The Mind’s News Station

Our ego really acts like the news.

Posted Apr 22, 2016

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We spend a lot of our time keeping up with the news – and we can do it really well with smart phones, the internet, TV, and newsprint. And when big events happen, such as earthquakes, a disaster, or a political race, we can hear the news over and over and over again.  We are inundated by the news.

For example, I’ve lived in Southern California for awhile now, and I remember that when an earthquake happens, for days on end, on almost every channel, all they’re talking about is the earthquake. Over and over again, image after image. I would say that almost all of them are repeated – nothing new. Whatever is being portrayed through social media or the news is just repeated again and again.  And after a little while, hopefully, most of us get tired of it and want it to go away. We want to turn it off.  We get bored and we go on to something else.

But when the event happens and we are inundated by all the news coverage on so many different channels, it can be like a drug – we just want to keep hearing it, keep seeing those images again and again. We’re almost addicted to the news and that’s why it sells. They keep repeating it because they know people will keep listening. And the newscasters’ job – the social media people’s job – is to feed our addiction to the news.  

I’m sure not everyone will agree with this, but probably most of my readers will …that spending our time, hour after hour, listening to the news isn’t very good for us. We need to take a break. Yes, we need to keep informed, but we don’t need to see those dark images or hear those painful or hurtful phrases over and over again. It’s just not healthy for us. Keeping up with what’s happening in the world need only take a few minutes – not hours, days, or weeks.

But how does this relate to happiness then? Well, we have the most amazing news channel in our own mind called the ego. Our ego really acts like the news. When an event happens – say someone in a grocery store is rude to us – we play that reel over and over. And if that news is catastrophic: bad news about our health, someone we love is sick, or someone we care for has attacked us; we can play that newsreel for days, weeks, years, even a lifetime.  

A lot of people spend a lot of time listening to this ongoing egoic news. Another big one that the egoic news likes to play over and over is when we mess up. Oh boy, does it have a heyday on that one. In our minds, thousands of times, it will repeat a mistake that we made. We become disgusted with our behavior as our ego keeps reminding us of how bad we’ve been.  

Well, why are either of these – watching the news or listening to our inner egoic news – bad for us, and how does it keep us from being happy? Let’s start with the regular news. Let’s say we’re constantly on social media, listening to what’s happening in the world – particularly when a big event happens, like the political races we’re facing right now. What happens is, if we spend so much time listening to it, what we’re not doing is we’re not living, we’re not getting outside, we’re not connecting with people.

We’re not enjoying life. We’re rushing through our meals – if we’re even noticing what we eat – ‘cause we’re watching the news while we eat. Or ...we’ve all seen images of people being in the most beautiful places – a national park, the beach, an art gallery, or someplace where there is beauty all around – and we see people who aren’t even looking. They’re on their phones; they’re texting; they’re doing things to keep up with the world, but not living in the world. We call this ‘human doing’ instead of ‘human being’. They’re not being; they’re just participating in the world’s news but missing out on being a human being in the world.  

I think most of us get that, and we can work towards cutting that back. But what is going to be harder to cut back is our egoic news, because we let it play all day long, and it has been playing for most of our lives.  So what we’re here to do is say, first, that we have to decide that this egoic news really is way too much.

Yes, we need to address things, and yes, we need to process things, but what we tend to do is go over them thousands of times because our egoic news mind is playing them over and over again. I think we can all recall things that happened to us that just keep repeating in our mind again and again, reminding us of what that event did to us or what we did to cause suffering to another. It just keeps getting replayed.

The replaying of that news is going to reinforce that negative behavior. But more importantly, it’s keeping us from living. Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time, so when we’re listening to the egoic news, we’re not living, we’re not being present with nature, we’re not connecting with people that we care about, we’re not enjoying our food, we’re not living life. We’re in a sense trying to multi-task, but what we’re really doing is not living well.  

And so it keeps us from being happy. I think we would be hard pressed to find someone who’s forced to listen to the news 24 hours a day or at least all their waking hours, who we would consider a happy person. Most people realize that the news is fairly negative, which is why people who watch it a lot are typically not the most happy people.

Over the years, when I’ve worked with people who were really struggling with depression, I’ve gotten them to stop watching the news, and they’ve done much better. But the more important news channel we have to learn to turn off is the egoic mind, because people tend to just repeat it over and over again.

Let me use an example: there was a lady I once knew growing up whose mother had died.  After her father died, she and her only sister needed to divide up their parents’ proceeds. There was one particular item that both sisters really, really wanted. They were fighting over it and didn’t know what to do, and they weren’t going to even talk to each other again because there was so much hatred over who was going to get it and who wasn’t.

My friend told me that she couldn’t sleep; all her thoughts were on that one item. She thought it was so unfair how her older sister wanted to keep it herself, even though she could have anything else she wanted. But she wanted that one piece, and my friend wanted that one piece.  So they were going at it, and it kept her up at night. It was constantly on her mind how unfair her sister was, how unjust she was, how horrible, and why was she doing that. The same story repeated probably thousands of times.

Finally I just said, “Why don’t we sit down and talk about it a little bit?” So we did. And I came up with this idea:  I said, “Since you both really want that one item, why don’t you share it?  One of you can have it one year, the other can have it the next year, and it continues to go back and forth every year.” She really liked that idea, shared it with her sister, and everything got resolved.

But the resolution isn’t really the key point here. The key point is that she kept thinking about the same thing over and over without resolution. And because there was nothing she could do about it, she just thought about it, her ego presenting it to her mind over and over. And she suffered because of that. And because I was an outsider, more calm and not egoically involved, I was able to come up with an idea that worked for both of them. Mind you, it might not have worked, but in this case it did.  

But again, the important thing is this: the egoic news is playing itself, over and over and over again because that’s what our egos do. They’re just like the news; they love to repeat those big items over and over and over again. Like I keep saying this phrase “over and over and over again.” Because that’s what the ego does! And if my phrase is driving you crazy, imagine what your egoic news mind is doing: it’s driving you crazy, too!

So how do we shut it off?  Let’s talk about specific steps we can take to turn that news off, so that it doesn’t run all the time. The first thing is that when the news starts playing, we ask ourselves: Is this important? Is this new news?  If it’s new news, of course we can listen to it.  

We just left a restaurant and someone was rude to us, and we have feelings about that, and we can think about what happened, about what they did and what we could have done differently. That’s fine, no problem there. But then the news keeps repeating over and over again, like it does. So the next question to ask ourselves is:  Is this adding any new news to my situation that I can change? Is there anything being repeated here that is noteworthy or helping me?  If the answer is no – and it’s almost always going to be no – then we need to turn it off.  

How do we turn off our egoic news? It’s actually quite simple. The first step is through awareness. By acknowledging that, oh, I’m listening to that news again, we will metaphorically turn it off. We will stop listening. And what we’ll start doing is start living. We’ll be present with what is.

For example, if we’re thinking about something while we’re eating, and we realize that we’re just repeating what we’ve heard a hundred times before, we’ll think  hey, what am I doing right now? I’m eating. I’m going to stop and focus on this wonderful food and just eat and enjoy it.  Or if I’m driving and start thinking about things, again I’m going to focus on this wonderful drive and listen to the music and just enjoy being outdoors driving through town.  Now the key here is that we have to agree that listening to the news over and over again isn’t good for us. It’s not. If we don’t agree with that, of course we’re going to keep listening to the egoic news. But if we do agree, let’s turn it off.  

The mind is capable of strong addictions. We really like to listen to that news mind, that egoic news coming at us all day long. Even though it causes us suffering and unhappiness, we really like to listen to it and can become quite addicted to it. And the way we become un-addicted is by acknowledging we have a problem: that we do repeat things over and over again in our mind. And if we engage with that and just keep letting it happen, we can spend our lives in suffering. We can spend our lives feeling empty inside, angry and bitter, because we keep repeating the events that happened five, ten, twenty, thirty years ago. We can really stay stuck there.

But if, instead, we choose to live and live well, right now, then we can have truly happy lives.  But we really have to acknowledge that though this mind’s news can drive us batty, we’re attracted to it. We like it, like we like the news and social media news. We can be very addicted to it, like that person at the beach during a beautiful sunset who doesn’t even look up because they’re on their phone, connecting with the world’s news.

We can be the same way even without a phone. Maybe we’re just standing there, looking at the sunset, but we’re thinking about what Uncle George did to us two years ago and still bitter about it. We can scoff at people who are on their phones all the time, but if we’re in our heads all the time, it’s really no different. 

So, again, we can choose to just be. That’s really the key. But learning to be present in the moment takes work. There are a few things we can do. One thing is that we can learn to meditate.  Meditation teaches us to keep our mind quiet or at least not engage with the egoic news. The news may be there, but it’s like background noise – it may be in the background, but we’re able to tune it out. Think about being at a party. A hundred conversations may be going on around us, but we can actually focus on the conversation right in front of us. It’s like that with meditation. We learn to be present with our breath and be still, and even if the egoic news is playing, we’re not engaging with it, so it has no power over us.  

There is another trick – one that will help the many people who lie in bed at night, ready to go to sleep, but can’t. That mind news can get really loud at night when we’re not being distracted by anything else. But, thankfully, our minds can actually only focus on one thing at a time, which is why this trick is so helpful. What do parents do after their kids have been active all day long?  They read to them, they may stroke their hair and sing to them, and then their kids fall asleep. We’re really not any different than those kids. We too benefit from having a schedule – like reading a book, taking a bath, or meditating just before bed.  It really is a wonderful way to end our day, to quiet our minds and be focused on what is. Because what isn’t is the mind’s news. There’s nothing we can do about it right then. So instead of going over it again and again, we can focus on something else, our minds can quiet, and we will sleep really well.  

Not only will we sleep well, but if we practice this throughout the day, we will live well. We will live beautiful, happy lives, because we’re not steeping ourselves in the negativity of the mind’s news. Instead of giving so much attention to the world’s news and the mind’s news, we can choose to live in the present, live well, and enjoy our journey here on earth. We can, we truly can, have absolutely beautiful lives.