12th August 2019
Response to a Keyboard Warrior: by Gaynor
I took this picture at the Chiang Mai Festival of Lights. It’s a picture of four generations of Thai people writing their wishes for the future on sky lanterns, then launching them up alongside many other families into the sky, symbolising their collective hope for the future. I felt very privileged to be there. There was a palpable sense of love and connection. This is why we chose the picture to launch our Awakening Heart program.
I was therefore really shocked to receive on Facebook a very rude and threatening response to the picture about my image promoting animal cruelty and a non-polite statement that I am hardly Mindful if I act like this, I should be utterly ashamed of myself. I rattled off a long list to myself and anyone who would listen to me about how this could not be! A veggie since 1979, the owner of 2 border collies, a garden planted for birds and wildlife, the occasional fox and partridges visiting, Owls in the woods beyond the house. I got myself worked up in my defence that I would never knowingly hurt animals.
I thought my factual responses would be enough. It was met by a second round of language that was completely out of proportion to the incident and culturally insensitive.
I got stubborn and dug myself in. I was not going to change the image, I was not going to be battered by a faceless Judge or Judy. I was triggered by the tone and my perception of the wagging finger of judgement.
I had fallen for it. I had never met the person and here she was having brief control of my life! I sat with my intention in sharing the photo and my response to the email. I did some more research on sky lanterns and wildlife, reflected and asked many others. My stubborn position softened.
Then I got a second email from another person some time later, there was no judgemental tone, just a pointing out of why sky lanterns were not a good thing. Maybe It was time to take it down, this was not about me and my pleasure of the moment that had already passed, we were using a picture to promote our work and it was not working for 2 people who had engaged with us and many be many more. I was off message.
Surya and I talked lots about social media, the speed of a faceless judgement; how easy it is to have an opinion and not consider that there might be any other view than your own; that fixed position that does not allow for difference or even cultural interpretation.
So here I am again with my “Achilles heel” of the disappointment that good manners and politeness seem to have been lost! I was dismayed by the whole thing. We were certain though that we would not yield to such narrow and intolerant views of others.
However, as it happens, it made us think of our message and we knew as we dug down deeper that the image was not the message we were quite wanting to make.
It was not radical enough!
We first decided on another name for the Awakening Heart programme and we came up with Mindfulness Unleashed. So, the image had to change too. At the moment we have a broken chain as the image – illustrating breaking free from constraints.
So, the whole incident actually drove us to look deeper at what we wanted to do. It helped us be clearer about our approach and stronger in our conviction that we follow our own hearts and that is what our students want /expect from us – something which makes a difference to their lives.
So can you be a mindful key board warrior? Let me know your thoughts, feelings and responses.
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