February 2, 2017

How to Consume the News without Having a Panic Attack Every Morning.

It happened on November 29th, 2016, three weeks after the election.

Those were three weeks I’d spent wishing I could fall asleep to a different reality. Three weeks hoping I’d wake up to a different reality. Three weeks consuming the news with a near-rabid fever to see what everyone and anyone had to say about the actual reality that wasn’t, despite my wishful thinking, fading into a bad dream.

That day I clicked on a piece from one of my favorite authors and teachers, Andrew Harvey.

And then I had a panic attack.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not blaming Andrew Harvey. He is a passionate voice of truth and love. He is a fierce advocate for the divine feminine, a modern-day mystic and visionary. His partnership with Caroline Myss on the CD Divine Rebels, Saints, Mystics, Holy Change Agents—and You, revolutionized my life. That is no understatement.

And it was because of Andrew Harvey’s writings that, nearly 14 years ago, I finally grasped the enormity of climate change and the resulting danger of rising sea levels. Up until then, given that I live in Minnesota, a few degrees warmer never seemed such a big deal.

Andrew Harvey’s books and teachings have been a mainstay for me, helping me awaken my own powerful, divine feminine. His work has inspired me time and time again. But the truth is that on November 29th, he was the wrong voice at the wrong time.

As I read his words and took in his vibrational energy, my body began to get cold. Paradoxically, I started to sweat. My heart raced. I could feel the blood drain from my face. Nausea came in waves. I felt a pain in my chest. My ears buzzed. I froze.

Several minutes later my daughter came home from school and asked me what we were doing for dinner. Still paralyzed with fear, I couldn’t even pull a proper sentence together. Heck, I couldn’t find a rational thought in my brain. How could anyone think about food, let alone prepare a meal, let alone have an appetite, when the world was on fire? I stared right through my daughter.

The episode eventually passed, thanks to my circle of familial and community support.

After I was back to my usual self, I un-liked and unsubscribed to Andrew Harvey on my social media feeds and via email.

It’s not that I didn’t want to hear the truth, or that he doesn’t speak it better than most. It’s that his delivery and my constitutional inclinations (I am no stranger to anxiety and panic attacks) were no longer a match.

I still want truth, but for me, right now, he is the wrong messenger.

After I un-liked Andrew Harvey, I questioned whether I was going into denial. But no, my decision was an important first step to becoming a more mindful consumer of digital (and print) news. The panic attack was, in this way, a gift.

That first step helped me set an intention going forward. I must take back the power to choose what I read and who I listen to. It is no different from choosing what I eat, what I wear on my body and to whom I give my dollars. It is an integral part of my self-care to choose how I interface with information.

I’d like to share a few ideas:

I’m slowing the scrolling and paying closer attention to how certain writings/authors/publications make me feel. Do they trigger my flight or fight response? Conversely, do they lull me into a false sense of security? Do I feel desperation and hopelessness upon reading them? If I feel demoralized after reading an article, it is difficult to move back out as an activist for compassion and truth. The more in touch I am with how I feel as I read and scroll, the more I can engage back in the world in both an informed and a mindful way. (And the more likely it is that I can prepare an evening meal.)

I’m actively seeking new sources to like and follow. Particularly, I’m choosing those writers who offer the truth while allowing me to choose how I feel about it. No manipulation, no dog whistles, no purposefully amplified language. I enjoy writers and bloggers who add a little personal note to their pieces; I feel a deeper connection in knowing that they are impacted too, that they do not view themselves as some detached observers.

I’m investing, with my money and my readerly support, in the news organizations that match the standard I’ve set. I’m not looking for perfect; I’m looking for effort. We have grown accustomed to receiving news (and music, but that’s another story) for free. But the axiom is still true: you get what you pay for, so I’m going to start paying for quality in the expectation that quality is what I receive.

I’m focusing on a few great writers, thinkers and activists that speak to me right now. This is not the same thing as finding only authors and writers with whom I agree. Rather, I’m seeking writers who keep me equally curious, informed, and engaged in how we make a better future together.

Here are a few that have made that list:

The New York Times

Washington Post

The Guardian

Dan Rather (News and Guts)

Robert Reich (The Resistance Report)

Van Jones (#Love Army)

Michael Moore (Activist & Film Maker)

elephant journal‘s own talented staff

From the other side of the aisle, I have mad admiration for the passion of Ana Navarro. (And I am seeking a few more intelligent, conservative voices to help round out my picture…suggestions welcome.)

I am grateful for displays of courage, ingenuity and integrity in a time when these attributes may be targets under Trump’s rapid-fire Twitter thumb. I am grateful for heartfelt words based on experience and knowledge, and proffered with respect for us readers’ ability to discern and conclude for ourselves.

But my list is probably not yours.

We are all built differently, think differently, respond differently, feel differently. So no matter how respected a particular writer or news agency is or how recommended they come, if their words or style isn’t a match don’t feel obligated to read or listen to them. Obligation, I believe, was behind my reading Andrew Harvey’s piece.

Learning to become a mindful news consumer may take some time.

My emotions are involved and habits are ingrained. But including my news intake into my mindful lifestyle efforts is a far better option than succumbing to panic attacks or hiding away and loading up my Facebook feed with cat videos. (Having said that, I always recommend at least a few cat videos.)

Bottom line: For me to continue doing my best work in the world, I can’t read articles and writers that immobilize me with fear. We need articles and writers who inspire us to positive action.


Author: Keri Mangis

Image: oakenroad/ Flickr

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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