I recently had the chance to explore an interesting perspective on social media – that of Shireen, who as a member of the Brahma Kumaris at Peace Village in the Catskills, who provided invaluable insights into a more spiritual perspective on social technology.
SM: Hi I’m Simon Mainwaring, and I’m hear at IVOH at Peace Village in Catskills. I spend a lot of time focused on tools, tactics and technology, but one of the great privileges of being here is that I get to speak with people who have a deeply spiritual and profound outlook on life. So I thought I’d ask one of the members of the Brahma Kumari, Shireen, a little bit about how she sees in the role of social technology in our lives.
SC: Thank you, Simon. It’s my pleasure.
SM: I think, as we discussed, I came to We First and writing this blog out of finding a greater sense of meaning and purpose in my life, and I know that you went through a similar journey. You started off as a civil engineer?
SC: I actually came to this country to go to graduate school, and what happened after I finished graduate school, right after I finished my graduate school I found the Brahma Kumaris. I thought, “Life is going to be hunky dory. Great, I can go sit in my room and meditate.” But the Brahma Kumari’s are all about going into the world and using your spirituality in the outside world, so no one let me do that. No one let me sit in.
There’s an incident I want to relate to you about what happened one day. I was working as a civil engineer and I was in corporate America at that time. I was a brand new civil engineer and a brand new Brahma Kumari. Both were happening at the same time. We were asked to work on a project in Brazil, or in South America somewhere. It was to do with the Amazon rainforest and it was to do with building roads there and cutting down the forest. I was going through a lot of turmoil. If I should do it, I shouldn’t do it, if I don’t do it I won’t have a job and if I don’t have a job I won’t have my papers to go here.
So I was going through all that and finally I decided I would sit in meditation and think about it. The decision was actually taken out of my hands the next day. Even though I decided not to do it, I didn’t have to say it. So someone else took the job because they wanted it more. I didn’t say “I don’t want to do it,” because someone else said it. But what happened was, when I was looking at the other person who took the job, I couldn’t judge him. I couldn’t say “Oh, but he’s selling his soul. He’s going and cutting rainforests and things like that,” because I saw the story behind why he made that choice. I saw that he had two kids, he had a mortgage, and he really needed this. He needed to do whatever he could to feed his family. So there wasn’t that judgment, but I was really deeply thinking at that point, about what is it that makes people make the choices they make about purpose and all those things in their life. And I really feel that, yes, I can’t judge people. It’s not my place to judge people, whatever choices they’re making in their life. If they need to be connected all the time, like in social media 24/7, it’s not my place to judge people. It’s good for each of us, individually, to think about: is this coming from a higher purpose? Especially with my mind. How are my thoughts? Are my thoughts on a higher level, or are they making me into a robot?
SM: I completely understand. So when it comes to social media – and I know you’re part of the online presence of Release Your Wings which is a website – do you think these tools like your website or Twitter or Facebook or Google+, do you think they’re a positive or a negative?
SC: I have a story to share. I always answer my questions with stories. This is a story I read recently. You’ll have to tell me if I’m being a good storyteller because I’m learning storytelling. Anyway, there is this beautiful village, kind of like Peace Village. It’s a little bigger, in a valley. There are many beautiful people in there and they’re really happy and whenever they need something from the outside world they go to the outside world and come back in. But one day, there’s a fire spitting dragon that comes and blocks the entrance of the village to the outside world. Anyone who passes, it spits fire and won’t let that person leave. They don’t know what to do, so the bravest person in the village says “I can slay the dragon.” He goes with two things of fire because he fights with fire. His sword is fire. He goes to the dragon and tries to slay the dragon with fire, and the dragon comes out with four more of these things and the dragon burns the bravest person in the village. Then, after a few weeks, the next person volunteers and says, “I can slay the dragon because I’m a sword fighter.” He goes in with a sword and the dragon pulls out two swords, cuts him into ten pieces and that’s the end of that. Then, the next guy comes along and says, “I can slay the dragon because I have bows and arrows and I don’t have to get close to the dragon.” He takes his quiver full of arrows, goes there, and the dragon has twice the amount of arrows and shoots him down.
They’re kind of isolated now. It’s been a year. The dragon is sitting there, nobody is able to go out. So the village fool says, “I think I know how to slay the dragon.” And everybody says, “But you’re the village fool. How do you know how to slay the dragon? The dragon is really ferocious.” But he says, “No, I can slay the dragon.” Then, everyone lets him because they feel like they’re not really going to miss him if he dies. So he goes by with shaking arms and he takes two apples and he goes close to the dragon and gives the dragon these two apples. The dragon looks at this guy and he takes out four apples. And that’s how he was able to slay the dragon. Because he realized that whatever you feed the dragon, he’s going to feed it back twice as much. I feel like social media or any online presence is like that. Whatever I feed it, it will give more back.
SM: I think that’s such a powerful story for everyone who’s overwhelmed with social media and our digital lives now. Is there any advice you’d give us in terms of balancing purpose and online engagement and social media? In your experience, how do you make sure you stay true to your purpose while still feeding the dragon this insatiable beast called online living?
SC: I was appreciating what you’re doing, really, because it takes a great amount of responsibility to have people following you, especially with so many people following you, and so many people that you feel responsible for where you have to do the right thing. I feel that anyone who creates that has that sense of responsibility to their audience or their participants or their community. If feel that sense of responsibility can only be fed, that purpose and without it being a depleting energy is that you find online sources for your spiritual content. If that’s the place you’re going to go for other content, if that’s where you’re going to buy whatever you’re going to buy (nowadays everyone I know shops online) so if you’re going to go buy that, even for spirituality, you have to use that.
SM: So you need to replenish yourself. Well, I find your insight and perspective absolutely invaluable. How do we find Release Your Wings? And if people wanted to find out more about the Brahma Kumaris, where would they go?
Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.