In my previous post, I told the story of losing my iPhone and how I decided to try life without a phone for a while as part of a larger exercise in being more present and mindful. So, for the past couple of weeks, while in Mozambique, I either didn't have a phone, or the office gave me a super-basic Nokia that could do no more than make and receive voice calls (neither of which I like to do). I guess you could say this was the first phase of my experiment.
And it's been remarkably easy. There have been many times I automatically reached for my phone to fill in the blanks in attention demands: waiting at the airport, waiting for a colleague, riding in a taxi. But when I didn't have the phone I was reaching for, my reaction was more "oh well" than "oh sh*t." Instead of looking at the little screen, I looked out the window, or eavesdropped on conversations, or looked at the ocean, or talked to someone around me. So while not having the phone has clearly changed my daily behavior, I've replaced one manner of passing idle time with another. And I have to say this has led to being more mindful and present in the physical world. And my jury is still out on whether that's better or more worthy than looking at the screen. I think so... but only think so.
I also realize that the time in Mozabique is a false test. Like someone in iPhone rehab, the real test will be going back to my normal life. What about when I do my once-a-week dinner with friends? Those usually get planned down to the last minute, all final agreements getting made by text message. What about when I'm on my way to a friend's house to play pool, and remember we haven't agreed whose turn it is to buy beer? What about when I'm stuck on the Metro and want to let someone know I won't make the conference call? I have a suspicion about how those things will be handled, and I also have a feeling it will be an improvement, but it remains to be seen.