Part Two of Four: We bring peace by becoming more aware of what we consume.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk writing in Calming the Fearful Mind, speaks of four nutriments that we consume:
1) Edible food,
2) Sensory food,
3) Our deepest desire and
The Second Nutriment: Sensory Food.
According to Hanh, the Buddha taught that we consume or "eat" sensory food and what we eat makes a difference in our lives.
This is eating with our sense organs: our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Everything that comes in to us is food, be that a TV program, a conversation, music, art and of course all the advertising we consume: radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards and online. Nowadays, we can add texting and mobile phone input.
Much of our sensory food is toxic
Hanh's point is that some or much of that input can be toxic and deplete our energies. The good input from TV, magazines, music and art can nourish our souls. But there are much of the input in the modern world can contain "…craving, despair and violence." This kind of input can and does create desires to buy "stuff." Thus is built the "consumer society" buying useless trinkets that are soon discarded. This sucks our energy and not the least our financial energy. Buying stuff we don't need depletes our pocketbooks.
Children see 8,000 murders on screen in a lifetime
Hanh calls this kind of sensory input "poison." Poison that we allows our children to consume as well. Hanh: "According to the American Psychological Association, a typical American child will watch 100,000 acts of violence and 8,000 murders on television in his lifetime. That is too much…They become victims of violence and fear."
And it's become worse. A generation ago, when cowboy moves and TV programs were the rage, there was far less gunplay in them and the bad guys paid by going to prison. Not so much today. Often there is no consequence for acts of violence.
Video games feed the violence
Then we come to video games where kids shoot at targets, who then come back to life. How many targets does that average child shoot and kill in video games by the time they become adults? Hanh: "This kind of game is infinitely dangerous. When children are young they cannot distinguish between the game and reality. Because children consume this kind of sensory food every day through television and video games, they are constantly feeding the violence in their consciousness."
"Gun control" to the rescue?
What is society's answer to the tragedy of shootings in schools by young people? Gun control laws. As if creating a law against a weapon will root out years of violent sensory food that has been fed to young people. It is a symptom of a deep rooted illness in our society that we have great difficulty looking past the surface of issues.
Shootings continue despite gun controls
I have no issue against creating common sense laws but let us not fool ourselves that this will solve the problem. In the country I live in, Canada, we have had gun control laws in place for a long time. Yet one Monday morning a few weeks ago, the CBC Radio morning news reported a total of eight shootings over the weekend in my province of BC. This in a country that has gun control laws.
Not many days before I write this, a man indiscriminately stabbed nine people with a knife in a Vancouver condo complex. These were people he did not know and had never seen before. Thankfully, they all survived though many others were traumatized as well. Are we now to ban knives?
Decreasing our violent sensory input
Would it not serve us better to look deeper for the root causes of these tragedies? Perhaps we can pay closer attention to what Hanh says about consuming violent "food" through our senses. He suggests we "…make a commitment to mindful, intelligent consumption of both edible foods and cultural items."
Your mission (and mine)
Your mission (and mine), should you and I decide to accept, is to start or continue the process of becoming more and more aware of our sensory input and choose more carefully what kind of movies and TV programs we watch, what kind of books, magazines and newspapers we read. We can even start to pay attention to our one-on-one interactions. How much violence is there in our every day speech? Is taking a course in Non Violent Communication an option? See Marshall Rosenberg's work on Non Violent Communication. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolent_Communication
In that regard, much of the what is put in the media as news for us to consume can feed our fears. I still want to have a feeling of what is going in our world, so I have not eliminated news from my diet (yet! It may still happen as I wean myself off other input). However, with the advent of the internet, I find it less intrusive now. In the past, I watched TV news and wasted many an hour being bombarded with fearful stories and images.
Reducing violent sensory input while staying in touch with the world
Now I choose to consume what news there is from the RSS feeds that are available from many sources. My personal choices are a local radio and newspaper online news pages plus RSS feeds from the CBC for regional and national news. An American network, the BBC and Guardian feeds for the UK plus Time and Christian Science Monitor. I get four feeds from my home country of Finland and a few financial feeds. I of course have a number of health related feeds as well.
What this means is that of all the potentially toxic "sensory food," that is available in unlimited quantities, I can scan headlines and be done with it all in a matter of less than a few minutes. That way, I still stay in touch with the world outside of my body/mind/spiritual "system," but I don't have to bombard myself with it all.
Another quick word about news. We have been trained by the media to believe that "news" is important somehow and we need to stay in touch with the developments in the arenas of politics and science, not to mention sporting events. (Sporting events are a topic left for another time)
During my time as a radio news reporter, announcer and talk show host, I became painfully aware of how inaccurate news really is. More and more the key factor is what stories will keep eyes glued to the TV screen. There are wars being waged continuously around the world that are not reported. These wars have just as many atrocities committed as the ones we see on our TV screens.
Nine Words That Summarize all the News
Understanding this comes down to what author Tom Robbins wrote in his 1970s novel Even Cowgirls Get The Blues: "The state of the world was desperate, as usual." That is the basic message of the news reporting. Knowing that, we can begin to unhook ourselves from our addiction to consuming news, bit by bit. I am still in the process.
Awareness is the key
Instead, we can start replacing that consumption with what Hanh suggests. We can "…practice looking deeply into the nature of what we consume every day…consuming mindfully is the only way to protect ourselves and our society from the violence that is overwhelming us."
Any and all information provided here is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. Individuals are advised not to self-medicate in the presence of significant illness. Always consult with your licensed medical practitioner first before undertaking anything…be it supplements, exercise programs or other protocols. The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Do not construe the information provided here as authoritative health advice…or authoritative advice of any sort. All information provided or referred-to on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be health, medical, financial, accounting or tax advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. Matti Anttila is not a licensed financial planner, doctor or health practitioner. If you're not inclined to Do-It-Yourself then please, before you Do-It-To-Yourself, obtain professional advice.
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