*This piece was originally written as a "note" on the Naga Center's Facebook Page*
Let us speak to one another with kindness when we play in this realm of social media. Let us speak to one another as if we were always addressing our dearest deeply loved friend. This is a letter to the Thai massage community, especially the teaching community. It is in regards to a tendency I see of tearing down one another’s Facebook posts from time to time. We must keep in mind that those who write about Thai massage and medicine online are usually teachers and practitioners. What this means is that we are people who earn our livelihoods through Thai massage. It is how we keep a roof over our heads, it is how we feed our children, it is how we care for our aging parents, it is how we give dana donations to our teachers, and it is how we hopefully have a bit left over to give to important charities, working to save the world on many fronts; although I know that many of us live hand to mouth and have little to give. Our clients and students may be following us online. When we publicly tear one another down, we potentially cost one another business; a real life consequence. We potentially take from a student, what might have been an important learning experience as we may cause them to doubt an excellent teacher. We potentially take from a suffering person the possibility of an amazing healing experience with a practitioner who we caused them to doubt. And all too often, this is done as a strange form of marketing ourselves at the expense of our community. Let me show the world how clever I am by publicly telling someone else that they are wrong.
We can talk all we want about the importance of being free to say what we like, what we think, what we believe, and we can call public malignment “friendly debate”. But let us take a moment to consider our words carefully. To consider just how important it is to insert ourselves, to be critical, to be right. Let us treat one another with kindness, and if we do not agree with something someone said, we might want to consider the golden rule. Let us be mindful of our actions. The other day a Thai massage teacher asked me about something online, in a public format. As soon as I realized that my answer might in some small way have the potential to be read as critical (even though my perception was not critical), I did what I always do; I moved the conversation into a private chat. I didn’t know this teacher, but I decided to default to respecting him and his students enough to err on the side of excessive caution. I would not want, for a moment, for my words to cause one of his students to lose faith in him, nor would I want to appear to be “one upping” him, or trying to lure his students my way. It is highly likely (but as yet unknown) that he teaches in a way that I would not agree with or like, for I am an outlier in the western Thai massage world. But this does not make me want to hurt him and/or his family by even accidentally discrediting him.
There are seriously horrible things going on in this world. There are things that we need to stand up and shout about. All over the world xenophobia is rearing its ugly head. People’s rights are being taken away. The earth’s rights are being taken away. Humans and animals are suffering and dying in thousands of horrible ways. Whether or not I agree with some little thing you said about Thai massage is not so important as for me to shout about it or to cause you potential harm. And yes, given that Facebook has become most people’s primary way of marketing their businesses, to publicly denounce one another’s Thai massage posts is to potentially hurt one another’s livelihoods. Why would we do this?
We all have our own platforms now. Those who like to mix and match Thai massage with other modalities and say that this is the natural evolution of the art can sing about this all they want on their own blogs, Facebook pages, essays and books. And those, like me, who like to preserve the art as it has historically been practiced, we can sing it about it all we want on our blogs and social media and such. I will never go onto your Facebook post and tell you that your approach is bad, that your prices are too high, that your theory is incorrect, that you are wrong wrong wrong. Because I see your Facebook post as being both the welcome room of your business, and a couch in your living room, and I had better know you awfully well if I am going to go sit on your couch and point my fingers at you.
Let us treat one another as we would like to be treated. Let us care for one another as we care for our clients. Let us not live in fear of someone else’s theory taking something away from us. Let us remember that if we trace things back far enough, we are all lineage siblings. Let us treat one another with kindness. Peace and thriving practices to you all.