I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by how much I like Twitter. I’ve met the nicest people, and learned so much. After initial resistance, I got it right away: somehow, the constraints of the form – 140 characters, forcing an almost surgical shaving down of whatever it was you thought you needed to say – produce an immediacy that can encourage honesty, active communication, and swift action. Of course, to have this experience, you need to be finding and following the right people, which I clearly am.
One of the things that most surprised me is the generosity Twitter seems to inspire. It tickles me when people follow me out of the blue for no discernible reason other than shared interests. And when they respond thoughtfully to something I’ve posted, or say something nice about my blog, well, it’s still pretty magical.
That’s how I “met” Priscilla Warner, New York Times bestselling author of “The Faith Club.” Although I didn’t know that at the time – at first she was just @PrisWarner. A quick leap to her Website informed me that she wasn’t just a very cool person, but an incredibly accomplished one as well.
When she graciously offered to send me a copy of her new book to read I leapt at the chance. “Learning to Breathe” is her lively, engaging account of a year spent exploring meditation practice as a tool to manage, and ultimately change the course of her lifetime experience of panic disorder. As someone interested in all “complementary” means of working with mental health challenges, I knew I would enjoy the topic. And from the first page, I knew I would enjoy the book. Her writing is as warm and funny, generous and compelling.
I didn’t expect to cry as many times as I did, but then again I had no idea the things we would have in common. For instance, like Priscilla, I was struck when I was little with epiglottitis, a life-threatening inflammation of tissue at the back of the throat.This caused us both to have perilous, frightening stays in the ICU, and to hear a lifetime of stories of how much fear we caused our families. I had never considered how much this early childhood experience might affect me now as an adult, until I watched her draw that line of understanding. Who knows how long I would have taken to have that epiphany (if ever) if I we had not stumbled upon one another in the Twitterverse For this, and for many other recognitions and realizations, I am so grateful to have read this book.
Around the same time, I met @heartfulmindful, a meditation teacher in New Zealand. It only took a moment scanning his Website to determine that he was also Peter Fernando, and we had, amazingly, almost bumped in to one another previously in the real world. Peter spent much of his twenties living as a monk at Abhayagiri, a Buddhist monastery in the Thai Forest tradition that just happens to be in the beautiful hills of Mendocino, a couple hours from my house. Field trips to sit with the monks were a treasured and key ingredient in my teacher training studies at Yoga Mendocino. We quickly became quite certain that we had sat mere zafus away from one another, years ago.
Peter has developed an online course called “A Month of Mindfulness”, for those not fortunate enough to work with him in person in New Zealand. It is extensive, heartfelt online support for those either looking to begin or deepen an existing meditation practice. Written materials, emails, audio guided meditations and even videos are clearly crafted so lovingly, and provide such thoughtful discourse on all the very real, painful pitfalls – distraction, doubt, despair – that can assail anyone who attempts to sit and be still.
The video talks are real gems. They remind me so much of his teacher, Ven. Ajahn Amaro, for many years abbot of Abhayagiri, but sadly for me, recently called to work back in his native England (I wonder if I’ll find him on Twitter someday?) Watching Peter, I was reminded that people who spend a lot of time working with meditation and mindfulness don’t become dour and reserved, but delightful, open, and very, very funny. He is clearly having a great time, and it inspires one to have some of whatever he’s having.
I am deeply grateful to have encountered both these teachers through the Twitter mandala. And for all the little lessons I’ve been offered there, 140 characters at a time.
Click here for more on Priscilla Warner.
Click here for more on Peter Fernando.