I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Louise Crossgrove’s reflection on contemplative writing for social media:
Being a Monk in the World – Does Facebook Count?
This may seem odd as a practice, but I write and respond contemplatively to posts on Facebook. Until recently, my writing had all but stopped. I used to write on a daily basis in my journal. When family issues became more than consuming, the first thing to go was my creative energy. I had retired from full time nursing, though I did return as a casual employee. A niece and her blind daughter moved closer and most days were spent in supporting her and driving the hour to her place and back.
When I retired, I had expected to have more time to devote to writing and pulling from previous writings and poems, the contents for a book or two. I had expected to bring to the world, my words of wisdom to a larger group of people than my weekly emails could reach. I had also amassed an enormous collection of other people’s poems and quotes that spoke to my heart and I considered them lessons from the Masters. Each day, a new quote would be perused, read carefully and I would consider how I could incorporate each message into my life.
In the midst of the family turmoil, I looked forward to Monday afternoons when I attended a regular meditation circle. I started to guide in this circle once a month. My preparation consisted of reviewing the aforementioned quotes and poems and using them as the foundation of my guided meditations. Spending time to put together the bits and pieces of a meditation seemed like a kind of meditation all on its own. Looking at quotes to decide which ones spoke to me and how I could use it, became a practice that I looked forward to. Deciding on a recurring theme in my choices for the meditation, took a deepening into myself – to understand the quotes on a different level than if I just read them once. What to put on the focus table took discernment and silence; to decide what figures, objects, cloths and colours I would use for the meditation. During the times I contemplate which quotes to use, which objects for the focus table, which music for the first 10 minutes of the meditation time, I am required to open and expand myself in order to discover all the messages each medium has to give. It is as if, during the preparation, I enter the meditation – to seek the layers and the depths of each quote, or accompanying questions that I pair with the materials. I end with a blessing or prayer I either borrow or create myself. That Monday Meditation Circle continues to today.
This brings me back to the kind of writing I do now. Facebook originally baffled me. Why would people choose to use a public social platform when there are emails and phone conversations which are more private? After about three years of being an observer, I started to do more than press the “like” button. I began to respond to other people’s writings. These “friends” of mine began to express their opinions and talk about their own journeys with illness, deaths, seeing the struggles of the poor and cruelty to animals. They wrote comments about what they thought of these worthy and thought-provoking topics. They asked the readers to consider getting involved with some cause or other. I saw that women were writing in a way that supported women’s issues and their different take on relationships. I started hesitantly and gradually I became an avid responder. When I feel deeply and passionately about something that was posted on Facebook, I find myself really thinking profoundly about the topic or solution. I have been able to bring my deeply held understandings of human nature and medical issues that are close to my heart to Facebook. I am a serious writer. I had worried that perhaps I would not ever write again. Yet, as I began to post my thoughts to specific pages, ideas that were plumbed from deep inside me demanded that I continue the practice. The careful and considerate responses or original compositions occurred because I took myself aside in time, went deep inside of myself and trusted that my inner wisdom would surface. I trusted that what I had to say was meant to be broadcast in this way. I also felt that whatever channel I opened in the act of writing a commentary or my own considered thoughts would contain a higher level of poetic wisdom. I do not, as yet, write on Facebook every day from my centre. It could be said I am still figuring out how I want to use Facebook in ways that are optimistic, positive by nature and will be helpful to others.
Is any of this a credible description of a Monk of the World practice? For me, the act of writing is a contemplative one. I am a seeker of wisdoms and I also want to reach out to people through my writing. I am only one voice on Social Media. I do want that voice to matter and bring a reverence for life and beauty to the attention of those who seek a way of living with wonder in their eyes and heart. With my practice of occasionally writing from a place of empowerment and love on Facebook, I do feel that my life has become enriched. This is only one of the ways I am living as a monk. It is, however, beginning to count for more.
Louise is a retired Occupational Health Nurse, who still uses her nursing skills to teach and empower people to take charge of their own health needs. She is married to a retired Naval Officer and resides in Victoria, on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.
Louise, I disconnected my Facebook account for a year, and it was the biggest gift I could give my contemplative journey.
Last week I reconnected it, with anxiety and fear about what the posts would do to the private and holy grounds I have created, hidden from public displays or opinions. I’ve set new boundaries, only using it to add meaningful reflections rather than personal information… May you be blessed in discovering this in your own journey. Melissa
Contemplative Facebook does feel like an oxymoron, but that’s also my favorite way to use FB — contemplatively. Depends on what I’m viewing obviously (!) but “lectio facebookio” can pull me into reflection and meditation, and voila! the deeper Truths pop up as I type my response on my iPad. Time and space disappear for me in that delicious Now. Your FB friends are blessed to be witnessed and responded to deeply by you, Louise! Thanks for this.
It is so lovely to find others who feel about Facebook, the way I do. It has taken me awhile to find that way of posting that honours my own need to see through the lens of contemplation. I have been blessed to find friends through Facebook who “get” my way of walking through life and accept my occasional “wanderings of the heart”. Thank you for your insightful comment.
Beautifully put Christine. I will be smiling at “lectio facebookio” for the rest of the day and yes, I agree. It is all about our way of engaging, not about Facebook itself. Even social media can be a force for good ;)
Beautifully woven and yes, for me Facebook does count. I have made deep connections there with people who I have met in the physical world, and with those who I have not yet met. Many have become dear friends. In that way I am able to talk with people who I might never speak with in my everyday life and it is a blessing to me, and I hope to them. In terms of our practice I believe that it is a place where we can bring a real energy of contemplation and reverence for Life and Spirit, together with sharing creativity and heart. It really does count.
Thank you Jacqueline for your comments. I like your “we can bring a real energy of contemplation and reverence for Life and Spirit”. This is what I, too, am discovering. There are many people sharing their gifts of words and photography and bringing to the world-wide social platform a place of beauty and consideration, and yes, contemplation. I am encouraged to continue as I have been finding ways to do from your agreement about what counts.
Thank you, Louise. I am so glad that you feel encouraged, as you should. Facebook is merely a mirror of the world and, just as with the world, there will always be a small group of people holding belief in beauty and spirit beneath the hurly burly. It’s good that you are there. If you would like to connect up with me there then I would be honoured. I have a page called Hedgetemple and my personal page is Jacqueline Woodward-Smith.
Hi Jacqueline. I will head over to Facebook and have a look at your page as well as your personal page. I am a bit behind on most of my Facebook activities as I have been sick for about three weeks now with a difficult respiratory condition. It is beginning to look like I am improving. So, if I take a little more time before checking in with you, it is only because I am trying to be good taking care of me! I am excited about your page Hedgetemple, just from your page’s title. I will meet you there, very soon. Thank you for your kind and generous comments.
Thank you so much, Louise. How lovely of you to go and have a look. I very much appreciate that, and even moreso that you liked it. I will look forward to connecting with you there, if and when that feels right for you. I am sorry to hear that you haven’t been well and quite understand your needing to draw your energy in and heal. I wish you many blessings for your continued improvement x