Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meditation and TV: From the couch to the cushion

I have to confess that I’m one of those reactionary people who cheer every time they see the bumper sticker “Kill your TV.” Here’s why. Not only does television inundate you with disturbing images you wouldn’t otherwise have to endure — images of conflict, cruelty, seduction, exploitation, and outright violence that leave a deep and lasting impression — but TV also dulls your mind by habituating it to nonstop stimulation. With your mind accustomed to being flooded with images and sounds, you find it more difficult to enjoy the ordinary moments of everyday life or to register subtler levels of experience — the kind you’re trying to access in meditation.
Studies have also shown that tube-time inhibits the natural, age-appropriate development and integration of the various lobes of the brain. Children who grow up on lots of TV are generally less imaginative, more restless, more aggressive, and more easily bored than those who don’t. Did you ever wonder why so many teenagers hang around shopping malls looking listless and brain-dead? Television may be the answer.
Needless to say, you’re doing yourself a favor when you substitute an hour on the meditation cushion for an hour on the couch. You’re more likely to find what you’re looking for — relaxation, happiness, joy, peace of mind. And you’ll come away more refreshed and more open to new experiences, both inner and outer. But like most addictions, a TV fixation can be hard to kick. Start out slowly, say, by giving up a few hours each week and substituting some other activity that you find genuinely nurturing or fulfilling — going for a walk, talking with a friend, spending quality time with your family. Of course, you may not want to give up your favorite sitcom, the Sunday game, or the evening news — but then, who knows?

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