, and connecting over meaningful conversation.
I’d show you the pictures from that magical hour, but I have none. We left our phones on the shore.
In fact, that’s part of what made it so great.
The Urge to Capture the Moment
A piece of me wished I had a way to bring my phone on the Hobie Cat, so I could take pictures of what I anticipated would be a beautiful view.
That impulse dissipated quickly — in fact before we even left the dock.
It wasn’t always so easy to let go of that urge. Over the past few years, I’ve taken a few long breaks from social media, including an entire year off of Facebook. Although I’ve mastered the art of staying off offline and away from social media, I can still feel the compulsion to document my experiences, especially through photography and writing.
Capturing the Moments
We live in an age of the InstaStory, where we are constantly trying to capture every moment and share it instantly, usually with a story around it. The result of this compulsion is that we create a story about something before we have even had the experience of it.
Leading up to my social media breaks, I noticed how often I would be in the middle of an experience and, at the same time, trying to formulate the status update in my mind.
My breaks from social media were in part motivated by a desire to quiet this inner narrator and allow myself space to be in my experience before I summarized the experience.
Living Requires Participating
The moment we start to document or craft the story of an experience, we remove ourselves from the moment. We cease to be participants in our lives, and instead become observers. This deprives us of the very experience we are trying to share.
In creating a narrative around this event we are witnessing, we manufacture the illusion of an experience without ever really living it.
We report on life, rather than living life.
And because we don’t live the experience, we don’t encode it into our knowledge and our memory. It’s not so much that we “forget” things; we never knew them to begin with.
Knowledge is embodied, it comes from experience. You cannot forget what you never knew. You cannot remember what was never in your physical memory.
Photos Don’t Capture Life
Looking at the world — at life — through the lens of a camera shows you only a sliver of the visual. And the visual is only one of our senses.
What about the things you feel, taste, touch, or intuit? Our language is vast, but it doesn’t adequately convey the richness of our experience.
Sometimes, words and pictures just aren’t enough.
The Magic Moments
You know how it feels when you have these moments, when you engage in real connection with people you care about, when you’re captivated in awe and wonder that is beyond words.
When time disappears and you are immersed in the totality of your experience, you are alive.
These are the magic moments of life.
In our efforts to capture every moment, to tell the story while it’s happening, to document our process, we lose this magic.
When we stop participating, we stop living.
Finding the Awe
This coming weekend’s new moon also marks Rosh Hashanah, the Spiritual Jewish New Year. This is followed by Yom Kippur ten days later. These days are the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. They are known as the Yamim Noraim — the Days of Awe.
The purpose of this ten-day period is to return to ourselves, to our truth, and to life itself. And although we pray to God to inscribe us in the book of life, we have the power to inscribe ourselves by choosing to participate in life.
When we choose to participate fully in our experience, every day becomes a Day of Awe.
What would that look like for you?
You don’t have to be Jewish or observe these holidays to create moments of awe and wonder in your life.
To find awe and wonder only requires the willingness to be fully present to life, to participate in your experience.
Nor do you need to swear off social media or stop capturing all the moments.
Not coincidentally, the Jewish High Holidays arrive as we transition to the fall season, a time for letting go.
In your life, what would be the equivalent of leaving your phone on the shore while you found presence on the open water? What might be possible if you did this for just an hour a day; or even 30 minutes?
Out on the water, I soaked up the sun and the surf, capturing the moment not with a shutter or even with my mind, but with my heart.
What would it mean for you to capture a moment with your heart? To feel your experience rather than document your experience?
I continually work on expanding my practice in this area. I invite you to try it out and let me know how it resonates with you.
If this sounds like just what you need, then I invite you to join a growing community committed to living with more intention at The Ritual Revolution.