Yes, I cried.
I didn’t mean to cry. I almost didn’t know why I was crying even as I was crying. But it all made sense somehow.
It was at the tail end of this panel on the second day:
10:35 – 11:35 – Wisdom Teachings in the Internet Age: Opportunities and Challenges
Mallika Chopra (Founder, Intent.com)
Alana Kornfeld (Living Editor, Huffington Post)
Susan Kaiser Greenland (The Mindful Child)
Mary Ann Brussat (SpiritualityandPractice.com)
Moderated by Tami Simon (Sounds True)
This was a powerful, all-women panel and the women were speaking about the ebbs and flows of mindfulness in their lives. They spoke about sangha or spiritual community. They spoke about their work and their approach to business and the lessons they’ve learned over time. And they spoke often about the division of work and life, the duality of their tech selves and their non-tech selves.
And I had an epiphany. I was watching a panel of intelligent and spiritual women, some of whom were clearly mothers, and none of them mentioned how their children act or react in the more technical world we live in today.
I was excited about the notion that we – the panelists, myself, everyone in the room, even the world – could learn from watching how our children interact with technology. My mind was filled with images of my 3.5 year old daughter and her facility with tech gadgets, but more importantly, her compete lack of mentally separating the physical from the virtual realm or the offline from the online.
My daughter can use an iPhone as if it were an extension of herself so I gave her my refurbished iPod Touch. She also walks up to my laptop and touches the screen or walks up to our television set and touches the screen, trying to move things around.
“It’s not working, mommy,” she’ll tell me.
“We’re not smart enough yet to make it work, baby,” I tell her. Of course, this was months before the iPad appeared on the scene.
My daughter does not struggle with the separation of work and life, of Internet and face-to-face. She sees and knows no difference.
So can we not learn from our children?
Or are we going to plague our children with our own limitations, our fears, our uncomfortableness with moving seamlessly from online to off and back?
Will we squeeze out the joy and peace and fluidity of our children’s experience with and perception of technology and our world?
I was so excited about these ideas that I wanted to share them. Knowing that the sessions in the conference were being cut short, I quickly sought out the man who held the audience microphone. I stood up to be visible, and it wasn’t hard to be visible because I was wearing a pink tiara and boa as I have been wearing to conferences I’ve been attending.
The man didn’t see me. He walked to another part of the room. I sat down for a moment but was too excited to sit still so I stood again. Finally, the man looked my way and acknowledged that I was next as he made his way across the room. As he got to my side, the moderator said time was up, no more questions from the audience, then she posed one more question to the panel.
As each one answered, I was too caught up in wanting to share my epiphany. I asked the man quietly and politely for the microphone.
“She’s not going to call on you,” he said.
“She might,” I replied.
So he handed me the mic. And I stood with the mic in my hand, looking up at the stage. I actually found myself saying internally “Oh no, she’s not going to call on me” and then I realized how my thinking negative thoughts could make it so and changed my internal voice to “she’ll call on me, she’ll call on me.”
“I’m so excited!” I said to my husband who was sitting next to me.
“I know you are. I can feel you vibrating,” he replied.
As the moderator was wrapping up the session, I was now pleading inside “please call on me, please call on me.”
And then the session was over. The man reached over to take the microphone out of my hands. I sat down. And I cried.
Looking back I know that I “did it to myself,” that I was so caught up in my own excitement, in my own ideas, in my own need to share, that I created an emotional vortex that ended in disappointment. I chastised myself for being a poor example of Zen practices. I didn’t feel embarrassed, though, especially because the people around me seemed to be rooting for me to be called on as well. It was just a weird and awkward moment, and I accepted that.
Afterward, I walked over to speak with Malika Chopra who said on the panel that she is a mother. I waited my turn and finally was able to speak with her. I said I had been crying because I had built up so much energy and excitement around sharing my one idea that had not been touched on by the panel. I mustered up my words and shared it with her: that we can learn from watching our children and how they use technology and don’t see a separateness between online and offline.
She agreed with my point and offered that she sees it in her own children.
I asked her something about writing for her site Intent.com. She said anyone can write for it.
And then other people wanted to speak with her so she drifted into a different conversation.
That was it. I think crying like that was a much-needed release, and I was able to sit through the rest of the conference sessions without that tension and frustration I was feeling each time a session was cut short.
And it opened me up to meeting and being with some amazing people that day. And to new possibilities.
How have you handled disappointment? What lessons have you learned?