“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” 

Lewis Carroll

THIS IS AN EXPANDED SHABBAT SHALOM POST. One that is coming at you a bit early.

Assume most of you know that song from Alice in Wonderland.  In talking about his white rabbit, Lewis Carroll said he was to be the opposite of Alice who was young, polite, and had followed the rabbit down the hole because she didn’t have much else to do.  A very different way of life for the young as compared to our youth.  The rabbit represented age and Alice youth.  Things have changed since then and we all  have too much to do, to many people and things pulling at us. In today’s world, only the very old have too much time on their hands.

This article talks about our manic, stressful world.

Manic Nation: Dr. Peter Whybrow Says We’re Addicted to Stress

Summing the article up, he faults our computers. He points out: “The computer is electronic cocaine for many people. Our brains are wired for finding immediate reward. With technology, novelty is the reward. You essentially become addicted to novelty.”

He also points out that he sees all around him wired to their computers even as they wine and dine on dates.  Our wiredness reminds him of the symptoms of clinical mania: excitement over acquiring new things, high productivity, fast speech—followed by sleep loss, irritability, and depression. Read the article to learn more.  Here is what he proposes as a solution.

“The idea is not that you don’t work hard,” Whybrow explains. “You do. But you have to be able to switch it off and create space. I’ve made a conscious decision to live a life that is not driven by someone else’s priority.”  So my Shabbot challenge for you is to disconnect for at least two hours some time over the weekend.


First tip: Follow Dr.Whybrow’s advice.  No need to go cold Turkey or rip out your land line, trash your cell phone, infect your computer.  Try these small steps.

Meeting a good friend for lunch? Turn your cell off.

Tonight, when you go home from work plan to commute cell-free. This is particularly important if you drive. Using your cell phone, even with an ear stopper kind of device while at the wheel, is like driving drunk.  Hope you wouldn’t do that and if you do, you need more than self-help.

Don’t commute? Then turn your computer and cell off half an hour before dinner or before going to bed.

Have a cell-free dinner.

Cannot do the above?  You have a problem.  First step in ending an addiction.

Second tip: The researchers say, the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.  Wish you could read for pleasure a bit more?  Reward yourself for disconnecting by reading.  Cell-free dinner should come with a bit of chocolate at the end.

Third tip: Dr. Whybrow  (love that name, no wonder he became a researcher) makes the point that it is anxiety driving the urge to stay connected. Strengthening self soothing skills defeats anxiety.  Feel like you just have to check your E-mail, try a calming breathe with helpful self talk.

Instead of self talk, I sing lines from any number of songs.  When I want to quiet the check your E-mail urge, inside my mind, I  sing  “Five minutes more, only five minutes more…” Frank Sinatra sang it. Remember him? I do.  I sing those two lines  when any distraction beckons me.

Guess what, sometimes the five minutes stretches into an hour. What works works.

Confession: doesn’t always work. Remember my post about magic and deliberate practice?

Fourth tip:  I alluded to this above, set a realistic goal.  An hour a day, two hours a day every weekend. While driving.  If  you have trouble meeting such a goal, as the saying goes “There is a problem, Houston.”

Slightly challenging goals work best, so set one goal that stretches you just a bit and then when that goal is firmly met, set a new goal.

Final tip: Find support and partners.  As I have noted in the earlier Shabbat posts, converting to Judaism brought turning off from the material world into my life.

I am not suggesting conversion.  Indeed, it is against Jewish law to seek converts.  So converting is out.

I am suggesting finding someone who wants to turn off a bit more and partnering with them.  The best would be someone you live with.  If you are a parent, partnering with a child would be fantastic.  When you have a partner make “Turn-off” dates.  Taking a walk is a good one. Reading aloud to each other another good one.

Turning off will not be easy for most of us.  Most things that  calm anxiety and uncertainty are or are  fun pull at us strongly.  Almost every theorist about what makes us tick recognizes we prefer pleasure to pain.  The trick has always been realizing what are called secondary gains.  You make hate taking calls from your boss during dinner time.  Fear of being fired may staying connected less painful than turning off.  Life is often a struggle between two lessor pains, but that is a topic for another day.


If you know someone who will feel supported by finding this post in their mailbox, share it.  Three people will benefit.  The person you shared it with, me, and you.  Kindness circles back. Thank you.




Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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