04/24/2009 12:05 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Virtues of Virtual Reality

Okay, I'm back. Where have I been? Writing a new book on resilience would be the classiest answer. And I did do that. Really. It's Not the End of the World: Developing Resilience in Times of Change will be out September 1. But where I've really been for most of the winter and early spring is traveling in an alternate reality. No, this is not the result of 40 years of meditation. It's the result of social networking. I've been wandering in the Facebook World.
Who'd have thought it? I've made about 1400 new friends in the past few months. I even know a couple of them in real life.
Once upon a time I was dismissive of social networking sites. Postings like "I just came out of the bathroom; now I'm going for a walk; I have eaten the last of my Godiva chocolates," scared me silly. Face it, I sneered to myself, who really cares? Unless you're the Dalai Lama or a major celebrity trailed by mindless hordes eager to feast on the crumbs of your life, it would be a boon to the world if you'd just get over yourself.
Sound a bit cynical? You've just met my alter ego, the Queen of Darkness. I'm usually more gracious and conciliatory--at least in public. But somehow cyber networking feels curiously private . Which it decidedly is not. Your boss doesn't want to see pictures of you in your underwear and I don't want to see your new dentures, or worse, photos of your foot surgery. There are higher spheres of consciousness to roam in, even on Facebook.
When I took the first tentative steps into this alternate reality it was simply fun to reconnect with real friends whom I hadn't heard from in years. Kind of like a virtual reunion. The strange joy of connecting to some one you went to camp with in the Pleistocene Era is an interesting phenomenon. Were I still in the research biz, it might even make a worthwhile study. If you didn't like each other a zillion years ago, just why are you so fascinated by reconnecting now?
As I stepped further into Facebook Land I had a bona fide revelation. I could glean real-time information about my grandkids who live a thousand miles away by checking their mom's FB page. Why bother Grandma with news that 18-month old Sophie was in the ER last night, after all? She's fine now, and the whole story is there on FB anyway in real time. If this isn't the Truman Show it's close.
Then slowly but surely a colorful collage of characters began to populate my small corner of Facebook Reality, and hold conversations with me and one another on my wall. Morning coffee in hand, I read postings from Tibetan lamas discussing nonduality and the Buddha's method of cutting through delusion and awakening to ultimate reality. Other "friends" posted a variety of insights worth thinking about. And, of course, some people posted drek. I promise not to mention the foot surgery again.
The more interesting conversational threads spawned the idea that my Facebook page could become a virtual spiritual salon. (To some this may be worse than postings about dentures, but each to their own reality). What is freedom and how does it feel in your body? I queried as the Easter/Passover/Equinox time of rebirth and renewal rolled around. Dozens of responses appeared on my wall in minutes, most of them concerning the judgmental habits of mind that keep us stuck in old patterns in contrast to an open, curious stance to life that allows fresh insight to emerge moment by moment.
My FB friend Edie talked about freedom as an inherent trust in the flow and process of life, a letting go of expectations about how things "should" be and an acceptance of what is...a kind of unconditional surrender to the unfolding now. The physical response to surrender is relaxation, lightness, and spaciousness. That body sense is accompanied by a kind of intuitive genius that is a window to appropriate response. In my experience surrender definitely beats resisting or freaking out, and it keeps your cortisol levels down as well. But it brings up a lot of other questions.
So here's my invitation to you. Lets start our own spiritual salon here on Huffington Post. How about taking the freedom inquiry a little further. What does it mean to surrender to a situation? Is it an abdication of responsibility? An opening to a larger field of information? What's your experience? I'll be on the lookout for your responses here, and eager to respond. And, if you're so inclined, look me up on Facebook some time. Just don't post any pictures of your appendectomy.