Want to heal the world? Turn off the news
My journey from news junkie to healing junkie
I have always been a news junkie. When I was a teenager, my first order of business most mornings involved tromping down to the post office in my little Georgia hometown and plonking a few coins into the newspaper boxes that sat out front. Back then, Atlanta had two newspapers – a morning and an afternoon edition. I always bought both and devoured each page.
It was a surprise to no one, then, that at the age of 17, I went into radio, first as a DJ and within a couple of years landed a job as a news reporter and anchor at a small AM radio station in Gainesville, Georgia. This would be the beginning of a 20-year career that included a stint in TV news and six years at CNN as a radio news anchor, a CNN.com writer, and finally a breaking news reporter.
The buzz of a newsroom was my fuel; the adrenaline of a breaking news story my reason for living. Even years after I had left the breaking news business for higher education public relations and my current low-pressure job of newsletter curating and editing, I had to have a TV in my office tuned to the cable news shows to recreate that noisy atmosphere of a bustling newsroom. I could not work in silence.
That was then, this is now. These days I work from home, usually in silence – or with some lo-fi beats streaming from YouTube. I no longer have a TV in my office. I barely watch cable news anymore. I can't take what it has become – endless hours of pundits pointlessly bickering back and forth. "News" stations barely produce, let alone air, any actual news anymore.
What broke me of my news junkie habit? A realization that it's dangerous not just to my mental health, but to my spiritual health, to be so "well-informed" about the world around me. Eckhart Tolle, in one of his lectures, crystallized it for me when he said: "The news is about what's happening in the unconscious world."
The news keeps us spinning in the ego's world of negativity, fear, outrage, and grievance. Yes, there's occasionally some heartwarming news out there about the good we do for one another – but it's usually the last thing in a broadcast. In industry slang, it's called a "kicker" and it's simply a way to keep you hooked, because if you just heard all bad things all the time, you wouldn't keep tuning in. It's the sweet icing on the bitter cake they've served up to you until then.
There was a time in our world when we weren't so well-informed. There was no social media, no cell phones, no cable TV with its 24-hour "news" stations, no Internet that brings information immediately to our eyeballs. And yet, we survived – even thrived – not knowing the minutia of whatever was happening at any spot in the world in this moment. In that world, we read newspapers (which are quickly going extinct) and we actually talked to our neighbors face-to-face. We may not have agreed with one another about politics or the state of the world, but we realized that we were all connected by place and time, and we relied on each other's kindness in times of need.
The tools meant to foster more connection, however, have appeared to do just the opposite. Now that we know everything about everyone everywhere, our capacity for compassion and connection seems to be overloaded and short circuited. We don't have the ability to take in and process the amount of information being offered up. We're learning about the world through a firehose instead of a tap, and we find that we can't cope – mentally or spiritually. It's too much information and it's mainly all negative – wars, famines, shootings, the rise of hateful groups to power, the tearing down of social safety nets and the rolling back of human rights.
Free and easy access to all the information all the time keeps us living in a constant state of fear, which often results in a constant state of outrage. It certainly shows us we are all connected, but instead of fostering a sense of responsibility to one another, it turns us against each another. Being so well-informed we create factions based on fear of the "other" and what other tribes may do to our tribe. This robs us of our ability to connect to each other, to develop a sense of compassion for each other. It robs us of our ability to sense our own higher, Divine Self, let alone feel spiritually connected to those around us.
This doesn't mean, though, that we should completely disconnect from the world. Instead, we need to see this constant flow of negative and debilitating information for what it is – news from our unconscious state. We need more connection – but not through a daily digest of negative and fearful news from the unconscious world. A Course in Miracles urges us to "look at the crucifixion" but not to dwell on it. The words echo those of the Apostle Paul who, in Philippians 4:8, urges us to constantly be thinking on "whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." What both A Course and Paul are saying is that what the world needs is not more outrage, fear and grievance, but fewer unconscious people.
These days, I check the headlines, but I spend most of my time working to awaken my own compassion by seeking ways to connect with others in the world – even those with whom I disagree. Being well-informed does not heal the world – being connected to those around us does. Being involved in the lives of those we love – and the lives of those we may be indifferent to or even feel that we "hate" – is how we heal the world and change the tone of the news, because through our ability to see the real world of unity over separation, the unconscious world will awaken.
We must certainly be concerned with the suffering of others, but if our activism in the world is fueled by a hatred of anyone on any "side" of an issue, all we bring to the world is more hatred. If our activism is fueled by anything other than love and a dedication to helping us all see how interconnected we all are, then any action we take will not be ultimately helpful in healing whatever we perceive as dividing us. The truth is this: the better we are at touching and living into our deepest divinity, the more prepared we will be to heal the world in ways that are meaningful and lasting.
"It will take a change of heart for this to mend," singer Carrie Newcomer reminds us. It also takes the courage to turn off the TV "news" and commit to no longer dwell in the "crucifixion" – the news from the unconscious world that makes us just as unconscious. The world is suffering, yes, but only those who know how to heal themselves will be able to heal others. Living in outrage and grievance never leads to healing. As A Course reminds us, we can have a grievance or a miracle. We cannot have both.
Be informed, yes, but do not be conformed to the grievance and outrage of the ego world. Instead of being a news junkie, become a healing junkie. Turn off the noise of the unconscious world's events. Spend the majority of your time going within, healing the anger, fear, outrage, and grievances that fill your inner world. If you can heal the suffering it produces within yourself, then you will become a powerful source of healing in the world.
Your turn: I invite you, for at least a day, or as long as you can, refrain from watching or reading the news. Instead, spend more time in nature. Spend more time with those you love. Spend more time in meditation and study of spiritual books and teachings. Spend more time being over doing. After your media fast, however long it may be, reflect on your state of mind - is it more peaceful? Are you less stressed, less outraged by the injustices in the world? Again, this is not a call to detach from the world - but to put it into its proper perspective as a call for love. We can only respond to that call effectively when we are centered and at peace within ourselves.
Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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Take 20 with Candace
This week’s Take 20 is from Jubilee! Circle's Easter celebration from May 29, 2022: “The Barrier of Purpose.” Instead of pursuing our “purpose” in the world, what would happen if we let purpose pursue us?
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The Motley Mystic is an online community for people who have realized that the truth speaks with many voices. There is no one religion, philosophy, institution or dogma that captures the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. No one needs to swear allegiance to one line of thought or belief to discern Truth, because Love is the only thing that’s real. That’s what we explore at the Motley Mystic - all the tools and strategies we need to remove our barriers to Love and live fully as our true, Divine Self.
Candace Chellew is the founder of Motley Mystic as well Jubilee! Circle, an interfaith spiritual community in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians published in 2008 by Jossey-Bass and the founder and senior editor emeritus of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for LGBTQ People of Faith. She is also a musician and avid animal lover.
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