Home > Uncategorized > Mindfulness and the News: Some Insights into My Sources and My Perspective

Mindfulness and the News: Some Insights into My Sources and My Perspective

August 11, 2018

I begin every day I am at home by opening my computer and reading various blogs and news feeds. I get four newspapers each day: the NYTimes, the Boston Globe; and, two local newspapers. I get five feeds on public education: Google alerts; ASCD; Politico; Clay Christensen’s blog; and Diane Ravitch’s blog. I get several general interest and political feeds, some daily and some weekly: Quartz; Truthdig; Common Dreams; JSTOR; Naked Capitalism; and Medium. And I spend a few minutes reading Facebook, checking on my favorite sports teams on ESPN, checking the weather, and reading various articles sent to me by my siblings and children.

As I read the blogs, I identify one or two articles that trigger a blog post. If the blog post is drawn wholly from the article, I will use a reblog feature if it is available and add a comment. If the article stimulates a reflective essay (as the one that I am using for this very post), I will take the time to write a 300-1200 word post. I rationalize that this reading is necessary to give me an in-depth grasp of the world as it impacts public education policy, the primary topic of this blog, and to help me have as realistic a perspective as possible on how the events taking place and decisions being made reflect and/or change my world view, which is an implicit sub-topic of this blog.

One feed I get periodically was not listed above. As a Buddhist practitioner I get Lion’s Roar, “an independent non-profit foundation whose mission is to communicate Buddhist wisdom and practices in order to benefit people’s lives and our society, and to support the development of Buddhism in the modern world.” An article in the week-end edition of this publication by Sister True Dedication, a monastic who practices in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, describes how the Buddhist practice has influenced my reading habits of late. Titled, “What Do You Put in Your Mind?“, Sister True Dedication’s essay describes how our consumption of the news affects our minds in the same way as our consumption of food affects our health.  She writes:

I heard Thich Nhat Hanh speak with a fierce and solemn voice as he declared in a talk, “When we watch television and movies we consume, when we browse the internet we consume, when we listen to music or a conversation, we consume.” I remember his soft words booming through the loudspeakers: “And what we consume every day may be highly toxic. It may contain violence, craving, fear, anger, and despair.”

I was shocked. Suddenly websites, radio shows, movies, music—and even conversations with close friends—struck me as strangely substantive and not so ephemeral after all. Maybe I wasn’t as free from them as I thought.

The sidebar quote that summarized the article is this:

Our mind is made of what we feed it, so we need to know how to nourish and protect it.

Since beginning Buddhist practice over a decade ago, I’ve come to appreciate how my reading habits affect my disposition and way of viewing the world. Of late I find myself repelled by articles that are full of ad hominem invective, that take sides in a fashion that demeans and decries “the other side”, and speculate on future events based on gossip, “inside information”, and gleaning of information that supports one school of thought over another. Those articles do not nourish my mind, clarify my thoughts, or add to my well-being.

I am drawn, instead, to articles that describe recent findings in science, analyses that look at events through a historic lens, and articles that offer new insights on emerging trends. And whenever I read articles, I try to use what I am reading to examine my own mental formations— the screens I use to filter the “news” I am “consuming”. This, in turn, helps me perceive how the “news” affects my disposition and understanding of “reality”. I also find that “consuming” in this fashion leads me to ask the question Thich Nhat Hanh suggests we ask ourselves repeatedly: “ARE YOU SURE?

If you want to get a perspective on the Buddhist view of media consumption, I recommend that you read Sister True Dedication’s essay. As a former BBC reporter, her insights are not limited to those gained from sitting on a cushion or reading sutras: they are grounded in what passes for the “real world” of journalism.

Advertisements
  1. August 13, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Much appreciated!

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: