I honestly dislike using the word mindfulness at this point because it seems to carry all these connotations for people, when we are really just talking about paying attention to our experience and understanding it is just that: our experience.
Reality is simply happening, but we stain it in different ways depending on what we dwell on. What we think about matters, what we see matters, what we watch matters, what we hear matters. Everything that we put into our mind and memory, consciously or unconsciously, has some kind of impact.
I do not always do a good job of being mindful of what I consume.
I think it has shifted for the better over the years, and I am always trying to be more intentional with it, but I slip into dwelling on negative and harmful things sometimes. And it always has an impact.
Think of the different media available to us now, and how constantly it is available to us. A majority of the people I see under the age of 45 have little white cords dangling down their chest or those big fat Princess Leia looking headphones clamped on their ears. Their music is always with them. We can watch YouTube videos and Netflix anywhere we can get cellphone reception, and a majority of the young men I speak with play video games for hours each day. Don’t even get me started on porn.
This isn’t to bash or criticize any of these forms of media, but we do need to evaluate the content of what we are consuming.
Everything we put in our mind stains it just a little, and things can get dark pretty quickly.
Personally, I am more concerned about the callousness and indifference I see in so much of our media than I am about the violence and sex, though these are issues as well. It rare for someone to pick up an axe and attack their neighbor and misconceptions about sex can be worked out, but the overwhelming narcissism and lack of empathy I see in people is troubling.
It is, however, a logical outcome of mindlessly bombarding our experience with stimuli. I don’t see how we can really expect anything different. Put different flavors in water and it starts to taste like them. Put different colors in white paint and it becomes those colors.
Personally, I am trying to change what I put in my mind. I actually turned off a new series a lot of people had recommended to me because it was impacting me negatively. I hardly listen to music at all anymore, not because there’s no good music, but because I love podcasts and audiobooks. When I do listen to music, I try to make sure it is something that puts me in a positive mindset. I am even adjusting what video games I play, moving away from the GTA’s and showing Max the old Zelda series and Minecraft.
Changing the input has changed the output. My anxiety is lower, my anger less. It’s easier to maintain a positive view of people and the world, and this is more important right now than it has been in a long time.
Mindfulness is about being present, right here, right now, without judgment. Everything we consume with our mind affects our ability to do this – staining something infuses it in every way.
It is impossible for us not to be stained by what we dwell on. If we dwell on negativity and darkness, our ability to accept things as they are and avoid judgment will diminish, and our present experience will be stained a little darker. If we dwell on positive things and stay in the light, our ability to accept the present and embrace things as they are will expand, and our present experience will be stained a little lighter.
Ultimately, the goal is probably to be as unstained as possible, but this is difficult in a world and culture of constant media engagement. The best we can do might be to choose the content of what we consume, and do so mindfully.
What we consume becomes what we think, what we think becomes who we are.
What are you soaking yourself in on a daily basis?
What are the things you consume telling about the world?
About other people?
Are these things helpful?
Just try to be aware of what you put in your mind today. Notice how many messages you are receiving, both overt and more subtly. See what happens if you consciously shift to something more positive and life-affirming.