One way to judge the progress of our personal development journey is to take a long, objective look at how we behave and interact with others when we’re online. Most of us are familiar with the fact that many people will write/post content that they would NEVER say to someone in person or in public. It’s one thing to look someone in the eye and speak our truth. But, it’s a completely different thing to type out whatever thoughts skip across our consciousness while we’re staring at a computer screen’s oscillating liquid crystal display.
You Have The Power To Choose What You Focus On
As someone who doesn’t use social media at all in my personal life and doesn’t use it much in my professional life, either, I am lucky to rarely be exposed to aggressive or ugly online content. Yet when I so see people expressing pain, angst, fears, anxiety, and judgments online I have a long-standing policy of just looking away. Literally. And then clicking away. Doing this has brought ease into the little bit of my life I spend online, and hope that it might do the same for you. Think of the old philosophical query: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? In an updated version, we can ask ourselves: If I don’t read or acknowledge aggressive or ugly behavior online, does it even exist? Simply put, in my world, the answer is no. Toxic online behavior does not exist in my world because I don’t look at it for more than the amount of time it takes to consciously put my focus elsewhere.
Another tactic that helps me focus my online time and energy on positive endeavors is to check in with myself if I feel any sort of evaluative response to online content. How can we do that? First off, by adopting a specific mindset every time we go online. We can remind ourselves when we’re online that we’re actually in a self-constructed fantasy world made out of our interpretation of words and images. Part of why we’re more in fantasy than we are in reality when we’re immersed in online content has to do with how much of human communication is non-verbal and requires people to be together in the same time and space to “become of shared mind.” In eastern philosophy, it’s acknowledged that words are an imperfect tool for capturing the magic, empathy, and vistas of revelation that life can gift us with when we interact with other people and Mother Nature. “Thinking,” in terms of using words to try and describe life, will always fail in capturing its full reality. If we then go even further than trying to fit “life” into just words, by taking the humanity out of our interactions, by relating only to a screen, then we’re even farther removed from having an authentic perception of reality. This is not to say that online interaction is pointless. For instance, I appreciate that you’re reading this right now. But this medium has severe limitations which we want to keep in mind when we decide whether we’re going to have an intense emotional reaction to something we read or see online.
Secondly, we can use mindfulness to ensure that we only interact with a computer device for a specific purpose and for a specific amount of time. Slowly work on developing a new habit of spending as little time as possible online or otherwise sticking our faces in our mobile phones or other computer devices. We can make the conscious choice to use our emotional bandwidth for being with others in reality, rather than wasting it away online. The more we turn away from screens the more we realize the online world is a pale, pathetic vestige of a hangout spot and certainly not somewhere to spend any time being emotionally invested or activated. It’s time for all of us to remember that interacting with humans, instead of computer devices, is awesome!
Staying self-possessed and in reality when we’re online—like looking away from ugly content, not falling prey to getting angry or triggered when our face is in a computer device, and turning away from our screens and back to people and Mother Nature—are great barometers of how well your current personal development efforts are working for you. Or aren’t.
Cultivating Compassion In The Face of Hate Mail
That noted, I was shocked into a gale of out loud laughter a few Fridays ago when I opened up Bliss Revealed’s first hate email. Now, being a divorce mediator for the past twenty years, I’m inured to getting mail at my law office, Mediation Offices. Clients going through the divorce transition almost always fall somewhere on the existential pain spectrum, and part of my job is to absorb some of the manifestations of that pain and offer ways to help them redirect the energy of their experience into more satisfying outlets. Since Bliss Revealed’s entire mission is to help people love their lives and everyone and everything in it no matter what’s going on, it never occurred to me that Bliss Revealed would receive hate mail. How could someone do anything more extreme then just walk away if Bliss Revealed doesn’t resonate with them?
Here’s the hate mail that tickled my funny bone: “Unmani I met you recently at a show. I’m not sure why you gave me your card. You seem like you needed more happiness and you talk way too much. That’s ok for some as long as the content is pertinent. But You use far too many words to express any topic, inexperience is typically the first reason why. Any way. I didn’t feel any connection and if I were to guess you sounded like how lawyers talk. Another quality I found distasteful. Good luck! I learned nothing from you. Sent from my iPhone.”
I feel a little bummed that I don’t remember who the person is or what we might have talked about. Apparently, this person was trapped, helpless in our conversation and unable to execute simple, inter-relational skills like demur my offered card and extricate themselves out of a conversation which had no value to them. Furthermore, for those of you in the My Bliss Path™ program, we can also tell that their personal development journey has left them mired in a constricted view of reality, where they still see the world in terms of evaluation (good/bad). If they’d chosen to study the BlissLIfe™ course material they’d have had the opportunity to develop the skill of open-minded observation from which they are responsible for their response to the external world and how they choose to conduct themselves in reaction to that response. Mastering that skill certainly makes life more enjoyable! Also, we can tell that that they use a few filters between themselves and reality based on the myriad of assumptions they worked from—like assuming that one of my goals is for everyone who comes into contact with Bliss Revealed “feel [a] connection” with her material—and their need to send hate mail to me so they could become the teacher in our dynamic. If they had chosen to study the Just Say Yes to Bliss™ course material, they would’ve been able to identify the filters they adopt between themselves and reality so that they can learn to abide in it without having to antidote any discomfort they feel by wasting their most precious resource, their time, doing things like writing hate mail.
So, yes, my first reaction was to laugh out loud on that Friday afternoon in my office, in response to their email, but later I was left with a sense of sadness. Really, the only reason to send hate mail is the need for an outlet for one’s own painful feelings. Once the funny had worn off, I earnestly prayed for grace to enter the person’s life and for high-quality personal development information–tailored just right to resonate with them–to find its way to them.
How To Blissfully Respond to Hate Mail
As an aside, this is what I dashed off to the person while I was still laughing:
“Thank you so much for reaching out with your email which I experience as your attempt to give the gift of your precious time with constructive criticism. Yes! Being a “shiny” person, so to speak, what people often see when they spend time with me is their own reflection. And doesn’t a clear reflection make so many of us uncomfortable? I’m sorry that being in my field of experience made your uncomfortable, as that was not my intention, but again I take your email as a sign of your desire to have a good heart. I wish you luck in all your endeavors! Thank you. 😊 P. S. And I do appreciate a little LOL moment on this beautiful Friday afternoon from BR’s inbox.”
What do you think? Become a member of our online community, the Blissverse, and let me know. Here weeks later, I’d give my response email a B, maybe a B-. Admittedly, it has shades of snippiness with “your attempt” and “a sign of your desire” mild equivocations, but I still offer it as an example of an acceptably measured response. I’d love to read some of your responses to hate mail, if you have any, that you feel reflect empathy and compassion. Or perhaps you think the best thing to do is never answer?
HOMEWORK: Loved Ones, maybe today is the day that you declare to yourself, in a fit of self-love and focused on the goal of having basic sanity:
- I will immediately turn away from any mean, aggressive, “crazy,” rude thing I read or watch online and focus my attention on positive content, or go offline;
- The minute I feel emotional when I am observing content on a computer device, I will disengage from the device for however long necessary to remember that my body, my mind, and my self is actually somewhere in reality and focus on what’s happening there;
- I will start to slowly turn my life into one where my attention, energy, and eyes are in reality with everyone out here, not caught up in the online world I create in my imagination through projection and assumption;
- I will never spend another moment of my precious life telling other people in an online social forum (email, media, etc.) who they are, criticize them or their actions, or otherwise be aggressive, mean, or corrective
- Gotta love the old maxim: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all
- Don’t worry, the universe will take care of “schooling” that person just fine; it doesn’t need you to do its job
- If someone sends me any version of online hate mail or comment, I will either not respond and delete it or I’ll respond with love, empathy, and compassion
- If you’re new to this life-skill maybe best to just delete it; I’ve spent decades responding to Mediation Offices’ hate mail
Thank you so much for reading this article. May it stimulate some self-reflection about your own online world, who you want to be in it, and how much you want to focus on it as you navigate your personal development journey.
Unmani Saraswati, JD, LLM is the Chief Happiness Mentor of Bliss Revealed along with enjoying a successful eighteen year career as a divorce mediator-attorney and previous law professor. A lifelong student of how to how to have a vibrant experience of life, she earned her credential as a Certified Massage Therapist from the Institute of Conscious Bodywork in 1997 and graduated from Trika Institute’s Seven-Year Tantrik Yoga Study Group Program in 2010. As a Chief Happiness Mentor, Unmani draws on her ongoing study of happiness concepts and life-skills from ancient wisdom traditions, twenty years of daily mediation practice, and her work supporting thousands of legal clients to bring out their best selves in the midst of crisis through mindfulness and education. She teaches the self-paced online program My Bliss Path™ and live streams with subscribing members of the Blissverse Locals community. Also, check out her free videos scattered around, but some were recently uploaded to YouTube. To find out more about Unmani’s mission for everyone to have a Healthy Body, Strong Mind, and Happy Heart go to: https://linktr.ee/blissrevealed