The almost-silent pitter-patter of my feet kissing the sidewalk.

The collective “GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY” chirp-chirp-chirping of the bird community rising for the day.

The occasional vrrrrrooooooommmmm of a commuter driving past on their way to work.

I’m a runner – for the most part. While I don’t have the dedication of some of those on my Facebook news feed, I enjoy heading out for a run. There’s just something about dialing up a sweat without needing a piece of equipment that appeals to me (which might be why I like yoga as well).

This morning, I pulled myself out of bed at 5:00am, hopped into the running clothes I had set out next to my alarm clock, strapped on my Vibram FiveFingers and headed out the door to greet the sunrise on a daybreak mile.

I haven’t run regularly in months. Winter really locked me down this year – which happens sometimes. Can’t say I was all that motivated to head out in 11-12 degree weather anyway. But now that temperatures are hitting the 70s and even the 80s already, I’m out catching some fresh air while building up my endurance and leg muscles for another running season.

Being forced to disconnect…

Usually, before every run, I grab my phone, switch on the GPS signal, and open up RunKeeper. I like RunKeeper because it’s always been quick and easy to track my running. For those who don’t know, RunKeeper will use my GPS to tell me how far I’m going, how fast I’m going, and how long I’ve been running. It plots out my run on a map and I even have it set up to update me every half mile so that I don’t have to turn on my phone’s screen and look at it all the time.

It’s the system I used to run a half marathon a year ago. And it’s wonderful… when it works.

A couple days ago, when I was about to head out for a run, I tried to connect to RunKeeper and… nothing. It sat at “Searching…” for a few minutes while I paced at the end of my driveway. Once I connected and started running, it initially told me I was running at a pace of about 30 seconds/mile (“Somebody call Guinness – I’m about to set a world record!”).

After disconnecting and reconnecting to “correct” the error, it told me I was running at a pace of 71 minutes/mile. Which means I’m basically crawling on my stomach. Backward. Blindfolded. With a broken leg.

So I had to just say “SCREW IT” and not use the phone.

This morning, while trying to connect, my phone instead decided to just reboot.

So I left it on my doorstep.

It’s a different world…

Sometimes, especially on long runs, I have to bring some stuff with me – the ol’ phone, headphones, and dual-running apps for tracking my workout and pumping music into my ears.

But this morning, for the first time in, like, forever, I wasn’t carrying a phone. I didn’t have headphones. I wasn’t even wearing a watch. I was just… out there.

When you’re not busy trying to distract yourself, or huddled over your phone, you can learn to appreciate the world and environment around you. I know this (again) sounds like Crotchety Old Man talking, but you don’t realize how dependent we are on our phones and gadgets until you put a little distance between you and them.

It takes a few minutes to adjust, but suddenly, your brain switches on. Your senses kick in. You can hear and see the critters of the world going about their day. Your brain starts working to help you process information and thoughts that bounce around in your head. You can hear your body sending you information and different signals.

It’s actually pretty wonderful.

Can you do it?

Could you go out for a run or a walk without a phone or headphones? How about just to the bathroom? Or down to the mailbox?

We’ve pushed ourselves to be always on and always connected to the cloud, and I can appreciate that. I get it, and I’m certainly one who does this as well. But I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

You can roll your eyes if you want, but for thousands of years, human brains have been more than capable of entertaining their owners. In fact, you might have some creativity locked away in the deep recesses of your mind, but you can’t hear it trying to get out because you’re too busy checking Facebook whenever you have to stand or sit in one spot for more than 15-20 seconds.

I’m not saying we should all get rid of our phones. What I am saying is maybe we should start depending on them a little less.

You’re not that important…

Okay, you are. You’re important in the sense that every human life is important. Congratulations.

But the world won’t screech to a halt because you didn’t answer an email within 45 seconds. Society won’t crumble because you didn’t reply to that Facebook comment or “like” your “friend’s” photo of their cat. Your friends and family won’t abandon you just because you let a call go to voicemail.

Find time to switch off and get away from it. It could be as little as going into the other room and leaving your phone behind. Or fighting the urge to pull it out and check it when you are standing in line.

Just disconnect. And then… pause.

Take a breath. Listen to it. Feel it fill your lungs with good ol’, life-giving oxygen. Get engrossed in that conversation with the person you are talking with. Appreciate them. Listen to whatever goofball ideas your brain is firing back at you.

It’s kind of hard to explain. But I promise, if you make the effort, you’ll like it. And you might even get something out of it.

Let the text message sit. Turn off your email and Facebook notifications. Schedule time to do those things. None of these tools are bad for you, but they can be if you let them control your life. Take better control of yours. Live with intent. You’ll be surprised at the results.