As we prepare for a five night stay at Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, I am preparing for one of the great crises of our monastic retreats.

Internet access is limited at Our Lady of Guadalupe. The modem for WiFi sits flashing on a table in the library that is only open to retreatants from 9:00 to noon.

It feels liberating to be free of the constant nagging demand of the little bright screen on my laptop. But it creates a crisis.

In my regular life, I spend a lot of time on the internet, much of it taken up with flooding cyberspace with an endless stream of words on this blog.

Being cut off from my computer, I have space to wonder what might be a healthy life-giving relationship with the internet.

The internet so easily eats up time. It provides connection with a wide world that, without the wonders of the web, would never be accessible. It is an endless source of facts, information, and interpretation about any subject I might ever feel inclined to ponder.

The internet allows me to maintain at least tenuous connection with people with whom I would long ago have lost all contact without this slim cyber-thread allowing us to share a little bit of our lives.

But I wonder if the sense of connection and the flood of information provided by the internet are truly and deeply nurturing to my spirit.

Being on retreat at the Abbey reminds me of a sense of connection that is not accessible through a wireless modem, in fact, that might even at times be blocked by the perpetual images and words that flash up on my screen. The connection to which my heart opens more deeply at the Abbey is a connection with depth. The rhythm of monastic life helps me open to the penetrating stillness and silence in which my true nature as a being created in the image of God begins to emerge.

I wonder how much of my internet use is simply a tool to avoid facing what I called in my sermon last Sunday “the human aloneness” that is our core experience of so much of life. I worry that I use words to fill the void that is the place that, if I am willing to be there, allows my deeper awareness to emerge. This is the place where I know a presence that become more tangible when I sit in silence at the Abbey than when I sit at the keyboard flooding the world with words.

How much of the internet serves merely as an anesthetic against the sometimes uncomfortable realities of life? And, how deep is the coma induced by that anesthetic? How unconscious am I choosing to be by pouring hours into the images and words that flash so freely on my screen?

When I sit in the darkened chapel at the Abbey carried along by the often monotonous sound of the monks’ voices intoning their Psalms back and forth across the choir aisle, there is nowhere to escape. I am not being entertained. I am not being lulled into sleep. The monks are inviting me to open to a deeper reality of which I become conscious when I am willing to be still, facing the darkness, and allowing the silence to permeate my being.

I do not think that much of what the internet brings into my life helps me open to this place of depth. I worry that my compulsive typing on this blog, pulls me out of the place of mystery in which my consciousness of God is enabled to expand. This would be a high price to pay for the fleeting satisfaction of being noticed in cyberspace.

And so now for a time, I will be “fasting” from the internet. The monks’ modem will blink away in the library, but I will be neither receiving nor sending on that frequency as my heart opens to the frequency of depth and the intimacy of silence.