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; 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.
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.