For the bulk of the last 200,000 years, human beings have only been exposed to the news and struggles of those within the vicinity of their tribes and villages. They saw birth, sickness, death and wars, but on a limited scale.
Only in the last 40 years or so, has the news media broadcast the suffering of the entire world – wars, natural disasters, famines, torture, cruelty – into our living rooms, our eyes and ears every day, day after day. In a very profound sense, this suffering that we are unable to fix, can very quickly start to accumulate in our mind and heart, causing us to suffer in turn. The incessant, vicarious flow of vivid images – images of murder, genocide, earthquakes and epidemics – either desensitises us or creates chronic anxiety and makes us heartsick. The world is flawed, millions of innocent people suffer and we are unable to do much to change it.
By being mindful and decreasing our intake of these images, we can more easily establish a heart that is open and a mind that is balanced, spacious and clear.
For one week, do not take in any media. This includes news media, social media and entertainment. Try not to listen to the radio, iPod or CDs; don’t watch any TV, films or videos: don’t read newspapers, books or magazines (online or print) and refrain from checking social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
You don’t have to cover your ears if someone tells you about a news event, but try to avoid being drawn into a conversation about it. Just tell them about your unusual fast (we are in Lent after all). Clearly, if you need to use any media for work or school that’s fine, but try to do so consciously.
Some further considerations
Part of this mindfulness practice is about discovering alternatives to our dependence and reliance on media consumption. So have fun, try to do things with your hands and body and perhaps some meditation?
Lastly and most importantly, all mindfulness practice is about finding the balance between intention and non-striving. So, go gently with this practice and do not judge yourself at all if you fall off the media wagon! Just try to be curious about what you experience, letting go of any ideas about success and failure.
I look forward to receiving your comments and will return to my blog when my own media fast has lifted next Sunday 25th March. Have fun!
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Image courtesy of smeerch