CTQS March 2017 Newsletter

Applying the moderation principle to daily life

an information diet to save time and energy

by Yang Yang, Ph.D.
© 2017 Center for Taiji & Qigong Studies: all rights reserved.

Dr. Yang at Esalen in August 2016.

We all want to be informed with what is going on in the country and around the world. But it is quite easy to spend too much energy on the news. Much of it we don't need to know, or don't need to know immediately. Even worse we may waste time and energy on misleading, biased or even false information. One of the main sources for all this information (or sometimes non-information) is our smart phones.

I realized that my phone was stealing time and energy from me in several ways. When I log onto my phone, “Top News” pops up. And when I Google something, “Google News” pops up. I often find myself clicking on the links out of curiosity. Sometimes I have even followed the same story onto several media sites to explore the difference in coverage. It is easy to see how seductive and even addictive this is. When I contemplated the real value of the news that I was consuming, however, I realized that I didn’t really need to know most of it. For things I that I really do care about, there is usually not much I can do. That is not to say that action should not be taken when action is needed, but much of the twenty-four hour news cycle is designed to simply to absorb our attention. Nothing more.

I then asked myself why I was spending so much time and energy on daily news that lead nowhere. I didn't have a good answer, so I decided to put myself on a “trial information diet.” For one week I did not follow the news at all and was vigilant in reminding myself not to click those links. Then on Sunday I spent a small amount of time reading a summary of the week's news. It was sufficient. I discovered that the country still functioned - the world still turned whether I was following the headlines or not. In the process I saved a great deal of time and energy that I used to focus on my work, family, taiji practice, and nurturing myself. I am going to continue this information diet. It will require discipline, as all paths of self-improvement do, but I am enjoying the training.

As I teach in my meditation program, duality is a fundamental reality. Reversal, non-absoluteness and relativity are inherent characteristics of duality. There is good to be found in bad things and bad to be found in good things. (It will forever be so, which is why it is one of the few fundamental realities in our functional meditation program.) Smarts phones are everywhere and provide us with many benefits - they can even be life saving. But our use of phones can also be unhealthy, busying us with things that ultimately waste time and energy. Our time can all too easily be taken up with things that are made to seem important and exciting, but which lead nowhere.

My practice of the media diet is an application of the moderation principle: not too much, not too little. In this case the “just right” for me was no news during the week and a limited summary of the news at the end of the week. Give it a try, you may enjoy the freedom and reserved vitality to accomplish important and enjoyable things in your life.

Image of Dr. Yang sitting

Dr. Yang enjoying some time away from the news

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©2017 Center for Taiji & Qigong Studies.