Digital and Spiritual

Posted by Amanda Moreno

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Although online forums can often encourage (exacerbate) our self-centered need for external gratification and validation, Amanda Moreno considers here ways we can re-frame — and indeed, live differently — our online experience. For instance, we can band together in heart-centered spiritual collaboration and re-calibration.

By Amanda Moreno

This week I’ve had several conversations about various online communities. Some have covered the apparent exodus from Facebook on the part of the “younger” folks. I apparently don’t fall into that category anymore, as I have no idea what Snapchat is and feel a stubborn reluctance to learn.

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Others have talked about series of self-help-esque videos they subscribe to on YouTube, paying specific attention to the comments that spring up and the relationships being forged between those who make the videos and those who watch. Then there is Fetlife, or “Facebook for the kinky,” complete with events and groups for every fetish imaginable.

These conversations have occurred alongside my growing awareness that people are requesting I do classes online. Once again, I experience somewhat stubborn aversion to the format. I prefer in-person exchange, and the nature of much of the work I do involves small group exchanges where physical presence seems vital. I rely on the container of the classroom in which to hold space for grief and anger.

I try to reframe this stubborn aversion quite frequently. I was reading a New York Times piece this morning that got me thinking a lot about how lucky we are to have online communities during this time of rapid change. As the author points out, our society tends to teach us the skills needed for external success while ignoring the skills needed to radiate “that inner light.” These are skills that help us to develop a moral compass and to engage our lives from a place of passion and continuously deepening self-understanding.

Online communities are definitely fertile grounds for the kind of external gratification and self-centered focus that allows us to promote ourselves and broadcast a highlight reel of our accomplishments and proud moments. But they can also be used for something else. As the digital revolution unfolds, we are faced with the challenge of using it for increased heart-centered consciousness rather than just as another form of superficial escapism.

The biggest example of this “something else” in my life is, of course, the Planet Waves community, although I am also a fan of a few “secret” Facebook groups that allow me to stay in contact with my various tribes around the world. What do these communities have in common? They are all full of people who the New York Times author calls “stumblers”:

The stumbler scuffs through life, a little off balance. But the stumbler faces her imperfect nature with unvarnished honesty, with the opposite of squeamishness. Recognizing her limitations, the stumbler at least has a serious foe to overcome and transcend. The stumbler has an outstretched arm, ready to receive and offer assistance. Her friends are there for deep conversation, comfort and advice.

I happen to live in a city where stumblers abound. We’re frickin’ everywhere, and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for that sense of belonging. I’m also aware that there are so many of us in the world right now who are choosing to orient our lives around the belief that we can — and have to — make a difference. We’re figuring out how to heal ourselves and the world by facing our inner demons and recognizing our gifts in order to serve the deepest needs of the world at large. Many of us are not embedded in physical communities that are supportive.

In that sense, these online communities most certainly are a blessing. Within them we become bonded with other like-minded people in the spirit of camaraderie, mentorship and authenticity. We get to exchange ideas, understandings, and sometimes disagreements with people we would never have otherwise met. Of course, the novelty of what Planet Waves has to offer — a community of paradigm-busting seekers who get to take ownership of the forum in order to be a part of spiritual collaboration and re-calibration in action — is quite unprecedented.

There have been so many times since I became involved with Planet Waves that I have been humbled and grateful for the opportunity to share and be witnessed, but it’s more than that. I get to hear other people’s stories, which often resonate with my own. I get to learn with and from such incredible souls, all of whom are constantly challenging assumptions and striving to see through to the heart of the matter. So I definitely get the beauty of online community.

Although I’m still working out that conflicted part of me that rebels against the thought of screen time, I’m aware that this technology is here to stay and that we get to make use of it in ways that serve the highest good, if we so choose. I don’t really think that means I’ll be migrating to Snapchat, although a migration away from Facebook is always running through my mind. But I will continue to work with and re-think the ways in which technology can be used to further connection in authentic, embodied and balanced ways.

Posted in Columnist on | 17 comments
Amanda Moreno

About Amanda Moreno

Amanda is an astrologer, soul worker and paradigm buster based in Seattle. Her adventures in these forms of ‘practical woo’ are geared towards helping people to heal themselves and the world. She can be found in the virtual world at www.aquarianspirals.com.

17 thoughts on “Digital and Spiritual

  1. Len WallickLen Wallick

    Amanda,: Thank you for delineating some undeniably essential issues and making me realize i have not thought them though deeply enough. Thank even even more for going beyond setting out the issues more clearly to proposing some conscious and intentional approaches to what choices are entailed and how challenges might be addressed. This is a piece i will refer to as a guide and as a refreshment in the future.

  2. Pisces SunPisces Sun

    Amanda, thank you. The reason why I joined planet waves as a core community member was because I no longer wanted to sit by on the sidelines but also wanted to meaningfully engage with this like-minded community, having listened to Eric’s material (mostly) for about two months prior to joining.

    Humans are an adaptable species, and many of us initially resist change but you teased out many of the benefits of joining an online community that you would never had been exposed to if you were to only rely upon “in person,” or pen and paper opportunities. After 25 years, I returned to school and am amazed at how learning is conducted at this period of time. I am grateful too since I attend a school 3500 miles from my home, traveling there only once a month for class. How awesome is that? The richness of the educational experience with others from so many other places are such a bonus as well. Technology has made that possible plus, I have the library at my finger tips.

    From a more personal perspective, we all resist change and tend to set boundaries, often for our own protection or comfort, whether warranted or not. I am still learning to identify and understand the boundaries that I set for myself because opportunities are not linear. And we all definitely know that spirituality hits us from every angle!

    Thank you again for your posting.

  3. LizzyLizzy

    Yes – I so agree with you, Amanda. And, as I have already written here on PW, the Forum I use with the classes I teach – turn the class into a beautiful community of sharing and learning, also outside the actual classroom. Should add that I have kept away from Facebook and Smartphones so far (though the pressure is great), because I know how addicted I’d get to them.

  4. Jaimie

    Another thoughtfully written piece, Amanda.

    I love what you’ve written here. One of my problems with online communities is the physical isolation that comes with being alone together, somewhat connected mentally, but unable to sense each other with our animal bodies.

    Several years ago I deleted my Facebook presence. There was nothing real there in terms of community or connection for me anymore. nothing I could touch or feel except frustration. Friends I’d had for a long time no longer reached back out to me in real time and real space to connect with me, and as I was very much alone in the complicated grief and hellish descent into the underworld that accompanied grieving the loss of my mom to suicide, finding myself alone together with my “friends” in a virtual space helped me understand the limits, for me, of online community. I love Twitter, but I didn’t like the world seeing my Tweets, especially when it sunk in that my online presence was outing me as a Pagan to people who were not at all friendly or tolerant toward my religious affiliation and practices. My safety had been compromised on numerous occasions by people who hated me for being a Witch (it’s not something I proclaim to people I meet, acquaintances, or my neighbors). I got targeted and fucked with by lots of people, and bad. So much violence. After I realized the why behind this, I deleted my Twitter account as well.

    I participate haltingly in Planet Waves’ virtual space these days and leave my last name out of it so I can feel a little bit camouflaged in cyberspace. I need the world of flesh and bone and heart connection too much to express myself online as I once did. I don’t trust my fellow human beings with the details of my life anymore. You can’t see the scars except on the inside of my skin and in my eyes, and only if you’re looking closely.

    That’s just my experience and mileage. That of others will vary.

    I do think online classes can be valuable. I’ve availed myself of them in the past, with different levels of satisfaction. If there is a “private” space for people to interact and learn together, that makes all the difference. Meeting in person changes the dynamics immeasurably, but when you’re scattered around the earth and want to learn something you can’t learn from a teacher where you are, an online class is a great solution.

  5. Amy Callahan

    Is that where everybody went? Snapchat? I have a reluctance to sign up for anything new because I’ve learned long and hard that friends, old and new, never seem to want to engage directly with me, my social media presence always looks like I’m talking to the air, and i am and try not to pretend otherwise. but if this snapchat needs friends or followers that means i’m excluded! i think this might be the point to exclude abusive lame people from harrassing the more successful people. am i a troll? yes i think so! but that doesn’t mean i’m abusive and lame although my parents would probably beg to differ. what do they know about internet jostling and cooperation, though? both of my parents are completely AWOL on the practically every aspect of the internet so…. i don’t know. it causes a somewhat odd black and white tension for me. what i lack is the people who you see both in real life and on the internet. i have none of that, and i think it makes me a little too comfortable with the online world…. intellectually, though, i know something is askew about how this works for me so i try to get across a (kind of) lost wild animal routine because… well obviously nobody is truly actually talking to me. so for me i don’t think snapchat is going to work! i’ll be the last person left on twitter and laughed at but perhaps someone will pay me for it someday. wishfully thinking there’s gotta be some kind of payoff for forced ostracism, right? (echoes) :)

    i VERY much miss the stumbling i used to do through Seattle. it runs like “death” (or not) throughout the left side of my body this missing of Seattle — and in some ways it shouldn’t because i actually did not thrive there. i was, however, very very thrilled to explore so much, it’s sad that it comes at so high a price with so many moments of grief after one has left (or at least that’s how i tend to feel about the Emerald City)

    The internet and sitcom-y and/or preaching of social codes on television has made people very mean for the last 5-10 years although it might be letting up only just recently. maybe since there are no more uranus-pluto squares… a lot of teeth were gritted through all that. there’s got to be some saturn-pluto aspect that we have to think hard about now so we don’t plant the wrong seeds out of the turbulence and angst.

  6. Amy Callahan

    that was probably Too Much Information. sorry about that you can delete the post. enjoy (or, actually don’t enjoy it that much because it could rightly or wrongly remind you of fascism) here’s a song from my college days i think it was one of the factors that knocked me out of the concentrating trance i went into about 1987, at 12. sorry! if some post stops the presses delete it because it must be out of place… too painful for me. Transform Transformation https://youtu.be/lZ3pkY_11kg

  7. Amy Callahan

    sorry. one more thing. about this digital and spiritual divide — it has occurred to me that we don’t need a centralized legislature in Washington anymore. and, that we have these big buildings and campuses called universities — young people with much higher stakes in the future could work out the laws of the land as part of their education, in roughly the same social sphere they were raised in. that is, if professors and faculty can be held to a VERY high ethical standard…. but then again parents, who know all the weaknesses of their young, will surely try to influence and at worst sabotage that setup. so you can’t have that where the future belongs to young people. it does, but it seems the trouble is it can’s much be under their control. so it’s kind of like the internet is the only way to subvert the hierarchy of voices, with anonymity and such. that the West would be less progressive without interstate migration is another way of saying that physical space is inherently more conservative than what we’ve got now…. i think we shouldn’t complain, but i guess encryption might be looking better, it’s just that it is far too depressing for someone like me to encrypt their whole setup and then there is literally no one there, as usually seems to be the case! so i am waiting for someone to show up in the physical space to say you can encrypt and people will be there. maybe part of my issue is i shy away from chatrooms far too much — surely there are computer geeks who will talk about whatever if i can figure this out so it’s possible i’m just being cranky as hell.

    1. Cowboyiam

      Amy, there’s a lot there but I gather you are feeling very vulnerable. That’s a state I can identify with but I have gotten to the place where I am just not interested in working around what anyone thinks of me. I have came out in every unacceptable way – and yes it has affected my standing within my small community – They spied on my internet activity for many years. I just felt that I had the right to go where ever I wanted to expand. I realized everyone was afraid of what others could find out about them online and knew I was being careless (or stupid) but in reality it was an easy way to free myself of pretense. Let go of the good opinion of others and we become freer to follow our truth. It was difficult to be snubbed but it was a death process; I am in the birthing phase now. It is not a stillbirth either; I’m coming out as I am.

      I sense an awakening of my inner self that holds the promise of a fearless freedom that is so compelling I must embody it no matter what the price. My inner guidance is compelling me to complete this trip boldly and showing me evidence of what is actually possible. I do still feel the fear of being judged but – if I don’t defend myself – and I just hold my self-loving space there is safety surrounding me.

      It seems to me that the answer to all of humanity’s problems come down to one selfless act which each of us must do – standup and be exactly who we are, and proudly, mistakes flaws and all! Shame is something we are taught and it as the only problem we have.

      I am not trying to fix me anymore and I cant please the others by being different. They either accept me or don’t but I will not live afraid of what they might find out about me.

      That has been a hard task to deal with but one thing I have found helpful is to allow others to feel as negatively about me as they think they do – but don’t debate who you are with them. When everyone is out of the closet our world will be healing.

      Here is a great Ted-x video about revealing our selves honestly, fearlessly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqtZjpI1oVQ

      1. Amy Callahan

        thanks for the reply Cowboyiam. i watched the Ted video and i get it, the maturity to be able to represents one’s vulnerabilities and strengths for the world to see. kind of transcends the whole introvert/extravert paradigm doesn’t it? i agree with her about secrets being very destructive.

        she, an alcoholic, which can be overcome and is something understood by the culture — she uses the “royal we” often. the “royal we” is so hard for me… it’s a Sagittarian affect and i think i have camouflaged Sagittarius in my chart– this is part of my plan because yes i do not care what others will think of this side of me. i do not want to negotiate it, at least not currently, under the circumstances i have been given. so this not giving a shit what others think i sympathize with you, and this is also why i am so free and easy on the internet, which, i guess gets in the way of accurate perceptions by others of me. still i don’t think this should be a problem. it’s just writing in the first person. non-stop memoir, but perhaps a bit too present tense? for everybody? it has been tackled in contemporary literature but reading novels seems so tedious for some reason.

        i know scorpios really need their secrets defended somehow…. shame being a big issue. fear is my biggest issue, fear of bad things happening in the world. reducing my fears (sometimes it is unreasonable and dangerous fright, so i’m not off the hook) has a conflict of interest with protecting others’ sense of shame.

        i have a mental illness/thought disorder that others don’t understand it seems they can’t remove a sense of tragedy OR shame from their thoughts about me. the reality is i want to describe what about life is scaring me and most of the people in my life take an “out” to what i have to say. Vulnerable? always! i’m pre-rejected in every situation and no, i don’t want to keep secrets it’s too stressful and only exacerbates things.

        i had to take a little day trip to clear my head. i know you can’t tell from what i wrote but that was a little rallying to get my voice and ideas back after expansion in a different area. i’ve always used the internet for idea maintenance and i currently have a fear that these “easy” methods of spewing on the internet are being rendered meaningless and i will be forced to write a blog that tells me with 100% certainty that absolutely nobody is listening. but then again, i’m not so certain they should since i won’t keep the secret and they can’t be expected… bleh bleh. i don’t know maybe i should resort to some sort of metamodern discursive philosophical academia-speak just to seem more acceptable. it’s a bear but i think Plutos in Libra with Neptunes in Sag do have get this acceptability thing nailed before they are done….. thx Cowboyiam this is all very interesting to me.

        1. Cowboyiam

          Amy, you said

          (i have a mental illness/thought disorder that others don’t understand it seems they can’t remove a sense of tragedy OR shame from their thoughts about me.)

          That pretty much describes my frustration with reality also. Being honest for most people means following the proper rules and being seen as proper. I have never been happy hiding my true desires, for the sake of abiding by rules.

          Where I say rules I mean Social Etiquette or trying to blend my opinions with the ruling class. People in general are political creatures and free thinking is not allowed. Most don’t see the automation of reality and so never notice the glitches woven into the fabric, but because I do there is considerable distance between me and most others. Oh, I can play the game, and I did for a long time, but I just don’t anymore so there has been a mass migration of friends. So here I am making new and more suitable friends.

          As for the mental issues many people like us suffer – I truly believe that it just comes down to the unreal reality we are forcing our awareness out of. Considering what lies beyond accepted reality is “crazy” so we appear unbalanced.

          Its like the monkey experiment from the 50’s. Some lab puts 5 monkeys in a pen and there is a ladder up to a perch where banana’s are hung. When the first monkey starts up the stairs the research staff sprays all the monkeys. They do the same every time a monkey starts up until all the monkeys realize they cant go get the banana’s. Then the researchers take one out and replace it with a new monkey. Soon the new guy starts up the stairs for the banana and the other four monkeys freak out and pull him down. Every time one of the original monkeys are replaced with a fresh one the process repeats until none of the original monkeys are left, but still the behavior is repeated and learned – even though no one has any idea why it is so scary to go get the banana’s – even in the face of severe hunger no monkey goes and gets a banana.
          I’m not sure if there ever was a condition where one broke the rule – but I seem to be one who will discuss it openly and that really gets some people angry – even though they don’t really know why.

  8. JereJere

    Amy, I can’t stand the echo of the crickets anymore, so..

    Disclaimer: Just to be honest man, I’m one fucked up cat. Everyone here has experienced my melt-downs and derailments.

    I think I have to make this short ’cause my brain is swirling, and the concepts aren’t coagulating.

    I’ve had to step back into my cave for several years now. Sure, I’ve got a dog, a cat, and a garden,.. but damn man, I truly long for the connection of loving human interaction (whatever that is, ’cause I’m still trying to figure it out).

    I’ve got a few friends who seek me out in the flesh, here and there.. but not often enough to satiate my desires. I don’t pin the lack on them, I’m a freakin’ hermit.. I know how to assert my presence.

    My bag is getting myself to a point where I’m comfortable enough with myself to share with others. PW allows me (thanks guys) to test my skills, adjust accordingly through continuous conversation, and hopefully someday get to the point where flesh-space is as simple, and available as the digital universe.

    Take care man (and jesus freakin’ christ, puts some breaks in your sentences :D ).

    Love and all that good shit,

    Jere

        1. Cowboyiam

          It helps me a lot when respected people agree with me that I am normal and it is our limited society that has a problem and that creates the dysfunction of normal things. It is currently uplifting for me to find so much content on Ted_x and other spaces that is speaking my language. Just felt like it might feel good to you.
          I love you to Jere.

    1. Amy Callahan

      hi Jere sorry about the writing. i do not have friends to come visit me — i did cut some people off because the mental illness — among other things that they don’t HAVE to think about with jobs and kids and homes as a priority — were making the friendships lose-lose.
      i try to tell myself to not take it too terribly but God Almighty i’d like to have at least one actual friend that i can refer to as a friend someday…

      the really dumb part is i have a shit ton of connections in the world. i’m grateful but it is a little i-would-if-i-could and that part is not a positive for me. i mean why bother. but the trouble is i actually cannot sever the connection, as it does serve something or another just not exactly toast and tea which is what i’d far prefer. i should probably move to england, seriously. i could talk about fear and shame all the livelong day, seems-like? yes. hard to say that without sounding like a brit. thnx i feel better now i so do (do so? *—Brit) need to test my skills too!

  9. Amanda MorenoAmanda Moreno Post author

    Thanks for the comments and discussion and show of community, y’all……. I’m in the middle of a string of 10-12 hour work days while dealing with some other personal things, and although I keep thinking I’ll have the time to type out some thoughtful responses, I’m also aware of how many digital instants are passing. So again, thanks for the comments and as always, for the sharing and opening up.

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