We give so much attention to how we feed the body, but how much attention do we give to what we feed the mind?
Our sensory input has an immense effect on our emotions, thought patterns, and even our body. In order to ensure that this effect is a positive one, we can make mindful choices around how we feed the mind through our ears, eyes, skin, and nose; not just our mouths.
Positive Versus Negative Sensory Input
Before delving into positive sensory input, let’s analyze negative sensory input.
Think back to a time (morning or otherwise) when you spent a solid hour watching the news. While there may have been one or two uplifting news pieces, the bulk would have been primarily negative: War, poverty, political unrest, crime, and violence are the mainstays of American news.
Now, remember how you felt after watching. If you were able to take away some positivity, hats off to you. More likely, you may have turned off the TV feeling a little sick to your stomach. The news portrays this planet as a troublesome place, even though we know in our heart of hearts that there’s much good in this world.
Let’s think about how this experience affects the mind.
Regularly watching such news has a compounded negative effect on our emotions and state of mind. If the news were the first thing that we watched in the morning, we’d have begun our day with a negative outlook on the world, perhaps feeling sad or worried.
This is where mindful sensory input comes in. In this situation, we’ve chosen negative food for our eyes and ears.
As we all know, we have five senses: sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing. In ayurveda the senses are considered one of the four main aspects of one’s being along with the body, mind, and spirit. The senses are our organs of perception; the bridge between the external world and internal world. They’re precious. Proper health of the senses is so important because it’s through these channels that we’re able to collect information about the world around us.
Interestingly, improper contact of the senses with their sense objects is one of the three main causes of disease in ayurvedic thought. And there are three ways of improperly using the senses:
- Excess use
- Minimal use
- Perverted or wrong use
This applies to all five senses. In terms of the eyes, improper use could look like this:
- Excess use: binge-watching an entire season of Friends in one day, or spending an entire day reading
- Minimal use: never looking at far-away objects, living in the dark
- Perverted or wrong use: watching a brutally violent TV show, or reading in dim light
As you can see, all of these behaviors are within our control.
We can choose not to watch hours of TV or read for hours on end. We can choose to use our eyes both to look at things very close like a computer or very far, like the horizon. We can choose to watch a peaceful and uplifting TV show over one that’s violent, and we can choose to turn on the lights while we read. Our choices will affect not only the health of our eyes, but our emotions and mindset.
When it comes to the senses of smell and touch, excess, absent, and perverted use may seem a little abstract. With smell, excess could be something like continually smelling our own perfume or shampoo on our beings. Improper could be smelling something foul like cigarette smoke. Wrong use could be smelling perfume or shampoo which is synthetic, and therefore toxic.
When it comes to touch, excess use could be excessive cuddling and snuggling.
While that might not sound so bad at first, think of the emotional implications like attachment and dependency that this can create. Absent use would be to not be touched by another person at all, and perverted use could be being touched or touching someone inappropriately.
We have so many choices when it comes to sensory input.
Making good choices requires awareness. That being said, not all sensory input is within our control. When we’re driving, for example, we don’t have any control over the sights around us. What we do have control over, however, is what we’re listening to as we drive. We can choose to listen to pop songs that degrade women and in no way enrich our lives, or we can choose to listen to podcasts on mindfulness or gorgeous mantras.
The point is that to ensure the health of our precious sensory organs themselves and the health of our mind, we must be mindful of our sensory input.
If watching a certain TV show or listening to certain music gets us down, we should choose to stop this behavior and find something more uplifting. Continual mindfulness in this regard is a behavior which will generally uplift our state of mind, making us more peaceful and at ease in the world.
So, learning to properly feed the mind will require a change in your daily habits. This video below, by the brilliant John Assaraf, can help you to change your mindset and change your habits:
How do you feed the mind? Are you feeding it more positive or more negative sensory input? How could you improve what you feed the mind? Please share with us in the comment section below!