I used to be a news junkie.
My first “real” job out of college was as a newspaper reporter.
I thrived on news. I loved watching the news on TV, turning on the radio, crinkling the pages of the newspaper. Newspaper ink, I used to joke, ran through my blood.
Lately, it seems that the news is simply too grim. Or maybe the news was always too grim, but we simply didn’t see it everywhere. Now, each time we turn on the computers or TV we’re slapped in the face by the headlines: murders, tornadoes, floods, kidnappings, bombings… the list goes on.
After 9/11 the news changed for me. As I watched the twin towers disintegrate over and over again, I realized that I didn’t need to suffer repeatedly to feel compassion; I felt it the first time and it changed my life forever.
Yoga also changed my perspective on the news. I learned that replaying all the heartaches and pains of the past was no more productive than envisioning all the bad stuff that might happen in the future. In yoga it was let it all go, and be here now—something I’d never done before.
The more I practiced the less I wanted to be involved in the news. Of course, I still sign petitions and support peace and environmental issues. But I avoid the day-to-day horrors. I have canceled my newspaper subscriptions and rarely watch the news on TV (except during election time because I’m still a bit addicted to politics). When my kids were growing up, I had the rule: “No TV when eating dinner.”
Now I seem to have the rule: “No TV.” Period.
Is this good, bad or neither? Some might call it hiding one’s head in the sand. Others might say it’s irresponsible to ignore the violence, destruction and decay. Others (particularly yogis) might just say, “No judgment.” (To live without judgment, a friend once argued, is to live without values.)
I choose happiness. I choose peace—and that begins in my own heart. If I fill my heart and brain with visions and memories of pain and war, how can I spread my light? But if I ignore the suffering and torment, how can I be compassionate? How can I strive to make a difference?
It’s a conundrum. But the news these days is over the top, and I seem ill-equipped to deal with it. I blame my inability to deal, at least in part, on yoga. All these heart-opening poses have made me even more vulnerable than I was before. Perhaps they are meant to strengthen the heart center, but in some ways I feel weaker. The barriers are down. The walls have crumbled. The door to my heart is wide open, and everything and anything can enter.
I refuse to close my heart. But is it wrong to retreat within, to cloak myself in solitude and love? Is it wrong to close our eyes and refuse to see the insanity and destruction? Or do we have a right to protect the sanctity of our own inner peace, a right to close our hearts to save our minds?
Can we open our hearts to let in the pain and sorrow, and still feel joy?
I don’t have the answers, but I know that since I’ve turned off the news, cancelled the newspaper, and refused to read the story behind every horrific Internet headline, I’ve felt more at peace and more in the light.
If we were all to surround ourselves with goodness and beauty, would there be more goodness and beauty to go around? Or would the hate and danger just keep on multiplying?
I’m not advocating denial, or a “let them eat cake” approach. Real work needs to be done in the world to end the guns, violence and hatred. But so many of us just can’t bear the pain anymore. If we unite in a place of peace and gentleness could we ever turn the headlines around?
Perhaps, sometimes we need to shut our eyes to survive. At times, going within seems to be the only place of safety and clarity.
Before yoga, I didn’t know how to shut my eyes, calm my heart or slow my breath. I believe that if everyone could learn these three seemingly simple yet profoundly huge things, yoga actually could heal the world.
Kathryn E. Livingston has been writing about parenting issues for more than 25 years; recently, she’s turned her pen to yoga. Kathryn is especially drawn to Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Kundalini yoga, and is soon to engage in a Kundalini yoga teacher training. Read more on her blog, The Huffington Post or on Spirit Voyage. Check out her book of essays, All About Motherhood, or follow her on Twitter. Kathryn’s yoga memoir will be published in January, 2014.
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