Privacy in a public place

I’ve been a Facebook devotee for a good few years now. I love keeping in touch with distant friends and being able to pick up naturally with them whenever we cross paths in the physical world. But I’m careful about what I post and who I’m friends with. In particular I’m careful not to vent negative emotions and I choose not to befriend immediate work colleagues.

Enter the blog. Now I’m reassessing my privacy rules for my blog and wondering how to strike the balance between speaking openly and honestly about my yoga, but aware that I might not be able to control my readership at all. The connectivity and immediacy of communication forces us all to ask these questions. My wise boss once advised me “you can’t put the genie back in the bottle” and I like to think that as I’ve grown up I’ve learned the virtue of keeping my mouth shut occasionally, though I do often consciously bring his words to mind.

I guess in yoga terms we could think of this as the balance between ahimsa/non-harming (and this with regard to oneself as well as others) and satya/truth. Another wise person once said in the context of academic book reviews that you shouldn’t write anything you wouldn’t happily say to the author’s face. I think that’s what I’m getting at, minus the fancy Sanskrit terms: I want to record and share my experiences at a meaningful, but not embarrassing, level.

And this negotiation of maintaining privacy within a public space came up at work recently in an interesting way since the company I work for has just opened up a meeting room as a meditation space a couple of lunchtimes a week. Now if I think too hard about it I admit that I’m slightly ambivalent about meditation/mindfulness at work (there’s much I agree with in Ed Halliwell’s Guardian piece, but I think that’s mostly about the implementation of such practices in the workplace, rather than the practices themselves — though I then got sidetracked by the notion of McMindfuless. Something for another post perhaps?). When I was publicising this initiative among colleagues, I was pleased at how much interest there was, but what really struck me was  how anxious everyone was about meditating in a group, or rather in a group of work colleagues. It seemed to make them feel nervous and exposed, as though they were going to be judged in some way on either their participation or their quality of meditation. One colleague even voiced concerns about the small glass panel in the door to the room — in case passers-by stopped and pressed their noses to the glass and spotted him.

And  I wondered why I didn’t feel the same way, given that I’m usually a pretty private person and I do like to keep a healthy separation between work and personal lives. Perhaps it’s simply habit? I learned to meditate in a group, I used to attend a weekly sitting group, I’ve been on retreat, and of course every yoga class begins and/or ends with some quiet shared moments, even if you don’t choose to view the whole asana practice as a group meditation.

So for me the Boardroom meditation was just another sitting practice. I actually found I positively enjoyed the presence of colleagues who had all chosen to give themselves a little time out in a busy corporate day. I did miss the cosy socks I wear at home though!

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