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Mindful consumption of television

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

I've been wondering whether now might not be a good time to further change my habits on intake of television. I'm talking in particular with reference to Thich Nhat Hanh's "five mindfulness trainings", and specifically the fifth one. Which I'll quote here:

Nourishment and Healing
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations. I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.

So I started on this about a year ago, when I first noticed that my tastes in films and television were changing. I've been moving away from action films for a while now, and I'm even avoiding some new entries in past favourite genre's such as sci-fi. Recently I've been cutting down on my consumption of news as well, I used to watch quite a bit of 24-hour news channels. Games I've cut out altogether, since they nearly all seem to be based on conflict, even watching the E3 coverage on Twitch I now find difficult.

In the past few days the Atthakavagga discussion has stirred up a few thoughts, and I do think a lot of it comes down to peace. I've realised that a lot of the things I'm now avoiding have disturbed my inner peace. I've been tracking quite carefully how I feel, and I notice I get more depressed and worried from the news, tense from fighting or scenes full of threat, and that certain movies feed very unhelpful emotions.

So I thought I'd ask whether you've found similar things. What you avoid, and what you still enjoy.



  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I recently watched a violent action film. It was awful.

    I watched another, 'A Touch of Sin' which was brilliant. In part because of the story, setting in China, acting, directing etc. I am watching the unfolding 'Grenfell Tower' tragedy on the news because it will change Britain.

    However our tastes and reactions do change through practice. I am more detached from my anger but am still an angry person.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    As hard as anyone might try, there is no escaping the world of so-called samsara. It is probably more sensible to stick with Thaddeus Golas' ("The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment") observation that "when you learn to love hell, you will be in heaven."

    Can anyone improve the wetness of water? I doubt it. Better is to pay attention and take responsibility. Not easy, perhaps, but more in tune... or anyway, that's my thought.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Yes, what I view and how I view has changed. I still have violent stuff I watch, though I generally turn my head at those parts because the story still intrigues me. I do not watch much tv or movies at all. During the day, I am usually home alone and the tv isn't even on. If it were my choice alone, we wouldn't have one.

    The past couple of months or so I have stopped sharing what news I read on any social media. Everyone already reads the same stuff I do (and if they don't, they don't want to see it anyways). It's doing the world no good to share the same crap a million times. I share more of what I want to see of others, which is their unique thoughts (that aren't about politics) and their time spent with their families etc. Heck I'd rather see what they are eating than them sharing the same post my previous 50 friends shared on FB! I got filters for FB so I don't have to see the stuff that aggravates me.

    I think we tend to believe watching the news makes us important because we think it connects us to our world. I don't think that's true at all. In fact, I think it's the opposite. When we are busy, or as when we were on vacation last week, we don't even check the news. The world still goes on without my watching or my input into the events, and they either swirl or resolve without my getting upset about them. There is little reason to pay attention to that stuff, but we've been convinced we need to in order to be engaged citizens. I think it distracts us more than anything from the stuff we do need to pay attention to, and we can get that information without watching the horrid entertainment news industry.

    It's funny, because Game of Thrones or OINTB I can enjoy for the story it is and let the rest go. Because it isn't real. I'm not saying it doesn't still have an impact on me. I just haven't gotten to the point to give it all up (though I would if I were by myself). The news is another thing all together. Before, it was the most awful because it was real life, and that beats fiction any day. But now, you don't even know what's real. Our news is nothing but reality tv. Scripted and fined tuned to attract viewers rather than to inform the populace. It's a joke.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I entirely agree @karasti, I always watched the news with the idea that there were 'things' I should take note of because they were important. But it became a habit and I don't think it was ever true to begin with. The media-driven shell around us is almost entirely superfluous except at voting time. I've cut down my television news viewing to just the evening bulletin now.

    But the whole thing of mindful consumption of media seems to be a recurring theme for me. I've talked about it once or twice over the past year on here before, and each time I seem to be ready to let go of a few more things. It's as if I'm very gradually breaking down some long standing patterns.

    I still enjoy Studio Ghibli films, and Pixar, and a selection of others. But whereas I used to be a well rounded film buff I find my tastes getting narrower. Same with television, nowadays I watch probably as many docu's off YouTube as from tv. I still watch some sports, I have a subscription to the Red Sox baseball live streaming service.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @Kerome I wish we could do the streaming baseball. It would make our cable bill so much better. It's so dumb that you cannot stream your area team because of the contracts they have with cable channels. We watch our state team, the MN Twins, but because we live in their market (in MN) we cannot subscribe to their streaming because of blackouts. We could subscribe to every other team in the league ,but not our home team, because they force you to subscribe to cable or satellite to get your local team on TV. Such a bunch of BS. We have a $100 a month cable bill JUST to watch baseball because of the package required to get the channel they put the games on. I hate it, lol. I do think it is going to change, as streaming services become the norm.

    I have noticed, too, that things tend to drop in pieces. It's been rare for me to have a huge change come through that is sudden. As I realize what is and isn't working for me, the things that don't work naturally fall away. For me that has been much better than attempting to actively force things out of my life because of a belief they are bad. Aversion just doesn't work for me!

    Mindful consumption of all sorts has changed for me quite a lot over the years. From the things we buy for our home, to the food we eat, to our entertainment, alcohol, what we listen to and watch etc. I expect it will continue to evolve.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited June 2017

    @karasti that's outrageous, $100 a month! I think I paid $120 for the year for streaming the Red Sox only, it's a bit more if you take the whole MLB.

    But in the uk prices for watching Premier League football (soccer) are also high, like £60 a month for the package. It just seems the Dutch are too stingy to fall for that, they tend to just watch the long summaries which the networks have to carry for any tv viewer here.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited June 2017

    OP, I got rid of my TV years ago. I found that even being very selective about programs, I didn't seem to have the discipline to turn off the TV when my one preferred program for the day was over. I'd sit dumbly in front of the thing, staring passively, as other programs came and went.

    Life is definitely more peaceful, now. :) I do miss the occasional good documentary, and I enjoy the sweet talent shows, where kids sometimes blow the audience away with a booming and expressive singing voice, or whatever talent, but I can get those on youtube. The best thing about it is that I read a lot more, which means I learn a lot more! I always have some fascinating research project going on, either on the internet, or reading a stack of books, and I love it! For example, one line of inquiry eventually lead into the role of "Westerners" (Tocharians, Indo-Aryans like the Buddha, and their descendants in NW India and Afghanistan, not to mention the Greeks) in propagating Buddhism, and creating Buddhist civilizations. What a gold mine of information! Who knew that Westerners were key to Buddhism's founding and development?

    You never know what hidden worlds you might open up for yourself when you turn off the TV, and allow your intellectual curiosity to lead you. And without TV, you have more time for visiting friends, actually being in their presence and sharing that human connection, instead of emailing or texting. The quality of life improves almost exponentially, in some ways.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @Kerome We get like 300 channels for the $100, but 95% of them we never watch. We'd much rather have a selection of the 12 or so that we do watch along with baseball, but we can't get our local baseball without getting the 300 channels. It's just dumb. Our internet is $60 a month, which we get from the same place, so we pay $160 a month for internet and tv. Even if we subscribed to all the streaming service, our cost would go way way down. But no baseball, lol. My husband is also one who likes the tv on for "background" noise, which I simply do not understand. This is while he is on the computer playing a game, which has its own noise! In my younger years I went without tv because I couldn't afford it. I didn't miss it. I got movies from Netflix and that was good enough. I hate that about typical life. The more you make, the more you spend instead of being able to save more and travel more, which would be my preference! But I'm one of 5 people that we support with one income, so I don't get to make all the decisions. Eventually ;)

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @dakini you might enjoy this...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Mindful consumption of television

    I don't have a television ....But every thing I do I try to do in moderation....(all except for Coronation Street on "TV ondemand".... I'm totally hooked, have been for many years... Damn you attachment ! :winky: )

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran

    TV, movies, video games are definitely some of, if not my biggest, attachments. Over the years with practice a lot of the time I have spent on them has dropped away as I noticed just how miserable spending much time with them makes me feel.

    I'm not good at the hard discipline of cutting something out cold turkey like. I do try to reduce in the hopes of weaning myself off eventually. With video games I had only played a couple freemium tablet games that are designed to only allow you to play for 30 min or so unless you pay money to unlock or refresh things which naturally limits my play time. Though recently I've gotten sucked into a farming simulator game that takes up too much of my time.

    With TV and movies, I now limit myself to 2 hours a day of entertainment programming allowing for rollover if I haven't watched 2 hours and unlimited documentary or educational videos. I'm sure that maybe sounds excessive to some but it is a reduction to me. Doing that means I am much more selective in what I do choose to watch and will drop mediocre programs and mindless watching.

    @karasti I'm not sure of the ethics on this but my mom couldn't get the Minneapolis CBS channel on her DISH service because it conflicts with a local news channel to her so she sends her bill to my house to bypass the regulation. Maybe something like that could work to get you out of the bundle.

    For myself a Netflix subscription plus a basic cable subscription gets lots of good programming. The few quality shows that appear outside there I simply buy individually on iTunes. I probably spend $150 or so a year on shows, which is substantially less than the amount I'd have to spend if I were to subscribe to the cable channels that broadcast the shows. I've also considered subscribing to an online streaming science documentary channel called CuriosityStream that looks pretty good and is very affordable starting at like $2 a month.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited June 2017

    Thanks, @Kerome. Loved the Norwegian! But the music drowned out her singing a little. Interesting comment by one of the judges, that the girl is an "old soul" who's lived many lifetimes.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited June 2017

    Are we off-topic yet? Wait, are we even supposed to be posting TV clips? ;)

    This kind of reminds me of the precept in Buddhism that prohibits listening to music. Back in the Buddha's day, music and "dancing girls" were a sensual thing, so it was considered too distracting for monks, and others trying to put attachments behind them.

    But IMO, it all depends on the music. There's music that can uplift us, and turn us toward spiritual values, and spark spiritual inspiration. So that must be ok, right? Same with TV.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    Here's my last video post, sorry for sidetracking, but these are so moving! This one's from last year. This 13-year-old, Laura Bretan, is a Romanian-American. She auditioned for the talent show in both the US (America's Got Talent), and in Romania, in the same season. She'd never been to Romania before. She got the golden buzzer for her US audition, but the judges and audience in Romania responded much more emotionally to her performance.
    And after rushing onstage after she finished, they said they already used the golden buzzer earlier in the show, so they couldn't give it to her, and they were frustrated. So somebody gathered up a bagful of the gold confetti, and they did their best to shower her with it. She won the grand prize in the final competition in Romania, after which they signed her up to do a series of appearances in church choirs. Turns out she does religious singing, too, not just opera.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    OP, I got rid of my TV years ago.

    We have a TV I choose not to watch, did not get one when I was a kid, untill I was about ten. Very glad to be honest. I too find TV addictive. I am not a very discriminating viewer, I will watch anything on the TV if in the room. :3

    I do download and watch things on BBC Iplayer and try out cult TV on the computer but mostly watch movies. The same addictive component exists with music. I listen up to three songs a day on the 'hypemachine' app and sometimes view the music thread here or listen to a spate of music on Youtube.

    Many things including computer games are designed to engross and stimulate ... and jade. You might in time find the need for dancing girls and entertainments is keeping you in zzz mode ...

    Buddha did.

    @Dakini said:
    You never know what hidden worlds you might open up for yourself when you turn off the TV, and allow your intellectual curiosity to lead you. And without TV, you have more time for visiting friends, actually being in their presence and sharing that human connection, instead of emailing or texting. The quality of life improves almost exponentially, in some ways.


  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I am fed up with all the violence displayed in most series in Netflix.

    My mindful consumption of tv consists in falling asleep on the couch whenever we put our son to sleep and sit down to watch tv on our own.

  • gracklegrackle Veteran

    No TV at all. No Netflix. Some folks would find that pretty boring. I find it freeing. No seeking of approval. But plenty of time to praise others.

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