How To Turn On A Light Bulb


[Listen to me read this reflection here]


I woke up one week ago today with no electricity and no water in the place I was staying.


When I first got out of bed and walked into the living room, I sensed that something was different. The clock on the oven was no longer flashing and the living room felt a little cooler than previous mornings had. However my conscious mind had yet to connect the dots all the while my gut was telling me something I could not hear.


When I turned on the kitchen tap to fill up a glass with water, I was surprised to not see anything come out of the faucet. I closed it and tried again, a common strategy used to troubleshoot technology failures. It still did not work.


I then went to turn the light on and after it did not work, the light bulb of my mind turned on. In a faction of a second, my mind connected the fact that the oven clock was no longer flashing, that the electric heater was likely not working and that the light switch did nothing.


The day before, I had arrived at this new space. I was in the middle of nowhere. A little town between Toronto and Ottawa, with an official population of 500 people and a visible population of not more than 5 people. This fact added to the drama that morning, as I was not in a familiar space and did not know anyone nearby. Furthermore, cell phone reception was sparse, and without electricity, I was internetless.


Calmly, I sat down to meditate.



That morning, I learned the power of habit. The conditioning over six years of every morning, waking up, drinking water and sitting down to meditate, was so deeply ingrained in me that I unconsciously carried on as everything was normal without any concern, despite the many reasons to have concern.


As I brought my attention to my body and my breath in meditation practice, the light bulb of my mind began to brighten. I realized that I was in the middle of nowhere, without electricity, water or the ability to communicate.


Anxious thoughts flooded my mind, naturally. I continued to sit quietly and watch them, without reacting or giving into the fear. After a few long minutes, the flood of anxiety had ceased and there I was, still sitting, quietly and patiently.


Looking back, I could have simply packed my few belongings, got into my car and left town. That thought was nowhere to be found though that morning.



What did arise was a curiosity about how I might survive without electricity, water and the internet for the week ahead. Then, light bulbs turned on all over my mind.


The food I had bought the day before that was stored in the fridge would go bad. I would put it all in my car, as it was cold outside, and use my car as a fridge.


The availability of drinking water might be an issue. I would drink the almond milk I have, the two water bottles in the car and if desperate, drive to a store to buy water.


The room would eventually become cold without the electric heater working. I would cover up the windows to limit any draft, preserve the heat that remained and layer up.


The power supply I had would need to be conserved. I would use the remaining battery in my laptop to keep my phone charged.


The Zoom calls scheduled for the week ahead were no longer a possibility. I would drive somewhere with cell reception, to send cancellations for all of my meetings.


The shower would no longer be an option. I still am not sure why I shower everyday in lockdown anyways, but this would be an experiment to see what happens.


The time I would have would be invested in writing and reading. Given it gets dark early these days, I would look for a candle somewhere.



I was beginning to feel confident that I could do this. Then I felt excited. Really excited by the challenge that was ahead of me and the unknown if it was possible. I believed it to be possible, however did not know for sure and was about to find out.


In that moment, I committed to my plan and chose to see this as an experiment. I would live for the next week without electricity, water and the internet.


Meditation has taught me how to relate to my thoughts.


Yes, I saw anxious thoughts appear at first and then with time, disappear. That created the space for new thoughts, ones that inspire and excite me. The light bulb of my mind is brightest when it has space.


Meditation has also taught me that everything changes.


Later that afternoon, the electricity came on. I felt genuinely disappointed. A few hours later, the water started to work again. I felt even more disappointed. I was excited for the adventure I had built up in my mind and now was bored with the comforts that electricity and water provided.


That night, as I journaled about my day, the light bulb of my mind continued to shine bright as I started to plan for another adventure...

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