How do you feel about watching the news? Or rather, how does watching the news make you feel? I’ve spoken to a number of people who have stopped watching the news because they say it leaves them feeling too depressed. Equally I know many who’ve become almost addicted to the 24 hour rolling news feed. So what’s the answer? Avoidance? Indulgence? Or is there a more skillful way to relate to the news?
Traditionally meditation and mindfulness were designed to be flexible enough to be pointed at anything. They were also designed with a strong altruistic motive, showing us how to relate to those who are struggling in life and, in doing so, how to use that understanding to develop an even greater sense of empathy. And it’s with these things in mind that it’s worth reflecting on the role of the news. If we have access to the news but choose to ignore it, then what are we saying? This is too painful to look at? It doesn’t affect me? It disturbs my own feelings of happiness? If so, how is this different from trying to ignore painful and challenging thoughts and feelings which arise in your own mind? It is after all by allowing those emotions to express themselves through meditation, appropriately, without avoidance or indulgence, that you can find a greater sense of calm, clarity and stability in your life. So whether you choose to ignore what’s inside or outside, it amounts to much the same thing.
Another tactic might be to get carried away with the story on the news, to lose the feeling of being the observer and instead ‘become’ part of the story. Sound familiar when you think about your meditation practice? In this scenario the story can become overwhelming. It might make you feel sad, angry, depressed or anything else for that matter, but the common theme is that there’s been so much identification with the story that you have ‘become’ the story, or ‘it’ has become you. So you may well find yourself replaying the stories, pictures and events throughout the day, over and over again, unable to let go of them.
Of course there is another option to consider. And that’s to simply sit down and watch the news, no matter how difficult it might feel sometimes. Much like watching your own mind in meditation, there will be days which feel easy and days which feel difficult. You might experience any number of emotions, but no matter what the story there is no attempt to either avoid or indulge that which arises. In these moments you will undoubtedly experience feelings of empathy for those around you, as well as for those much further away. But then that’s what makes us human, right? The ability to look beyond how we feel ourselves, to connect and relate to the experiences of others.
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