Tag Archives: communication

body language and cyber language

my new-found friend sheldon from the kitzul connection wrote this the other day:

given the world we live in with social media dominating our relationshipscapes, why all the love??!

i have had this brewing in the back of my mind for a while now. but it really hit home during a recent trip to the interior. i am an avid twitterer and saw that a connection from there was also traveling to kelowna the same time i was there. i sent her a message and asked if she would like to meet for coffee or a drink. she agreed. my friend and i went to meet her one evening and during our conversation we talked about how easily we give up trust in people we meet this way. i have had many recent examples where i meet people from twitter or elsewhere for coffee. having never met each other, without fail, one party always leaves their belongings at the table after the hand-shake to go get a coffee. somehow, having never met you in person, i’m willing to leave my laptop, keys, cell phone etc with you. i have just transferred my trust to you.

in kelowna, the woman we met with told us that her husband had offered to come along and she declined feeling that she trusted us – two strangers. did she have enough information from our tweets and blogs to know we were trustworthy?

being the woman in question, i thought i`d say something about this. in fact, i, too, think that this is a very interesting phenomenon. just one observation, about what i’d like to call bodylanguage and cyberlanguage.

you know how they always say that social media is a poor method of communication because we`re missing the body language? it is true that in written social media we miss body language (not so much when it comes to video, of course) but there is an equivalent in social media – let me call it cyberlanguage. i’m sure linguists and postmodern woollymouths have created a term for it but – well, let’s leave that for now. this cyberlanguage is quite rich. let’s look at twitter and just some of the many ways we communicate outside of the informational content of the text:

  • mode of interaction with others. do we reply to others? is there evidence of actual conversation with others? what is the nature of that interaction? friendly, hostile, fun, etc.?
  • evidence of self-involvement. does the person tweet nothing but her or his own “wisdom”, or references to their blog or web site?
  • what do the avatar and twitter backgrounds say about the person? fun? boring? interesting? unusual?
  • what does the bio say? is there a link to a web site or blog?
  • what is the writing style? formal, informal, flowery, abrupt … ? can they spell? how do they use punctuation and symbols?

and the list goes on … i often think people are developing their own unique cyberlanguage, their own internet voice print, so to say. the more time we spend online, the better we are able to discern the subtle undertones and colorations of these voices. we can judge them according to more common standards (e.g. use of swearwords, uniqueness of twitter background, amount of retweets, etc.) but we can also attune to our own resonances. maybe the person uses certain expressions that really appeal to me. maybe the person has a ratio of conversation to just-talking-to-myself that makes me feel comfortable.

and then of course there is also the content, both of the tweets and of the bio and the web sites that the bio leads to. in my case, i did go to sheldon’s blog, where i had been before, and discovered that he spoke favorable of research on drug addiction by bruce alexander, one of my favourite psychology professors at sfu.

did all of this guarantee that sheldon was a good guy and not a serial killer? of course not. but how different is that from real life?

what do you think of the idea of a unique cyberlanguage?

depression and exercise

exercise – it works for depression is the title of a post i wrote for brainblogger the other day. it is about a large-scale study, the SMILE study (standard medical intervention and long-term exercise, conducted at duke university), which found that vigorous exercise three times a week for half an hour or forty-five minutes reduced symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressants. there is the beginning of an interesting discussion in the comments about how to discuss findings like with people who are in the midst of depression.

any thoughts on this?

speaking the truth

you are reading an article about truth right now.

at this moment, your eyes are working sufficiently to be able to read this article, which is written in lower case, and involves a quote by nietzsche. in the alternative, you are listening to an audio program that is translating these words into voice, or someone is reading this to you.

you have taken a breath in the last five minutes.

you are riding a live dolphin right now.

four statements. i am 99.999% certain that the first two are correct and that the second one is not. three, we could say, are true, and one is a lie.

certain. correct. true. lie. words that seem so easy to use until you start thinking about them. “honesty” is another one. i remember years ago i went to a series of training sessions for therapists who were conducting therapy groups, and one of the guidelines was that we should tell the truth. very soon it became obvious to me that that was easier than done. here are some of the challenges:

  • in order for to tell the truth, we need to know it
  • “knowledge is but a small drop in the vast ocean of truth” – quoted by one of my revered philosophy professors, norman swartz, in reference to newton’s famous saying
  • is truth fixed or variable?

there are many more questions, but let’s start with these three.

how about the last one – is truth fixed or variable? notice how the statements at the beginning of this post all have reference to a certain moment. if something is not tied to coordinates either in space or time, can we know anything for certain about it? (and let’s leave aside the question whether truth is about “knowing for certain” – something that philosophers love to argue about).

now of course i am interested in how the concept of truth relates to human interaction. so here’s a somewhat scary thought: when we say “i love you”, we really want this to be the truth, and when we hear it, we want that even more to be the case. now try “i love you now”. not quite the same, is it? often we skimp on “truth” in favour of hope, beauty, comfort and other noble sentiments. is that a good thing? should we stick with truth no matter what? would it be a good idea to practice being more precise? because the truth in a romantic relationship is closer to “if i don’t get bored with you, and don’t fall in love with someone else, and we don’t have too many fights, and raising children and paying mortgages doesn’t wear us down, i hope i’ll love you for a long time.” i don’t know if truth is conditional, but it certainly seems that the things we say to be the truth are. kabbalah scholar michael laitman, appears to be thinking along these lines when he says that what we call truth is directly related to desires.
nietzsche’s words that “all things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth” are interesting in this connection as well.

let’s move on to another idea, the one about the ocean of knowledge. the first three statements above imply that a bit. the moment you read the first word of the first statement of this entry, you and the world around you are faced with an immense amount of truth. which one will you focus on? which one do you want to or can you pay attention to? which one will you be completely oblivious to or will insist to exclude?

this is something that gets in our way a lot when it comes to interpersonal communication. the myers briggs instructions for making pumpkin soup are an amusing example of that. the “intuitive” personality approaches making pumpkin soup as an interesting creative project; for the “sensory” personality it is a technical challenge (“chop mushroom and onions. caliper will be helpful here. 3/16th inch thickness recommended.”) making pumpkin soup, even though it may result in the same product, is experienced from two totally different points of view: the intuitive type lives in a world of possibilities, so that in thinking and talking about truth, she will select from the “ocean of truth” those aspects that she sees as belonging to that world; the sensory type lives in the realm of measurement and tangibles, so in describing the truth, her language will spring from that realm.

“in order to speak the truth, we need to know it.” and in order to know it, we need to be able to recognize it. this recognition is very difficult when we have the blind spots that we just discussed, blind spots that are caused by numerous conditions. personality type is one of them but it gets even simpler: a car mechanic, for example, has a totally different take on the truth about my car than i do; i would not be able to tell the difference between truth and fiction when it comes to carburetors. and going back to the group i mentioned earlier, there are some things that i knew i didn’t know about myself, some of which i know now. the “honest truth” was elusive. the consequence of that is a judiciary use of “i don’t know” (without using it as an excuse or escape) or “this is what i know right now.” this, of course, reopens the can of worms i touched on before: truth is one thing, knowing about the truth another, and then talking about it yet another. saying “i don’t know” isn’t always popular (it definitely often isn’t perceived as popular), and saying “this is what i know now” can often be taken as weasely.

okay – so now what? the truth is, it’s late at night, i’m tired, and i’d like to know what you think so far …

be the change: violent criminals

marshall rosenberg, the man known for his work in nonviolent communication, appears in the section off the cushion and into life in be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world). he works a lot in prisons.

the people there have done some stuff that i really do not like, like sexually molesting children. so i usually ask each one of them what need of theirs was being met when they did that. and i usually get back, “huh?” because nobody has ever asked them that question before. so i will say, “i’d like to know what need you were trying to meet when you were doing that.” then they’ll usually answer something like, “i do it because i’m a pervert.” and i say, “now you are telling me what you think you are. i am asking what needs of yours are getting met?” and they say, “what the hell are you talking about?” and i say, “i believe you are doing this for the same reason that i do everything. i think you are doing it because it is the best way you know of meeting some need you have. that is what i do every moment – the best i know to meet my needs. and i am confident that if we can get clear about what needs of yours are being met by doing that, i bet we can find other ways of getting those needs met that don’t create so much pain for you and others.

mindfulness is about attending to what’s right in front of us. right in front of marshall rosenberg is a person. it is a person with a past, who has done violence to a child, and a future, who may do it again, or become a priest, or die the next day. but right in front of marshall there is a person, and about persons marshall knows that they have needs. there is something starkly sober and yet infinitely loving about cutting to the chase like that.

“if meditation and mindfulness make me forget the horrible crimes people like that have committed – no thanks.”

“if meditation and mindfulness help me to be loving even in such a tough situation, i want it!”

i can understand both reactions. which one is yours?

spiritual language

a while ago we talked about the lack of scripts for talking about mental illness (at least in “polite society”), and before that we had a conversation about how uncomfortable it can be to engage in peaceful communication.  and now evan took up the topic the other day and asked how can we talk about our spiritual experience?

“i find it hard to talk about spirituality,” he says.  which is interesting: spirituality is a much talked-about topic, especially on the internet.  so what’s the problem?  let me attempt to summarize evan’s ideas:

we don’t share a widely understood language, notwithstanding the fact that many different religions are represented, from christian to buddhist to new age.  in the media, these languages appear side by side, almost as flavours to go shopping for.  this is very different from the experience of spirituality, which, to name but a few,  can go to the depths of who we are, can mean “waking up” or “dying and being re-born”, or can have a feeling of inevitability – very different from shopping.

the wide variety of languages that can be found can also be beneficial; we now have the opportunity to talk to people from many spiritual traditions, even those who have none.

we need to represent our spiritual experiences, with poetic and academic words, with images, with sound – and we will probably be telling our spiritual stories for a long while before we will start understanding the language.  we will need to become sympathetic and respectful listeners and viewers and doers. our language will need to stay close to our experience.

this is different from religion, which has often been presented in terms of intellectual belief. this leaves out much of our experience: the delights of the senses, the connecting with others through emotion, moments of transcendence and intimacy …

evan finishes the post with this:

this post i hope is just a preliminary. i would like to hear about your spiritual experiences and whether these experiences have led you to any particular tradition; have you drawn on various different traditions, or even formulated your own? what aspects of your life do you regard as spiritual? are there some parts of your life that you don’t see as spiritual?

i am curious about that, too.  before we go on to exploring this, i thought it would also be interesting to go back to the two posts i mentioned at the beginning and see whether some of the commenters have ideas that may apply to spirituality.

make it positive

alexander zoltai suggested framing things in positive terms.  so perhaps rather than saying “it’s difficult to talk about spirituality” we could say “discussing spirituality is new for me and i’m excited about experimenting with different ways of talking about it.”

avoid labels

evan himself had the idea of avoiding labels.  instead of mentioning the catch word spirituality or words like god, church, prayer, etc. one could describe the actual experience.  “the other day i went for this beautiful walk; the leaves were of all conceivable shades of red, gold and brown, the sky was blue, the air was fresh and clean; it just made me so happy and grateful to be there right at that moment!”

do we really need to talk?  how about listening?

listening is something that ian from quantum learning said is important: “listen for what sits under the words of others”.  talking is about communication.  communication is as much, or more, about listening as it is about speaking.  listening closely to what the other has to say, or wants to say, may give us clues about how to engage with them regarding spirituality.  or it may just end up being that listening to them will be our spiritual experience.

choose who you talk to

sandy said that in connection with talking about mental illness it “takes quite a bit of getting to know someone before they’ll own that their life has a problem.”  in my experience, they same holds true regarding spirituality.  maybe that takes us back to listening again.  through listening we form relationships, relationships that may then be ripe for a discussion of spiritual experiences.

yet another commenter wrote that it feels good to share such experiences with others who have been there themselves.

using the written word

marie said “having a blog that brazenly describes what is going on with me ‘in secret’ is helpful. i write under a pen name; but when i want to share that side of me with someone in my 3D world, i can simply point them to my blog.”  this reminds me of a minister i was once friends with.  we could talk about a gazillion things but not about spiritual matters – for that we needed the framework of the pulpit, from which he spoke most movingly.

just keep talking

another commenter recounted that the only way he achieved a well enough state to have nice conversation as well s complete wellness was by continuously talking.  so here the advice would be to just keep on talking, no matter what.  this goes with what another commenter mentioned, namely that it’s important to remember that when we are afraid of judgment by others for talking about “strange” subjects, it often comes from being afraid to be judged my ourselves.   not everyone will understand, and that’s ok.

what do you think?  how can we talk about spirituality?

twitter rant

twitterokay, guys ‘n’ gals, i gotta get this off my chest.

as you know, i’m an avid twitter (over) user.  i love it.  and there are two things that have made me roll my eyes quite a bit lately.   it’s easier to pontificate on this on a blog, so i’m using this platform.  (as you can see, i already have way over 140 characters).


when you reply to someone, be specific.  how am i supposed to know what you’re talking about when i get a @reply that says, “that was great!”  WHAT was great?  if you’re afraid of the 140-character limit, one or two words will usually be enough.  for example, i could reply to robert hruzek from middle zone musings fame by saying, “right on re transparency!” and he’ll know what i’m talking about.

or you could do what i just did – you could include the link to the actual individual tweet.  you do this by clicking on the timestamp right underneath the tweet.  then you get something like vancouver’s famous miss 604’s tweet asking for links to events in vancouver.

DMs – direct messages

and the other thing?  impersonal, spammy direct messages or DMs.  direct messages show up in my email inbox, so it better be something that’s directly related to me as a person.  not as a consumer.  please DO NOT auto DM me, or send me a DM if i don’t know you to give me a “gift” of a video that plugs your ideas/services/product.  margaret mason has a good article on how to use twitter politely, including the use of DMs. pete quily is a great example of someone using DMs intelligently.  that’s pete from ADD strengths (the world’s best blog about ADD/ADHD – attention deficit disorder, or as i like to call it “the gift of chaotic attention”).

oh, and why do i give you all the links to these people?  is it just link bait?   i don’t think so.  it’s all about making connections.  that’s what social media is about.  making meaningful connections.  please help your fellow tweeple understand the connections.  tell them what you’re replying to.  and when you want to make a new connection, it really isn’t that difficult.  impersonal, meaningless DMs irritate me; retweeting and replying will get my positive attention.

buddhist carnival, may 2009 – the mixed-bag-it’s-all-connected edition

may 15 – time for another buddhist carnival. if you want to see previous buddhist carnivals, go here.

today there is no topic, really, just a criss-cross romp through the buddhasphere.

another enlightenment machine
… like the one you see depicted to the right. here are some explanations

i have made an exciting new “thought to textâ„¢” technological breakthrough that has enabled me to record my actual thoughts and non-thoughts. Today I unveil to the world for the first time a transcript of one of my deep meditation sessions.

[CAUTION: this thought to textâ„¢ transcript is uncensored. if you are squeamish about the human condition, please click away now.]

START : thought to textâ„¢ TRANSMISSION:

ok, here i am meditating. i’m so pumped up for this session!!!1! i just know i’m gonna break on through to the other side this time. i got a feeling enlightenment is going to be cool, enlightened dudes get all the hot babes. i know somehow, someway this meditation is going to lead to more money for me. everybody in abundance-land doesn’t care about money because i know they have a hidden stash somewhere. there is probably a secret enlightened ATM cash machine with lots of clouds around it and a rainbow over the top of it. i can’t wait until a wise old voice sends me my PIN number in the mail.

excited?  me, too.  see what monkmojo is up to.

usually we start with a poem; this time i had to get monkmojo out of the way first. but here’s the poem – an excerpt from one of my twitter friend dirk johnson’s poetry notebook

i offer you a cool and gentle breeze
on a sultry day.

i offer you the toxic spill
in a stream by an apartment building.

i offer you refineries burning
off waste gas in a miasma of stench.

i offer you the hiss of wind in grass,
thunder, and heavy rain.

whet your appetite? here it is in all its glory.

kant and buddha
if philosophy is your bag, you’ll enjoy this:

ironically, this treatment of kant is much like the western reception of buddhism, in which it has been branded as nihilistic, romantic, mystical, atheistic, and so on. as with kant, the enormous corpus of buddhist writings makes it easy to cherry-pick those that agree with our temperaments or prejudices (either favorably or unfavorably). i cannot claim a comprehensive knowledge of either, but i can say that my experience of both has taught me to be extremely suspicious of “extreme” interpretations of either.

the rest is here.

fear and the economy
dharmabrother takes the difficulties with the economy with serenity:

i refuse to be afraid of losing my job, even in this economy, because that fear is poisonous and inhibits the practice. good workers get laid off for a variety of reasons, even outright fired because they suddenly do not match the goals of the organization.

don’t know
“don’t know”, says the good blogger at ox herding, “forms the core of buddhism”

one time, zen master seung sahn said:

i don’t teach korean or mahayana or zen. i don’t even teach buddhism. i only teach don’t know. fifty years here and there teaching only don’t know. so only don’t know, okay?

nothing happens
“don’t know” and “nothing happens” are cousins. i was interested to come across this blog, aging as a spiritual practice:

nothing happens when you die: two contemporary buddhist masters ” suzuki roshi and the 16th karmapa ” both said this. when the karmapa was dying ” according to people who were there ” he opened his eyes and said, “nothing happens.”

and in suzuki roshi’s book not always so he says, “don’t worry about dying. nothing is going to happen.”

well. this is the kind of out-there statement that skeptics of buddhism point to as a way of discrediting it.

this brings me back again to the post earlier about kant and buddhism. everything is connected.


what am i to do in the face of another person’s suffering? how can i best live my vow? the thing i’m called to practice is “deep listening.” to put aside my own concerns about “what to do” and instead give my full attention to what’s in front of me. and to listen within, to notice how my own suffering gets aroused by hearing the other’s story. that is what’s meant by mindfulness: to witness what arises inside and outside of ourselves from moment to moment, in thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

more here. again, i see connections; to the deep “nothing” that is so important in buddhism – and to my post a few days ago about peaceful communication where ian peatey pointed so wisely to listening (and silence) as a good communication tool (which again reminds me of my post on improving on silence – it just goes round and round, doesn’t it?)

and finally, before we close this with a nod to my friend william, here’s a fellow canadian therapist i discovered the other day, who posted on research about zen meditation and pain relief

grant and rainville noticed a marked difference in how their two test groups reacted to pain testing – zen meditators had much lower pain sensitivity (even without meditating) compared to non-meditators. during the meditation-like conditions it appeared meditators further reduced their pain partly through slower breathing: 12 breaths per minute versus an average of 15 breaths for non-meditators.

four noble truths, street version
and here comes william

1. the nature of shit is that it stinks
2. we stink because we have smeared ourselves with shit
3. we can be free of the stink and the shit
4. a dude laid out 8 steps to free ourselves from shit

next buddhist carnival is june 15th. send me your ssss…tuff.