Turn Down for What?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of my grandfather’s death, whom I’ve written about extensively and on whose life and legacy I reflect often.

One of the most memorable characteristics of my grandfather was his absolute hatred of TV commercials. He was usually snoozing and half-watching a cooking show with the volume blasting because he had crappy 80’s hearing aids. Of course, when the commercials came on, the volume was amplified, which was an assault on what little hearing he had left. This jolted him into a cursing fit that was really only funny the first time. So, he started muting the commercials. I can say with confidence that the Mute button on the remote control was one of his favorite inventions ever.

As I moved out into the world, first into my own car (no, I didn’t live in it, but it was my first taste of freedom), then into a dorm room and then into my first apartment, I started to frequently use that mute button. It became indispensable, really. Even before adopting a meditation practice, I inserted brief periods of silence into my road trips and television shows for most of my life. I’ve opted out of calling lists and mailing lists in an effort to save myself the excessive interaction. This has granted me the mental space to think about what it is that I really need and to be able to separate that from what I really want.

This rejection of advertising was the seed of my questioning and then rejecting aspects of extreme consumerism that have shaped what and how I buy today. (I also credit my Mother with flat-out shutting down mine and my brother’s whiny requests in the grocery store—most of the time, the answer was “No.” Respect.) Embracing a simple life requires saying “No” a lot more often than saying “Yes.”

If you take an honest inventory, you’ll find that you need very little to live well and even less to survive. I think rejecting the bulk of consumerism and advertising is a great place to start the practice of living simply. Think you can’t live/won’t be happy/absolutely NEED that new _______? Ya probably don’t. Just like you don’t need to be advertised to 24/7, watch every new trending television series, etc. etc. etc. Because it just doesn’t matter.

Ayurveda recognizes that our senses (indriyas) are indeed sensitive. What you consume through them is just as important as the food you eat. As you consider the quality of your food, also consider the quality of everything else you consume…through your eyes and ears…and into your mind.

In this ancient system, there are three principles of Nature, called the Gunas, that dominate our mental space. They are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. They are all important and good when balanced and functioning properly. Rajas allows for action, moving towards our goals and dreams and Tamas tells us when it’s time to stop to rest. Sattva gives us the big, creative visions and allows us to plan ways to manifest them, using Rajas and Tamas.

But if there is too much Tamasic energy, the mind turns towards darkness and negativity, potentially entering a depressed state where the mind is bogged down. Nothing is interesting so nothing happens. You’re bored. And this could be because there is an excess of Ama (toxins) in the body….or because the food you’re eating is Tamasic….or you’re consuming Tamasic energy through your senses (couch potato territory)….or you have other Tamasic tendencies.

You could have too much Rajasic energy in the mind if it’s difficult to concentrate, or you’re constantly frustrated and angry. You could even have an excess of Sattva if you’re do-good tendency is overbearing to others or puts your own health at risk.

Do not assume you are immune to your environment; you are a living organism that is influenced by surrounding stimuli, whether you like it or not.

What are the messages you’re receiving from all those stimuli saying? You need to turn down to listen.

Take control of your environment. Mute the commercials. Question the quality of the messages you’re consuming. Are they healthy? Good? Are they uplifting to your soul, or troubling and contributing to a heightened level of stress? Control what you can because….

There is no shortage of war, famine, injustice, inequality, persecution, violence, and darkness in the world. There is much to complain about and there is much to change. And this has always been. Breathe deeply and relax into this Truth. Let it stir your heart and plant the seed of courage to be the change. Change the channel. Turn it off. Embrace your new freedom.

Turn off the news and Google something good.

Connect with your community and work on a project together. Grow delicious plants and get your hands dirty. Learn how to cook. Watch the clouds, stars, trees. There is so much potential around you. Find it and immerse yourself in it. Cultivate an environment of peace within yourself. Then advertise THAT!

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

These verses completely jive with the idea of Sattva. They’re my favorites.

So, your mind won’t shut off long enough for you to fall asleep? Consider what you’re putting into your eyes and ears throughout the day.

Panic attacks? Dark, scary thoughts? Super stressed?

What uplifts you? Inspires you? Puts you at ease and makes you laugh? Find your joy. Try something new. Learn more about that. Feed your curiosity.

You know what this post needs?  A list.

Turn down for:

  • clarity and peace of mind.
  • patience.
  • inner wisdom that allows for informed, clear choices.
  • the opportunity to do research that informs better decisions.
  • cultivating and keeping healthy relationships.
  • knowing where and how to spend your limited energy and resources.
  • the mental space that supports creativity and possibility.
  • Thinking. Daydreaming. Living.

What’s worth turning down for to you? Tell me in the comments below.