hijacked by my news feed, again

Updated On — 11th Oct, 2022

My news feed, if I let it, can incline my mind toward fear, confusion and anger at all the crises we face. But I can also re-frame my news feed to feel compassion for the suffering of others. This compassion is really the opposite of wallowing.

The news. OMG, how to deal with the news? The horrors in Ukraine, and the suffering of forced migration are just one of multiple national and world crises, many impacting people of color and the LGBTQ communities + disproportionately.

And yesterday the leaked draft U.S Supreme Court majority opinion that is likely to strike down abortion rights, which may even lead to the banning of contraceptives and interracial marriage in some states.

Hoe I feel afer my news feed--Edward Burne Jones. Original from The Birmingham Museum.
The Briar Rose Series – Study for ‘The Garden Court’ (1889)-Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Original from The Birmingham Museum.

What do I do with this anger at the obviously guileful testimony given by Gorsuch and Kavanaugh during their confirmation hearings? Feel betrayed, confused? Ignore it?

“Feel it” mindfully, but most likely get flooded again?

The Buddha referred to dharma practice as moving “against the stream” of society. These days it’s more like we’re up against a tsunami of collective pain and confusion. It’s so easy to become flooded by this tsunami of fears and anxieties.

guarding the doors of the senses

I have great respect for the Buddha’s teaching on guarding the sense doors. The guidance he offers me is not to shut myself off from the world; rather, it’s not letting myself be drawn out of my centeredness while scrolling my news feed, for example.

Guarding the sense doors is the first step in reclaiming my scattered attention.

The Buddha gave the example of being a sentinel watching the doors of the citadel of the mind. You observe the comings and goings at the six senses, watchful for anything that can sneak in or leak out to bring about a surprise attack.

what, do we install a content blocker in our mind?

it’s not so much like having a content blocker installed in our mind. It’s more about watching for the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion creeping into the mind on little cat feet.

By sitting in meditation and watching the comings and goings at my six sense doors (of hearing, touching, feeling, touching, smelling and thinking) I am fully present for what’s needed in the moment.

I’ve lost my game these past few weeks

But over the past few months I have lost my game, being too eager to jump into my news feed unprepared. Naturally, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

There’s just no way around it–I need to meditate first thing in the morning before checking my news feed!

I admit I need a lot more grounding and centering these days.

Our meditation is called a “practice” because it’s a way to practice meeting the fearful and confusing challenges of our times the same way I meet each breath, sound or distraction on the cushion–with gentleness and ease.

You cant’s stop the waves of the mind, but …

The late Swami Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga, has a line, which was appropriated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

Meditation is learning how to surf the waves of the mind; no matter what they seem like to us, they are simply waves–of fear, confusion, or joy, appreciation, relief.

our meditation is a laboratory

Meditation is also a laboratory for exploring the many paradoxes of our practice. I appreciate an important one in the words Carl Rogers used to describe his humanistic approach to psychotherapy:

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I change.

When I find myself stuck in anger and despair, I reflect on these words. I accept I am flooded with despair. I don’t meet despair with inner aggression. But I also reflect that I need to take responsibility, nicely, for getting stuck in its tendrils.

August Macke's Portrait of the Artist's Wife (1909) famous painting. Original from Wikimedia Commons.
August Macke’s Portrait of the Artist’s Wife (1909). Original from Wikimedia Commons.

I can do this because I have the agency of knowing how I got into despair in the first place.

If I give in to despair, which is easy to do–have you noticed?– I’m not really responding to life, I’m wallowing in it.

“The terrorists are in the cockpit”, as my teacher Shinzen Young would say. My news feed has hijacked my attention again.

The Buddha pointed out that whatever we frequently think and ponder upon will become the “inclination of our minds”.

from wallowing to compassion

My news feed, if I let it, can incline my mind toward fear, confusion and anger at all the crises we face. But I can also re-frame my news feed to feel compassion for the suffering of others. This compassion is really the opposite of wallowing.

There is a path, and it is a process of discernment vs. distraction in each moment. The mature discernment of responses to each situation in our life, the Buddha taught, leads to the fading of attachment and the bliss of release.

Carl Rogers on the good life

I think the Buddha would have approved of Carl Rogers’ statement:

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.

Reclaiming our attention, and using it for mature discernment, is the direction the Buddha advises us to follow.

It’s what we signed up for.


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About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

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