Going on a Media Diet: 30-Day Challenge

I work part-time in retail. Doing so allows a more steady flow of income as I build my herbal business. I truly enjoy the customer aspect of retailing: meeting new people, talking about the products we sell, finding out what they like to cook and eat and how they might use our products.

One thing I dislike about retailing—and fortunately it doesn’t happen too often—is when someone walks into the store on a cell phone. And they’re talking. They are unapproachable and that leaves me to wonder, What should I do?

The other night, this happened. Or so I thought…only the lady was not talking or texting;200px-Cnn.svg she was getting a CNN update about Hannah Anderson, the California teen who was kidnapped and whisked away to some remote part of Idaho. The woman apologized for being on her phone and filled me in, saying Anderson had been killed (this, apparently, a case of CNN jumping the gun, because the girl had not been killed; her kidnapper had been).

“How awful,” I said.

And then I proceeded to introduce this lady to our products while feeling like I had whiplash.

The woman was very pleasant and thankful for the tour. But when she left, I had the feeling I’d been assaulted by her having shared something with me I had no desire to hear and that was siphoning away my energy. Many people have had this experience. It isn’t that we are not empathetic, but we truly cannot do anything about the situation, so hearing about it serves only to drain us.

Negative news does not faze me if I believe there is something I can do to help. When there is nothing we can do, we can send energy to the people involved, and there are entire practices around this, from a friend of a friend who lights a candle every morning when she prays for a number of people close to her and far away, to my friend Beth Terrence’s May is for Metta (lovingkindness) practice. But this assumes, too, that we have the presence of mind to send energy—and that is something that takes practice.

I personally am still in the “avoid” phase of my development. Regardless of context, most all news revolves around someone doing something, usually bad, to someone else. Occasionally, a feel-good story or broadcast item is thrown in for good measure. When the news is bad, I feel depressed, so my best solution is to avoid. It’s kind of like a shopaholic who avoids going to stores and unsubscribes from all mail-order catalogs and e-mails.

The fact is, we are awash in information, a lot of it just bad—bad, meaning poorly written or crafted, but bad also meaning, this stuff really isn’t good or healthy for us to partake of or read.

The only person who’s given me flack about this is my father, who seems to believe I am uninformed for not subscribing to a newspaper—whether the Washington Post or our local daily. But I am informed enough to know that paying attention to negative stuff puts me in a bad way, so I avoid it. Am I informed or not?

We have plenty of studies from neuroscience that show our brains evolved to give more weight to the negative than the positive. Naked little apes, we were much like the desert hare on television that falls prey to the family of Harris hawks. We are still wired to look over our shoulders.bbcover

Believing that we must keep up with everything that’s going on in the world is a fallacy, too, and taxes our energy and resources. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t if we want to—just that we should not feel compelled, feel as though we’re bad people or somehow lacking if we don’t follow every little snippet of a story. It is, of course, important that we engage our civic duties—to know what state or federal laws or local ordinances are being proposed and to weigh in, because these laws have direct or indirect impacts on us.

For all who read this blog, if you agree, I have a challenge: Let’s see if we can go on a media diet for 30 days. This doesn’t mean you have to commit to missing out on your favorite shows—though, if you want to take a full break from all media for 30 days, that would be akin to doing an elimination diet with certain foods and that can be helpful in finding triggers. But what I envision is cutting out the crappy-feeling news or TV programs: the kind of stuff that I would ordinarily click on when I’m on Yahoo! or when I come home late and just want to zone out. It means recognizing that this stuff is like high-fructose corn syrup for our minds—empty calories that suck our energy as we try to “digest” it.

My end of this bargain will also include seeking out the good stuff and sharing it with you, from Web sites and articles to TED talks and, possibly, book reviews. But if you find yourself doing that as well, feel free to share below, in the comments section, or post to my Facebook page here.

To start us off, I have a couple of links to share.

This first is an article by neuroscientist Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain. It’s entitled Seven Facts about the Brain that Incline the Mind to Joy.

The second is an entire Web site devoted to good news, the Good News Network.

So, I hope you’ll join me and share how you feel as you go along.

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2 thoughts on “Going on a Media Diet: 30-Day Challenge

  1. First update, from an interview with Elisabet Sahtouris, evolution biologist, “pastist,” futurist and more, by Michael Mendizza on the Touch the Future Foundation Web site, http://ttfuture.org/authors/elisabet-sahtouris. Note that in this long interview, she is refers to Malthus as Malfosse.

    “The caterpillar eats hundreds of times its weight in a single day, it crunches its way through the eco system, it leaves a swamp of destruction behind, never turning back until it’s so bloated it hangs itself up and goes to sleep. Good metaphor for the old system?

    “Inside its body as it sleeps suddenly things the biologists actually call imaginable discs and later imaginable cells as they develop, pop up in the caterpillar’s body and the caterpillar’s immune system snuffs them. Says what’s that? It doesn’t belong here. It kills them off. But they come up faster and faster and they start to link together and eventually there are so many of them and so many of them linking together that the immune system of the caterpillar fails. It can’t fight them any longer and it then melts down into a new to do soup and the butterfly continues to form.

    “This metaphor shows us that unlike our previous thoughts that everything will go to pot and then somehow the phoenix will rise from the ashes, we now know that the old system and the new must co-exist for a while. It’s still interdependent. The butterfly depends on the nutrition from the old system so if we imaginal cells, we world changers, we grass roots organizers, we protestors, there are as many ways to make a better world than there are creative individuals to do it and everybody has to find a way they love doing to do it or nobody will want to do it with you. So all this creates a stalemate, that is the rise of the imaginal cells better pray that that caterpillar doesn’t collapse until we’re ready for it. You don’t step on caterpillars if you want butterflies. And if the butterfly is to fly lightly, it depends on the nutrition coming from the old system for quite some time.

    “So I say to young people, you’re here not to clean up our mess, you’re here to build the world you want and you don’t have to attack the old world, it’s committing suicide quite nicely. Just build your new world the way you want it, the cooperative, the win/win world, as quickly as you can using alternative energy, doing any kind of technology you want providing you make it one-hundred percent recyclable and don’t put any toxins in it. Go for it! You’re creative.

    “This is the most creative time in human history and the hot egg is the evolutionary driver that will push this cooperation. Nothing in human life creates cooperative moods faster than disaster. Every time there’s a Katrina, a tsunami, a fire, whatever it is, people go cooperative like that. They open their hearts, they open their purses, they roll up their sleeves and they help each other. So why shouldn’t the major planetary disaster do the same thing for us? To push us into the cooperative mode that’s absolutely on our evolutionary agenda now.”

    A different way of looking at the times we live in. I like it! — Leigh, Art of Earth

  2. Second update: I love this anecdote from Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient. Cousins writes of a visit he had with cellist Pablo Casals in Puerto Rico when Casals was almost 90 years old. As Casals played — whether Bach on the piano or Brahms on the cello — he transformed himself into a spry, relaxed, engaged, Spirit-channeling person. Cousins and Casals spent the day that way, engaged in music and conversation about music.

    Cousins writes, “As [Casals] got up from the piano he apologized for having taken up so much time in our talk with music, instead of discussing the affairs of the world. I told him I had the impression that what he had been saying and doing were most relevant in terms of the world’s affairs. In the discussion that followed there seemed to be agreement on the proposition that the most serious part of the problem of world peace was that the individuals felt helpless.

    ” ‘ The answer to helplessness is not so very complicated,’ Don Pablo said. ‘A man can do something for peace without having to jump into politics. Each man has inside him a basic decency and goodness. If he listens to it and acts on it, he is giving a great deal of what it is the world needs most. It is not complicated but it takes courage. It takes courage for a man to listen to his own goodness and act on it. Do we dare to be ourselves? That is the question that counts.’ “

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