Mindfulness as an Antidote to Frenzied Media Culture

Since I have worked in the radio and news media since 1986, I have had an insider’s view of this business and gained a unique perspective of how it works. Media, all media is driven by ratings, which is about attracting attention. Once the attention of those ears and eyes are secured, they are used as leverage to gain advertising dollars for profit and non-profit media outlets alike.

More often than not, the most sensational stories lead any newscast or pop culture program. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the old adage. The word “sensational” is key to this discussion. By sensational I mean that which is the most surprising, emotionally titillating, upsetting and attention grabbing. Many stories are simply bad news, like war, disasters, threats to our safety et cetera. They are amplified repeatedly like a psychological battering ram.

Also, remember this: news outlets often act as organs of particular political points of view. This is a long tradition.

Once upon a time, networks made their money on other types of programming like dramas and sitcoms. Now, all commercial networks demand that the news broadcast also be a profit center. This is one thing that has led to the sensationalist 24 hour news coverage we now see. It’s all about the money, the worship of money and the influence that money can buy in our society.

This is also true about the entertainment media. The number of programs on currently that deal with the deepest kind of human depravity or silliness has skyrocketed along with the number of cable tv channels.

A steady diet of sensationalism can have a strong effect on the human nervous system. It can provoke a range of emotions that keep us in a constant state of turmoil or at least imbalance. It can contribute to depression and despair.

But here’s the worst thing about feeding heavily on media trash culture: we so often feel disempowered to do anything meaningful to change our world. Disempowerment leads to apathy, and apathy to inaction. We can get frozen into a permanent state of inertia. We are then subject to manipulation by a whole host of demagogues whose points of view are eagerly broadcast by—the media.

Thought I wouldn’t claim that there is a conspiracy involved in media programming, it’s wise to remember the words of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Hamilton, who strove to secure the support of the wealthy for the fledgling U.S. government, had little but contempt for common folk. He encouraged the wealthy to supply the “the rabble” as he termed us, with “bread and circuses” while our betters handled the serious business of governance. And that is, by and large the pattern we have today: poor quality fast food on nearly every corner and 24 hours of news, sports and celebrity drivel.

This is where mindful practices like yoga, tai chi, qigong and meditation come to our aid. These ancient mindfulness practices offer us a way to take control of our nervous systems so that we can connect with what’s in our soul instead of being whipped into the chaos that is the commercial news media.

For those of us who may yearn to stop the world so we can get off for a while, these mindfulness practices help us reset our nervous systems so we can gain a clear perspective on life untainted by the greedy maw of consumerism promoted by the media industrial complex. When we regain autonomous control over own minds, we get a panoramic vista of our own lives and how we fit into the crazy world we’ve created. We are no longer manipulated by every violent atrocity, celebrity news tidbit or the other magnified trash foisted upon us. Our buttons and triggers are not so readily accessible to the barrage of commercial stimuli constantly directed toward us.

So, if you’re weary of the rat race and the endless, ruinous competition that is being offered, retreat. Retreat to the nourishing practices that our ancestors have nurtured and handed down to us. We may always drink from the fortifying springs of these traditions as an antidote to the toxicity of so-called modern culture.

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Gratitude and the Yoga of Boundless Potential

Though it may seem fairly cliché to look back at the end of the year and take stock of one’s life, it is nevertheless still a worthwhile action. During such times of reflection we are encouraged by the wise among us to practice gratitude for the goodness we’ve received and also for the challenging, difficult or less than perfect parts of our lives. Of course, it’s easy to give thanks when things go our way, but it takes some seasoning and maturity to see difficulty or misfortune as equal threads in the fabric of our lives.
This has been a personal problem for me. Even when things are good, I may often see them as not quite good enough. When serendipity comes my way I am apt to be glad of it, but also disappointed that the boon did not include some greater more satisfying aspect. This continuous grasping or lack of contentment defaces my joy and sours the honey of life’s treasures. It is a crime I commit against myself and the universe of all beings. When I trespass upon providence by criticizing the bounty of its measure I participate in a form of blasphemy. I not only issue a kind of childish psychic complaint, but I bruise or disable the conduit through which my blessings are generated.
Yoga, the ever-dependable universal tool box, offers two explicit and direct concepts to steer me away from my deficient attitudes: aparigraha and santosha.
Parigrah is synonymous with craving, greed, hoarding and possessiveness. The addition of the prefix “a” equals “non”. So by practicing aparigraha I may restrain myself from grasping, lusting and reaching for things in a way that upsets my mental/emotional balance. Upsetting myself in this way may sound benign, but it is the kind of calamity that can be compared to the capsizing of a boat; it can mean utter and complete disaster. Aparigraha and santosha are the attitudes that lead away from poverty toward practical, sustainable bounty.
Santosha helps me to embody the opposite of Parigrah; it is about contentment and satisfaction. Practicing santosha helps me to be comfortable where I am and with what I have in a full and complete way. The corrosive agent of malcontent on the other hand acts as a poison that leads to a chronic state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that will eventually present itself as dis-ease.
Satisfaction and contentment are also in perfect alignment with goal setting and achieving greater of expression of my potential. Indeed, santosha helps to me express confidence in the infinite supply of the universe as I connect with that generosity through my goals.
Coveting, hoarding and constant grasping are manifestations of fear, want and lack. If I allow fear to govern my approach to life I constrict the universal flow of plenty.
When I am gratefully content with my present situation the stage is set for me to receive the unlimited potential of all goodness.
Aparigraha and santosha come to us from the first limb of yoga, yama and niyama respectively. These are the ethical considerations of yoga or the precepts of wise living.
As we begin the year it is worthwhile to look back at where we’ve been and forward to where we’d like to go. Availing ourselves of all the eight limbs of yoga, beginning with yama and niyama, will serve us well as we integrate them into our lives. Indeed, they are here to assist us in achieving our yoga or union with the divine or the great unlimited power of universal creation.
May your new year be healthy, happy, prosperous and fulfilling as you practice the yoga of boundless potential.
As always I would love to hear from you about how yoga is transforming your life experiences.
Namaste,
Tim