There’s been a lot of bad news in recent years with the economy decimated and unemployment high and budget cuts. For consumers of news who find themselves overly affected by negative reports, what can they do in terms of mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn (son-in-law of Howard Zinn):
If they’re very affected by it and negatively affected by it, what mindfulness would suggest is that you start to look at that and actually experience how you’re being affected by it. How it’s affecting your body, how it’s affecting the rest of your day, how much of your time are you spending consuming the news. That’s the word that’s often used; we consume the news, we eat it up. And it often consumes us; just the way tuberculosis was often called consumption. So in a way it’s a certain kind of disease process.
Why do we have to know all of that? And how much do we have to know it and in how much detail? And then why do we repeat it or read three newspapers or read the same newspaper three times and then read it on your iPad or iPhone? And maybe if it’s really having a negative affect on you, one might entertain the notion quite seriously of just for a couple of weeks taking a news fast and not doing it at all.
First of all you’ll have so much more time, and second of all real life still unfolds. You will still have a full life. And if you’re unemployed and you have to find a job then maybe you won’t be so bummed out that all the possibilities seem against you. You can tap into what’s possible, independent of what all the experts are saying is possible. That’s a hugely powerful way to work with things.
So one way is to just cut it out for a period of time and see how addicted we are to it and what the affect of it is. I had that experience once when I went on retreat right after 9/11. I was on retreat for six weeks, no newspaper, no radio, no nothing. I was just meditating and sitting and walking all the time for six weeks.
That’s the word that’s often used; we consume the news, we eat it up. And it often consumes us…
When I came out we were at war in Afghanistan and this and that, but the fact of the matter is that if you do a news fast for any stretch of time, the French have this old saying, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more they’re the same. You can miss six weeks of the news, and it’s like almost any six weeks of the news will replace any other six weeks. The same maniacs are saying the same stupid things over and over again and they’re being decoded by all the pundits and everybody’s got something to say and a lot of it is just totally empty.
And the good news that there is in the newspaper — that often doesn’t get much air time. There’s an enormous amount of good news -– you can actually start to read some of the good things that are happening, or emphasize them.
The other thing to do is to bring mindfulness to reading the newspaper or listening to the news. And notice how easy it is to get addicted to it, and how passive a process it is, and how in some sense disempowering. And that awareness is actually in itself empowering. And how you choose to be in relationship to it is of course part of the repertoire of life decisions each of us must make moment by moment and day by day.
I bought a newspaper this morning to get on BART. At a certain point I just left it on BART because I wanted to walk down the street without a newspaper under my arms. I wanted to not go back to it if I had 10 minutes to — quote unquote — kill. You don’t have ten minutes to kill; no one has ten minutes to kill. Because those moments are irretrievable and they’re your life in those 10 minutes. So how about feeling the air as you walk down the street, how about noticing the light, noticing the quality of emotion on other people’s faces or the buildings if you happen to be in the city.
And in all those ways you’re reclaiming moments of your life, as opposed to in some sense pissing them away by absorbing something that has no direct relationship to your life at all.