Sunday, July 24, 2016

We Can't Let Bad News Break Us By Sandy Semerad

          The other day I walked in the house and found hubby Larry in a funk. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “I saw another shooting on the news.”

Larry, being a kind and empathetic person, had absorbed this pain, and as he explained in detail what happened, I became sad. Until then, I’d been in my happy zone, listening to Elvis on Sirius radio.

“Don’t watch the news,” I told Larry.

Strange advice, coming from me, a news reporter for many years, but when I first started my career as a journalist, it was a different era. I tried to stick to the facts, give all points of view, and avoid reporting on certain things. Like suicides, for example. Reporting a suicide created more suicides.

Nowadays nothing seems off limits. The 24-hour news monster has taken over. This monster is impossible to satisfy, and seems to prefer a diet of sensationalism with violence and killing and political mud-slinging.

To avoid the flatulence of this monster, I’ve decided to watch the news less and spend more time trying to become more peaceful and compassionate.

Compassion is our highest calling, according to author and philosopher Joseph Campbell. But how can we become compassionate when we blame others for the problems in our world?

In pondering this question, I recalled the words of a song I heard Elvis sing the other day:

“Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.”

As a writer, I often try to imagine myself walking in the shoes of others, and I suppose that’s why I like this recitation from the Dalai Lama:

“Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

In order to achieve a true state of compassion, we should focus on our commonalities, rather than our differences, according to his teachings. We all want to be happy. We’ve all known pain and suffering. And we all appreciate a smile and a sympathetic ear.

I like to think I’m a compassionate person, but I have a problem when it comes to people who deliberately hurt others, and yet, according to the Dalai Lama, I can’t reach that final stage of kindhearted living, unless I want to ease the sufferings of those who have caused suffering.

If someone hurts us, we shouldn’t react angrily, he says. We should withdraw. Analyze the situation and ultimately realize that the abusive person is the one who is suffering, and then we should offer compassion.

 “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”—Dalai Lama

Daughter Andrea claims she’s found more compassion and peace since she stopped watching the news every day. She recently canceled her cable subscription and bought a box that converts her regular television to a smart T.V. This allows her to select the programs she wants to watch. She feels lighter now, unlike some of her friends, addicted to the news, who emit heavy, negative vibes, she says.

I certainly don’t want heavy, negative vibes, I told her, and I’m determined not to let all of this bad news destroy my day. I’d rather work on trying to eliminate my own flaws and in the process, become more compassionate.

Maybe if we all choose this path, our positive energy will spread to everyone, everywhere, or to quote one of my favorite spiritual song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…” 

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