Our minds are responsible for everything. Our sense of identity, our perception of the world, our likes and dislikes, there’s simply no way to overstate their importance.
Yet most of us understand very little about how they work. I don’t just mean in a technical neuro-biological sense, or even a generalised, psychoanalytical sense. Most of us simply don’t don’t know very much about how our own, personal minds work.
This article by FitMind is a nice primer on the layers that make up our thinking, behavioural and learning processes. It breaks the mind into three parts; the evolved mind, the part of our mind that is instinctively afraid of snakes and the dark. The conditioned mind, which learns to make connections between things in your environment and the dangers or rewards they represent. And the self-directed mind, which we mould through effort and practice.
It’s a really interesting read, especially the exploration of how the three layers interact with each other to produce our personalities. Check it out!
Living life on the inside of our faces makes us blind to certain things. We can’t see bad our poker face is. Or whether we have spinach in our teeth. And sometimes we don’t realise how emotions that we’re trying our best to hide from ourselves are written right there on our face.
Tara Well writes for Mindful.org about her efforts to get to know herself more deeply by looking at herself. Not as an object for other people’s approval, but as a subject for her own self-study:
One day I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror and was shocked by how sad and distressed I looked — I’d barely realized I felt that way thinking I felt “fine.” I came to realize that I’d been cultivating an image of myself that I thought would be pleasing to other people, and in the process, I’d lost touch with how I felt inside.
I began to take time to look at my reflection in the mirror, not to focus on my appearance or to imagine how I looked to others, but to simply acknowledge myself and get in touch with how I felt. In doing this over time, I found a way to look past the imperfections in my appearance and see deeper into my own eyes with compassion. It became a meditation. A way to simply be present with no goal other than to be there with myself.
Few of us take the time to look at our faces other than to check it’s suitability for public consumption, but if we look into our own eyes, we find that there’s more there than we might have expected.
There’s a growing sentiment that you can’t trust the news. It’s the reason why, for starters, people are protesting in the streets because they’re being asked to were a piece of cloth over their faces during a global pandemic. People seem to believe that the media is only interested in lying to us.
I don’t believe that. I believe that, just as in most professions, the majority of people who work in them are good, honest, hard-working people who want to do their jobs well. The problem is that these hard-working people don’t make the final decisions about what does and doesn’t get published. And the people who do, more than being interested in keeping us well informed, are interested in selling our eyeballs to advertisers.
This means that the news we read, while not necessarily untrue, is strongly geared towards making us angry or afraid than keeping us informed. Which was the issue behind Ariana Pekary’s decision to quit MSNBC last month:
You may not watch MSNBC but just know that this problem still affects you, too. All the commercial networks function the same – and no doubt that content seeps into your social media feed, one way or the other.
It’s possible that I’m more sensitive to the editorial process due to my background in public radio, where no decision I ever witnessed was predicated on how a topic or guest would “rate.” The longer I was at MSNBC, the more I saw such choices — it’s practically baked in to the editorial process – and those decisions affect news content every day. Likewise, it’s taboo to discuss how the ratings scheme distorts content, or it’s simply taken for granted, because everyone in the commercial broadcast news industry is doing the exact same thing.
But behind closed doors, industry leaders will admit the damage that’s being done.
“We are a cancer and there is no cure,” a successful and insightful TV veteran said to me. “But if you could find a cure, it would change the world.”
Whatever end of the political spectrum you’re on, this problem affects you. And while it may not be possible to force the news media to start acting responsibly, it is possible to be responsible about the sources of our information and how we allow it to form our views of the world. Simply opting-out of the news isn’t the answer. There are things happening in the world that we genuinely need to be informed about. But staying informed now also requires that we stay alert.
I’ve always been a sucker for children’s folk tales. Add in a mindfulness angle and I’m completely sold. This beautiful video narrated by Sharon Salzberg has both. Amazing artwork too.
An elder talking to a child says “I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is fearful, vengeful, envious, resentful and deceitful. The other wolf is compassionate, loving, generous, truthful and peaceful.” The child asks “which wolf will win the fight?” The elder responds “the one I feed.”