By Meenakshi Suri June 2006 Online groups are proving to be an invaluable source of inspiration, support, guidance and information for millions of seekers worldwide. Here are some of my closest and dearest friends. I have never met them face to face but I know they are a part of my soul family.Rhonda Some Popular GroupsIndia Divine:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndiaDivine/ Alternative Answers:http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Alternative Answers/ Buddha Direct:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Buddha-Direct/ Gnostic Thought:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GnosticThought/ When she woke from her dream, Poonam knew she had to share it with someone. She had been given a remarkable insight into her problem with her teenage son, and wondered if she was right. Everyone in her family was fast asleep – it was midnight, after all – so she logged into her Parenting group on the web, knowing that someone out there would be awake. Sharing as much as she could about the visions she had seen, she sent out her email. A few minutes back, Pam replied. In the US, it was already mid-day. And it seemed that Paul was awake too, from somewhere in Europe. Each gave input advice; some that she would have to review later. The urge to share a wonderful message in her life satisfied, Poonam responded to other messages before going back to sleep, to discuss all this with her husband the next morning. Patrick was reviewing his messages: more than 200, from the different groups he belonged to. He usually liked to ‘lurk’ like many others, i.e., read without contributing. None of his friends would believe that a man, who could be always relied on to liven up a gathering with a joke or a profound message, could be so silent in an online group. Yet those messages provided information, inspiration and learning. They were food for thought. He did not need the groups for companionship or sharing. Today, he had to thank the person who had taught him how to combine herbs, yoga asanas and mudras from a group dealing with ancient Indian healing techniques. His chronic back pain was finally showing signs of improvement, within just two week’s regular practice! Another member of the group had volunteered to send Reiki healing on a particularly painful day; while yet another forwarded him some of the latest medical information about it. This was life-transforming when you considered that he might be able to skip taking his painkillers. Halfway across the world, Peggy was in her garden in Australia, preparing to meet her meditation and satsang group in etheric space, even beyond the virtual world of the internet where she had first met them. Started by a wise, inspirational lady in Germany, this group would set aside half an hour each Sunday, at the same time if possible, and meditate. The group leader had sent a file with some visualizations and music to start off, and settling herself on her yoga mat, Peggy adopted the lotus pose which she’d learned at the local gym, settled her hands into Buddha’s dhyana mudra, and flowed into meditation. When she finally opened her eyes, the world looked different; calmer, clearer, more vibrant. She was ready for the frenetic pace of the rest of her day. Poonam, Patrick, Peggy – all are part of the phenomenon of groups on the worldwide web. Hosted by Yahoogroups, Googlegroups, MSN groups, the Delphi Forum and others, these groups offer free membership to any who can access the internet, opening the way for people from Bangalore to Boston and Mexico to Moscow, to share news, views, and information with other members. There is freedom in the choices people exercise about which groups to join, how much of themselves to share, what name to use, and whether to lurk, start conversations, respond, or send forwarded messages. By doing this people from all over the world connect with an audience few can access in their daily lives. Online groups are a river of life, gathering people from many parts of the world, many persuasions, cultures, beliefs, interests…and uniting them as they flow into an ocean which is a destination and also a beginning. Connecting Through SpaceDo groups take the place of everyday relationships, friendships and family? No. They can, however, enhance them, by helping people find what they are missing in their daily lives. These communities can serve as virtual satsangs where we go to meet others with whom we can vibrate at a higher frequency. Someone somewhere – it can be the housewife next door, the manager at work, or a retired healer – has an urge to connect with more like-minded people; or a spiritual teacher feels the call to be available to many – and within half an hour, can start a group, set the purpose of the group, invite members, set rules, and start posting! All it costs is the price of your internet service, discarding mental barriers of linking to strangers, and the effort to type your feelings, thoughts and ideas. Describing why she liked a group, Vinny wrote: ‘I own several groups of my own, several web sites and I own 395 web rings. I am also a member of 136 groups. I’m disabled and pretty much home-bound so I have plenty of time. The only offline hobby I have is my animals. Dogs, cats, chickens, doves, pigeons, ducks, geese, quails, guineas, a cockatiel and my pig..’ Says Ann, another online ‘groupie': ‘Sometimes it helps to know that you are not the only person who has problems. The problem with where I live is there are very few people who are interested in the same spiritual path as me. So finding this group has been a gift from the gods and goddesses.’ In earlier times, people would say: ‘Travel broadens the mind.’ Today, online communities widen one’s perspective. Each group has a particular subject that is described by its name. They are organised into categories: health, spirituality, religion, New Age. Some have a few messages per week, and others have hundreds per day. There are options about receiving messages as individual emails, daily digest, or reading them on group websites. Some members of a light healing group regularly meditated together, by setting aside a specific space and time. As they shared their experiences, one wrote: ‘Here are some of my closest and dearest friends. I have never met them face to face, yet I know they are part of my soul family. Namaste, Rhonda.’ In the cancer survivors group, Nicki Scully, a noted author, set up monthly phone healing sessions. The phone lines would fill quickly with volunteers who would never meet, willing to set aside an hour on a Sunday to send healing to those who had requested it. People Helping PeoplePoonam remembered the time she had been very stressed and how an online suggestion had helped her. ‘One of the wonderful girls/ladies on this site recommended Rescue Remedy during an anxiety attack or emotional crisis. So, I ordered some. It arrived in the mail during a period when I felt extremely high-strung and having a hard time trying to breathe without having to go to sleep to do it. I’d do anything to feel calm. After a quick prayer that I wouldn’t be allergic to any of the ingredients, I put four drops on my tongue as directed… and I actually felt so much better for the rest of the evening.’ Another writes, ‘I never knew there were so many people out there like me (except my husband). It’s so good not to feel all alone, even in a crowd. It gives me a better feeling about the world in general, too.’ Group EvolutionAs Berta was shooting off her tenth message of the morning, she got a personal message. ‘Writing off-list. There are too many messages in the group!’ the owner of the e-list wrote. ‘Please keep in mind that we have members from all over the world; some pay a lot for internet access. Let us stay with the group’s central theme in the postings. If you are writing a personal message, please send it off-list to the person it was intended for – not to the group.’ A discussion of Netiquette followed – a set of rules for those who belong to the spontaneous groupings on the web. Berta was hurt as she felt the group owner may have suggested that she had overstepped the bounds of Netiquette. Writing privately to Anita, another group member, she realized it was a good opportunity to work on ego issues. ‘You are invited to join the group, called ‘Healers Across Time’.’ This was from Bill, who had also been one of the frequent posters in the now silent Meditation group. He had begun this group for those who had been quieted in the earlier group. As more members joined, the torrent from the Meditation group split up into smaller tributaries, taking off another turn; with each gradually finding its own flow. Once again, the naturally organized nature of the groups had righted itself. As she visited other groups, Berta found that each group has an atmosphere, much like the homes we visit in ‘real’ life. Some are vibrant, full of personal greetings and anecdotes from people who have become friends, finding themselves lonely among their families and neighbors who do not share their interests; or from those who are housebound in remote areas or with a disability. Other groups are quieter, with the moderator sending out messages or asking questions, and occasionally members responding or doing the same. She decided to silently lurk, till she got a feel for the group. But a short introduction wouldn’t hurt, surely? She was surprised at the warm response that followed immediately. ‘I just wanted to write to you and say hello. I can understand how you must feel, being new to a group and not really feeling comfortable with posting. ‘I belong to many groups myself and there are still quite a few of them that I just wat
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