“The Innernet” with artist Abbey Ryan
“The Innernet” is an invitation: to more fully connect to your life offline (Innernet) by making a regular habit of disconnecting from your life online (Internet). Through her internationally-known daily painting practice and blog, Oprah-featured artist Abbey Ryan cultivates a fulfilling life offline while at the same time embracing all that makes the digital world remarkable. In this 2-part series, Abbey hosts two live 60-minute group lecture/Q&A/mentoring/coaching calls about the Innernet/Internet balance that we need—whether you’re a maker, thinker, improver, planner, or producer. During the live calls with Abbey, you’ll see that maintaining a mindful balance that suits you is possible. You’ll do your own version of a digital detox, equipped with an inspiring course packet which you can download and print before you unplug. The Innernet goal: make time for the things you “wish you had more time” for.
Do whatever works for you.
Unplug and participate in “The Innernet” at a time that works for you. Listen to the live calls, deepen your experience, and discover how to cultivate a fulfilling life offline while also embracing all that makes technology remarkable. Your registration includes access to the course materials and two live calls for a period of time afterwards. Explore this on your own schedule, and listen to the calls when you have the time.
Words from Abbey Ryan:
It took me about a year to create this course. As an artist and teacher, it is something I am passionate about. My “wish I had more time for that” list consists of spending time with loved ones, being in nature, resting, wandering around museums, and painting. Painting is on my list even though I have painted almost 1,000 still life paintings as part of my daily painting practice.
Since 2007, I’ve spent thousands of hours offline at my easel, as well as hundreds of hours online sharing my painting work on my blog. I’ve also spent many hours not painting because we all experience life challenges and digital provocations that distract and pull us away from doing what we love. I see all of these hours as valuable and meaningful in our lives.
Each time I unplug it feels new.
I make my best work.
It never feels like a waste of time.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’
then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
~Vincent Van Gogh
What is the Innernet?
The Internet is a concept that relies on a massive, complex, computer/technology network of networks of networks—all of which make it possible to access and share information on the World Wide Web. The Innernet is a metaphor for what it is that connects us to each other and to ourselves—the Ground of our being—and to Being itself.
“Do you miss blue skies while working in the cloud?”
After I solidified the idea for this course, my dad shared his term “Innernet” with me. In 2001, he spoke about the concept at a WCCM conference in Texas after he had started up their Web presence. He said they first thought it was a typo. I searched the term online and surprisingly found only a few random hits. One needs to be shared: A spoken word poem video from 2012 entitled “The Inner Net – Are We Moving towards a Hyper Connected or Disconnected World?” by the talented spoken word poet David Bowden. David poignantly describes the Inner Net in some unexpected ways. It’s worth watching at least twice.
Isn’t it a contradiction: an Online Course on Time Away from the Internet?
Yes. As a painter, the contrast between my Innernet (life offline) and my Internet (life online) is immense. I frequently reflect on this contrast and often speak about it in my workshops, private instruction sessions, and during my travels. I’m not suggesting we demonize the Internet in any way. But I hear from so many of you who feel pulled in different directions, distracted by what is digitally at your fingertips, or just wishing you had more time to do what you love.
We need to cultivate a fulfilling life offline while also embracing all that makes technology remarkable. I believe we can do both. It is all One.
We honor, accept, and acknowledge life’s challenges and the challenging aspects of digital life without judgment when we mindfully set aside a few minutes, or an hour, or a day to do more of what makes us feel most alive. I’m not alone in thinking that it’s a good idea to periodically unplug and explore our own Innernet in order to be our balanced, creative, grounded, productive, peaceful selves. Yet this peace is not static; it is an ongoing and cyclical process. If you feel drawn to this, create your own Innernet practice and movement.
My Internet/Innernet Practice
As you can see in the 2010 video below that accompanies Seth Godin’s bestselling book Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Seth describes how the Internet has worked for me to share my work all over the world. Seth refers to me as a “linchpin,” however, I could not do the work I do without a purposeful and mindful balance between life online and life offline.
Create an “Innernet” Community for Yourself
This course is for everyone. Invite friends to join you. If you have colleagues or friends who’d be curious about this, having a community and sharing the experience is more fun. Just as you can’t force someone to eat right or exercise, you can’t make someone care about this. As John Main said “Peace is not induced. It is entered. It is released. It is not commanded but received…. The peace we want to see spreading in the world cannot be imposed by force. You can’t force anyone to be peaceful.” But you can invite them, just as I am inviting you.
What are the Requirements?
Your only requirement is to be curious about the nature of life in a digital world, and to have a willingness to just see what happens when you unplug.
“But I can unplug anytime on my own.”
I hope you do. At the same time, every time I teach a workshop, I see and feel the collective, positive, rush of inspiration and peace that participants experience being offline in the studio together. If we unplug together and share our experiences in this course, our collective consciousness—the nöosphere—will feel a similar rush of inspiration and peace. This is an ongoing and cyclical process, my hope is for folks to create their own Innernet practice.
“Jump right in, or wade in slowly.
Advantage to one, it’s over quickly.
Advantage to the other, it isn’t.”
~Hurry Up and Wait, Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler’s new children’s book for grownups
Testimonials from the Inaugural Innernet Course in 2015
- “I printed out Abbey’s Course Packet and find it to be a fantastic resource of contemplative nuggets of wisdom and peace. I celebrate Abbey’s generous spirit and willingness to share and teach what life has taught her. Thank you for your inspiration and invitation to take my own Innernet journey – no expectations! Hallejulah! Freedom! What a wonderful gift you present — spoken directly to one’s soul!” ~Jenny Somers, JennysGraphics.com
- “Abbey’s Innernet class is an enlightening confirmation about practicing your art, without getting distracted by the virtual world, social media, emails, and texts. The true connection is about using your time to create art and engage with the people in real life. The class confirms that Abbey’s not only a Master Painter, she’s a brilliant role model. A gracious thank you to a beautiful soul leading the way!” ~Tamara Gold, TamaraGold.com
- “I enjoyed being offline more than words can say. Thank you, Abbey, for offering a course that gives us all permission to disconnect and more importantly reconnect. I want to reiterate how moved I was just while downloading Abbey’s packet. It is very apparent and actually palpable the loving and poetic way she put together the pieces of herself that she shared.” ~KP
- “Absolutely take this! I think we all just need a reason to give ourselves permission to be still. The packet is a perfect accompaniment. It provides food for thought and some direction for the quiet moments. It is a kind of lifeline to get you through the initial moment of panic.” ~KP
- “In the midst of packing and anything but routine days, Abbey keeps me honest to stay away from distractions… time always expands for me without ‘media’…for that reason alone it is great. Thanks for ‘holding space.'” ~SL
- “I am a writer interested in current events, especially politics, and I am interested in the arts and philosophy. I read for hours each day. I am a lover of nature and get outside to hike and enjoy natural beauty as often as possible. I exercise daily. My husband encouraged this because I haven’t been as focused on the daily routine of writing as I should be. I was allowing the internet to “interrupt” my process all day long.I wondered if I would be able to do without the constant communication and connection.In general, I’m on the internet and texting less. I have been able to sit and focus on writing more faithfully.In the past, successful and productive writing occurred when I carved out blocks of uninterrupted hours each day. I’d lost that habit.I see myself at the center of an invisible sphere that extends outward. While unplugged, the sphere became much smaller, and the sensation was twofold. On the one hand, I felt less connected to the world. My daily habit is to read the NYTimes online, and being unable to do that left me feeling out of touch with the world, which I didn’t like. On the other hand, I was much more in tune with the world I was taking in with my 5 senses and more fully connected to the people right in front of me. This second sensation was far more powerful and pleasant than the first. I know that I can “quit” anytime I want. :) Additionally, it has reaffirmed my belief that depth of knowledge is far more valuable and satisfying that breadth. Or rather — spending significant time on any one pursuit rather than spreading one’s time across many leads to deeper, more permanent connections to the world. It takes time to really see beauty and to understand your fellow man. If we allow the Internet and other techno-distractions to intrude on us at any time, we lose the ability to think deeply, to relate deeply.Yes. It’s eye-opening in many ways. I think many people are addicted to technology but don’t realize the extent to which this is true for them or the negative effects of the “habit.” It allows us a different perspective on daily living. It’s reconnecting with a quieter, more meditative world we once knew but have forgotten.” ~Karen Kravit, writer/author
- “I was immediately drawn to Abbey’s description of her painting practice as meditative. I took her Innernet course because I want to find ways to be more peaceful (of course), centered, and aware of what it is like not to allow myself to be sucked into the craziness and overstimulation that news, TV, and internet can cause. Climbing out of the wormhole of those “addictions,” even just for a few days really helped me to take a look in the mirror and realize what I had to incorporate into my life on a regular basis. The time spent reading the course material and doing some of the small exercises in awareness. The calm that I felt in doing that. This course is a specific time that you invest in to help yourself, instead of saying, “I really should take time to myself for something enriching, inspiring, uplifting…fill in the blank.” ~ES
- “I looked forward to taking this course. Since the Innernet, I spend way less time on Facebook. It’s a great relief not to have to always “like” everyone’s everything. I go to bed earlier. I’m writing more in my notebook of thoughts and ideas. I’m getting more things done around the house. Projects and such. I find I don’t miss reading about everyone’s “”news””. I feel like I’ve gained lost hours. And the best of all, new ideas are surfacing every day. The preparation talk and prep day before the course started perfectly transitioned into the Innernet, and my favorite part was the feeling of freedom I felt and still feel. ” ~LR
- “The Innernet was more then just going off line; it’s loving and supportive with encouragement and helpful information. I really did enjoy it and people were very curious about what I was doing which was also fun!It took me two days to be able to relax and not be anxious about not being online in case I missed something. I really appreciated and enjoyed the course packet Abbey provided. It entertained my mind instead of reaching for the computer. The first day I was mind-boggled by the brilliant colors in a patch of flowers outside, I couldn’t get that off my mind all day! The third day was my perfect day! I got up, did some yard work, a little house work then went to my studio and started sketching. It was a very satisfying schedule for me and wonderful! I did 50 small people sketches (nothing complete or perfect but for me it felt good). I loved the Malcolm Gladwell chapter (The Rosetta Story) in the course packet — the community aspect is so healthy! I had a hard time letting people help when Ron was sick though lots of people came forward. My daughter and I are going to have a big yard sale which has turned into a community affair, people keep wanting to join in so now it’s several people bringing things to sell! I would have to say the part that changed my life the most is this new evolving into community and friendships. For so long I have kept people at arms length. How loving people are, it’s wonderful, and healthy and I’m really enjoying it. When I paint now it will be all me, I won’t go online to see how others did it, or to learn from others like I did soo much before. When I went back online I could feel the difference, I enjoy being off line so much more.In the beginning I was very anxious. I don’t feel so overwhelmed anymore. My pace is healthier. Life has changed for me but I’m very grateful for my husband and all I’ve had and that which is to come. Abbey told us in the first teleseminar that somehow we can do it all and I’m finding out this is true.The best parts of the course were being off line! Also, reading Abbey’s material and doing some of the suggestions and listening to Abbey speak and answer questions during the teleseminars was calming and helpful. Even setting up an email auto reply was new and fun!” ~CJ Roughton, artbycjroughton.com
- “Thanks again for offering this course at a time when we all need to be reminded that the place where we will find ourselves is in the quiet moments. I would take this course anytime Abbey offered it!” ~KP
About My Paintings [ visit AbbeyRyan.com ]
If you’re new to my work, here’s what my collectors say about it:
- “What subtlety and poetry is captured by your brush. Your paintings take my breath away.”
- “Magic really does happen when you hold the brush.”
- “You are a master… Of all the contemporary still life painters I know of today, you make me think of Peto the most.”
- “I love your simple, pure, natural art which only has evolutionary effects. Your skill is coupled with everything good.”
- “Your work is a lovely, authentic, delicious slice of earth & heaven.”
- “Oprah is right, you do make beautiful things! She caught on to what we already knew!”
- “You are absolutely my favorite artist, love your work.”
- “As a humble collector of your figs and mangos, you have a keen EYE and heartbreakingly beautiful renaissance style. The eye, dear Abbey, you HAVE IT.”
- “Gorgeous. Human. Wonderful.”
- “So simple, yet profound. Lovely work, as always!”
About My Teaching
I love teaching and I believe we all learn from each other all the time. Here are a few comments from those who have studied with me:
- “I’m not sure I have met another teacher who is so willing to give and share, and put in so much effort to finding out the needs of her students. Abbey is a gem.”
- “Abbey is a soulful and supportive teacher who clearly wants to help her students grow.”
- “Abbey is a great teacher with unsurpassed talent and sensitivity. She an extraordinary artist who can direct and mentor her students, and creates a welcome, positive, creativity-engendering space.”
- “I love how Abbey keeps everything simple. From her philosophy on painting and her personal approaches to life, meditation, etc. I liked being reminded that it is possible to un-complicate your world.”
- “Abbey really gives her full presence. She is able not only to delve into the questions I pose, but to also intuitively sense the “questions behind the questions” in what I am asking. I am moved by Abbey’s ability to create profound connection with the people she speaks to. Every part of her approach demonstrates that she feels invested in helping others to grow on their creative paths.”
- “I gain an enormous amount from consideration of her spiritual approach to life and her painting.”
- “Since Abbey’s workshop, I have learned to be more patient with myself and my color mixing and having a more positive inner voice when I paint. Abbey’s philosophies about painting and life and how they are interconnected are present in the back of my mind when I paint.”
This series is for you if:
- You feel like you don’t have time to do the things you really love to do.
- You’re a maker, thinker, improver, planner, or producer.
- You already enjoy periodically unplugging while on vacation, at retreats, at workshops, on weekends, or whenever you feel like it.
- You like the idea of periodically doing a “cleanse” of any kind.
- You’re interested in mindfully observing your own digital technology and Internet habits.
- You are curious about what might happen to your energy level, curiosity, creativity, or mood if you unplugged.
- You have a fluctuating relationship with social media.
- You are curious about reflecting on your own Innernet/Internet balance.
- Your smart phone has become an extension of your arm. [Search “Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto”]
- Your email is the last thing you look at before you sleep and the first thing you look at when you wake.
- You’ve talked about wanting to go offline, but haven’t tried it yet.
“I was going to say something more about hurrying, but why take up your time?
You have things to do. You can flip through this and go on
to what it is that’s waiting for you, the next thing.
And by THIS I mean everything.”
~Hurry Up and Wait, Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler’s new children’s book for grownups
This series may not be for you if:
- You never use the Internet.
- You don’t use email.
- You believe that your Internet habits cannot change.
- Your job or life situation requires you to stay constantly online without exception.
- You’re not interested in trying something new that might challenge you.
“The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too.
The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it.”
~Excerpt is a conversation between Siddhartha & Vasudeva,
pp. 105-7, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, 1922
What is included in this Series?
The first step is to register.
A few days before it begins, you will receive an email with the official course packet (PDF download) so you can print it out for yourself. The course packet is something I worked on for about a year. It includes everything that helps me unplug: activities I’ve created, questions to ponder, book excerpts, poems, concepts (e.g. Dunbar’s number), tasks, quotes, and more. It’s hefty and fun. There are no requirements, but the packet is there for you if you’re ever at a loss for something to do.
On Day 1, I will host a live 60-minute lecture/Q&A/mentoring/coaching call to lay the groundwork for the Innernet experience. You may submit questions in advance and call in to talk with me live. (Call access details will be provided by email and calls will be recorded in case you can’t make it live.)
Day 2 is a preparation day to get things in order so that you can unplug however it works for you. Notify friends about your plan.
Days 3 and 4 are set aside for your #DigitalDetox. You get to define what #digitaldetox means to you. This is your “break” from the Internet. Unplugging entirely can seem impossible. How you unplug is up to you. You could start by turning off mail and social media notifications on your phone/computer. You could choose to put your phone in airplane mode for a few hours each day. You might want the computer App Freedom or the Smartphone App Offtime. If you need to receive text messages and phone calls depending on your situation or profession, you’ll do that. Going offline isn’t always simple, so you do what you can. During your time offline, there is no goal to be reached. You are free to just be and do those things you wish you had more time for……
…The course packet you will have already printed out has no required assignments. But it is there for you as a prompt if you desire a more directed time offline.
On DAY 5, I will host another live 60-minute lecture/Q&A/mentoring/coaching call to share my Innernet experience, hear from you about your time offline, answer questions, and talk about what comes next. You may submit questions in advance and call in to talk with me live. (Call access details will be provided by email and calls will be recorded in case you can’t make it live.)
I hope you will join me.
All my best,
P.S. If it’s helpful, in this video I talk about my approach to teaching painting:
Abbey Ryan is an artist’s artist, known for her inspiring, illuminating, and supportive teaching approach. Abbey believes that life in a digital world means balancing a fulfilling life offline while at the same time embracing all that makes technology remarkable.
Inspired by the “A Painting a Day” movement, Abbey started making daily paintings for her blog on 9/23/07. Since then, Abbey’s blog has had over a million visitors from over one hundred countries. More importantly, painting has become part of her mindfulness practice and daily meditative time. Making a painting a day speaks to her interest in ritual, practice, classical still life and trompe l’oeil painting, in relation to the complexities of Internet globalization. Abbey’s paintings are in over 1,200 private and public collections all over the world. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States and Europe.
Abbey’s paintings have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Seth Godin’s bestseller, Linchpin: Are You Indispensible?, Brainard Carey’s Making It In the Art World, FOX’s Good Day Philadelphia, American Art Collector, Plein Air magazine, and BoingBoing, among countless others. Abbey was recently recognized as #5 on the list of “49 Creative Geniuses Who Use Blogging to Promote Their Art” by BoostBlogTraffic.
Abbey studied with David A. Leffel at the Art Students League of New York. She also completed undergraduate work in both science and art at Arcadia University (BA & BFA, 2003); and post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Hunter College/CUNY (MFA, 2007). She was born and raised in New Jersey, USA. Abbey teaches painting workshops, offers private painting instruction/mentoring online, and is an assistant professor of art at Arcadia University. She lives and works in Philadelphia.