We are living in a world where we are increasingly surrounded by the news. It comes in various forms. From 24 hour news TV channels, to radio, to papers, to websites, to social media – the news seems to surround us.
But is our captivation with the news doing us any good? Is it having a positive effect on our practice of mindfulness?
Mindfulness Practice is about being present with what is happening. And not moving into the past or the future by becoming involved in the content of our thoughts.
It might seem that watching the news has little or nothing to do with our mindfulness practice. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Because the news immediately takes us into the content of thought. The news is just another narrative on what is actually happening. It’s a story about the world.
Worse than that, it’s a story designed to hook us.
A story designed, not only to get ys to believe the narrative, but to emotionally engage (or enrage) us too.
And all too often the hook is greed, sex, or fear.
My own experience of watching the news
I’ve been busy of late. Planning some courses. And while I’ve been doing this, I switched off the news.
No TV. No radio. Nada. Zilch.
And I pretty much stopped clicking on any news links in social media too.
‘Did my world end?’, I hear you ask..
Well no. It didn’t. It just carried on pretty much as it had done before.
Except that my experience of not watching the news led to my mind becoming calmer. I gained more clarity. And I was more at peace.
You see we might like to think we’d like to help a refugee in Greece. We might like to think we could sort out the economy better than our current government.
We might, and do like to think, many things about the world.
But what effect do we really have? How often do we really set about action based on what we’ve heard in the news.
Mindfulness and the News
When we sit down to meditate, thoughts try to take us away. Do you think those thoughts are totally random? Or are they conditioned in some way?
I would suggest that if you spend most of your life watching football, you’re probably going to have thoughts or images about football.
If you spend most of your life watching or thinking about food, you’re probably going to have thoughts or images about food.
And if you spend most of your life watching or thinking about sex, you’re probably going to have thoughts or images about sex.
And so on. And so on.
Because what we put into our minds is what our minds ruminate upon. Especially when there is an emotional hook.
And the less we agitate our minds, the clearer they will be. Both in meditation, and in our every day lives.
The news is like a drug
When I suggest not watching the news to people, I often receive a wall of resistance. I am told how important it is to watch the news. That it is selfish not to.
It innitiates a strong emotional response.
These reasons for not doing it. They sound to me like just more stories.
If we want to make a difference to the world, we can start with ourselves.
The incessant thirst for more stimulation, for another story, to find out what’s happening, what’s changed – all that begins to go away when we cease to distract ourselves.
We become calmer, more stress-free, more at peace. And these are the things that can really change the world.
I may not be able to help someone in a war zone, but I can help the lady next door to get her shopping. I can respond to the child who utters a cry for help.
These are things I can do, rather than things I can think about.
I suggest that whoever we are, we could benefit from less news. Less news can make us less insane.
But I’m a great believer in try it and see…
The Middle Way
I’ve been talking about watching or not watching the news. But there is another way….
Because I’ve been talking about the news as the common opinionated take on world events.
But if you Google ‘Unbiased News Sites’ you’ll find a way to access the news without all the emotional hooks without the sensationalism.
Without the direct attempt to stir up your emotions.
And you may find (like I did) that the news just isn’t that interesting after all. That without the fanatical ‘buzz’ it doesn’t really captivate in the same way.
I’d really recommend giving that a go.
What I’m really saying
This is a bit of a contraversial post for me. But I am trying to get a point across.
What you do with your mind outside of meditation is what you meet in meditation.
So you can affect your meditation at any time in any place. The small decisions you make throughout the day are not insignificant.
What you expose your mind to is not without consequence.
We are all different and all need to find our own way.
But often, it is only by stopping something, that we begin to realise the effect that it actually has on us.
No matter how convincing our own thoughts about our position seem to be.