All day long we’re picking up our phones and scrolling through our emails and social media feeds. A 2012 study shows that 89% of college students experience “phantom” vibrations, imagining their phones are buzzing with notifications when they really aren’t.
It’s addictive, it’s stressing us out and it’s inducing depression. Worst of all: our phone usage might be slowing down our thinking.
Renewal and the Art of Learning
We all want to learn more, know more and excel in life, but maybe the screen isn’t the most effective way to learn?
The great Chassidic Master, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), teaches that repentance means returning back to where you came from. The root of our human experience, and the place where we need to return to, is our Godly wisdom (called Chokmah).
Always a forward thinker, Rabbi Nachman—way before cell phones—warns against the “extraneous wisdoms,” which disturb us with irrelevant content and impede our ability to return to our core, spiritual wisdom.
It’s not enough, says the Rebbe, to avoid the unneeded content, but we also need to renew our intellect at all times. It’s understood by the Jewish Sages that God is renewing the world every day, so when we connect to our core and renew our intellect, we align with the re-creation of the world.
The Best-Kept Secret To Learning
How can you go about renewing your mind? How do we align with the world’s design and become new?
In the same lesson, Rabbi Nachman says that by means of sleep one renews his or her mind and soul. Everyone understands that sleep doesn’t only refresh your body, but your mind, too. All too often, we might notice how our minds are tired and sluggish when we haven’t slept enough.
But on a deeper level, when we go to sleep we no longer use our conscious minds. It’s a time when our wisdom is inactive. At the point where our wisdom and intellect can no longer help us, we are only left with our faith. Unexpected, but true.
How? When we go to sleep, we all believe that we will get up the next day.
All It Takes is a Little Bit of Faith
That smallest ounce of faith, says the sagely Rabbi, is what allows our minds to connect to its root and obtain Godly wisdom—a level of wisdom that renews itself all the time. That’s why many religious people say a short prayer before they retire at night. Essentially, they’re strengthening their faith before they sleep so that their minds can ascend to its root and renew itself.
It’s already common knowledge that, when we check our phones right before we go to sleep, we’re telling our brains not to secrete melatonin, because it’s not yet time for bed. But with Rabbi Nachman’s lesson we now see another potential harm: the disturbances of incoming texts stand in the way of our mind’s ability to connect to its core of higher wisdom.
That wisdom is not something we’re going to see on a screen minutes before we hit the sack, but rather from those last moments of gentle thought and quiet before we shut our eyes for the night.
Rise and Shine, Renewed!
The distractions of our emails and Social feeds disrupt the path that our minds naturally take to get back to their root place of renewal. Those last minutes that we’re awake are a crucial time to refocus our minds for restorative sleep. We need to assure that those interruptions don’t interfere with our sacred silence and spoil our preparation for renewal.
I’ve recently decided to leave my cell phone out of my bedroom for the night. I don’t want to close my eyes and still see those Instagram images in my head. Aside from the noticeable benefit of falling asleep faster, I also believe that my mind is aligning with the ever-evolving creation in a deeper way.
Now I wake up feeling ready to learn and experience what this new day has to offer. Every day presents its own gifts, but to notice these novelties requires a subtle skill. That skill is sharpened the moments before we retire for the night.
Leaving my cell phone out of reach makes my bed a sacred place of self-reflection, oneness and renewal. You should try it too!
David Dombrowsky Blogging about faith and personal prayer is Davy's passion, playing music and singing is his outlet. A father of five, leading a medical-device startup keeps him pretty busy. But there's always time for chillin'