Choosing Your Mental Diet
Updated: Nov 24, 2022
Once in a while, I peek at some of the made-for-TV premium cable series, and am usually amazed at the graphic violence, hatred, greed, and blatant sexuality displayed in those programs. I understand, the cable companies want an audience and this sort of stuff attracts viewers, like a street fight attracts a crowd, and yet, “is this what I want to fill my mind with?” I ask myself.
Over the years, I'd heard my meditation teacher, Swami Veda Bharati, speak of paying attention to what you fill your mind with. Just as the type of food we take into our physical body affects our physical health, so also what we mentally consume affects our mental and emotional health.
According to yoga philosophy, everything we take into our minds colors our minds and leaves a subtle trace in our memory. If we fill our minds with violent images, imagine the effect. Could seeing people act out intense greed, hatred, and violence cause us to believe that such behavior is acceptable? Could this be part of the reason there is so much random violence in our country and world? I don’t know, although it wouldn’t surprise me if this were so. What I do know is that when my mind is filled with the hyper-kinetic, super-emotional images of a violent movie, I’m not able to experience the simple joy of a serene and happy mind.
These savagely emotional movies are like spicy food. There’s an attraction to them, they are thrilling, exciting, and afterward, at least for me, there is a price to pay. Often, afterwards, I feel restless and agitated and may even have trouble sleeping that night. Is an hour or so of entertainment worth a day and perhaps more of feeling disturbed? Not in my book. This is why I've eliminated such "entertainment" from my watch list.
We all have a choice. We can consume images and thoughts that help us live healthier, happier lives and bring us into harmony with our souls, or we can pour violence and unhappiness into our minds. Whatever we fill our minds with leaks out into our relationships and society. So if we want to create a peaceful, happy world, we can start with ourselves by filtering what we consume for entertainment.
Here's an experiment: read the following inspiring prayer:
I weave a silence onto my lips.
I weave a silence into my mind.
I weave a silence within my heart.
I close my ears to distractions.
I close my eyes to attractions.
I close my heart to temptations.
Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.
(From The Ortha Nan Gaidheal, translated by Eknath Easwaran)
Notice the effect reading the prayer had on your inner state.
Now turn on a violent movie or tv show that is full of action and watch a while. Again, become aware of the effect the violent show had on your inner state. Do you notice a difference? Once you know the effect that your mental food has on you, choosing becomes easy. Then it's not what you "should do," but what you want to do.