I used to listen to National Public Radio the entire time that I was in the car. Morning and Weekend Editions, All Things Considered, News Hour with the BBC, and whatever else might be on. I would listen to it all. I felt connected with the rest of the world. I felt good knowing what was happening in Afghanistan, The Ukraine, and in my back yard. I liked having intelligent conversations with others about some event, and I enjoyed introducing to others topics or opinions on topics that I knew, but that maybe they didn’t. I felt smart and even wise.
Then the kids came into the car, and I started listening with different ears to the news that was coming at them. Death, destruction, despair, desolation, and desperation were the themes of 90% of this “news”. My wife and I didn’t want their young minds to be exposed to such influences. So I would only listen to NPR when the kids weren’t with me. Then something else began to shift in me.
I have, for the past several months, been actively and consciously living in a manner which is more grounded in happiness, ease, and joy. Through day-to-day and moment-to-moment practices, I am noticing more my moods, when I am happy, easy, and joyous and when I am not. It is a deliberate practice in which I, to the best of my abilities, am staying as rooted as I can be in this peace, and ease, and joy. I see more that I have control over my emotions. I can choose to be happy all the time. I can choose to perceive an occurrence in life to be an opportunity for growth, as opposed to weight to bear. I can hold in my heart that when I view life through the lens of Love then ANYTHING can be good, and whole, and right. The Dali Lama lives this way. Reverend King and Gandhi, the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus lived this way. I am choosing to live more deliberately from this place.
As I have become more aware of when I am happy and when I am not, I am also noticing what makes me happy and what does not. And what I have noticed is that the news doesn’t make me happy. Engaging in discussions about the Palestinians and the Israelis, ISIS, and/or rapid influx of new houses being built in my backyard, only makes me feel sad and mad. In my body, this sadness & anger manifest as tension and pain in my head, neck, shoulders and stomach. I then begin thinking other mad and sad thoughts, which brings on more negative thoughts. Without even knowing it, I’m sad and mad, and these emotions get carried over to my wife, my kids, and the checkout person at Trader Joe’s. It can affect my mood for days, making me a miserable person, and making Joy seem completely out of my reach.
I do like being an informed person, and I enjoy playing a part in some solution to the problems facing our world today. However, I’m realizing that, right now, the upset I feel from witnessing the death, destruction and despair of some life-events can absolutely crush my love of Humanity and Nature. Thus, my optimism for Humanity and Nature becomes more shadow than light. In other words, the happiness I practice and wish to live in more fully is getting encumbered, even derailed, by the upset I feel from this news I see and hear. In every way, I am like a person with Celiac Disease who has to stay away from gluten. I’m healthier and happier when I don’t ingest news.
So, if you ask me about something that has recently happened anywhere in the world, please don’t be surprised if I haven’t heard of it. And please don’t be upset if I ask you not to tell me of it. By limiting my access to upset, I am teaching myself how to better stand in Love, even when it seems as though the entire world is shaking beneath my feet. I am learning to focus completely on the good that exists in the world and in each of us, to then be able to better share that good with others. Soon I will be able to listen to these life-events and engage with people about them in a way that enhances and expands the conversation to a higher level of understanding. It is practice that will last well beyond my physical lifetime.
For now, I shall do my best to only see no evil, to hear no evil, and to speak no evil.
And I’ll be turning off NPR.
For now, at least…..