Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Advertising Discontent

Rambling down the road this morning on my way to work, I heard some statistic on the radio in my pick-up truck that I can't even remember now about how many advertisements our kids are exposed to during their lifetimes. It was staggering.

The commenter got right to the point. He said it's no wonder our children are sad. They are being told over and over again that they lack something. By the way, it's not just our kids. You, too.

The world of advertising is designed to elevate your anxiety. It's all about creating in you an un-easy feeling that can only be relieved when you get the thing they're selling.

You remember the Rolling Stones, right?
When I'’m watchin'’ my TV
And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be.
Well he can'’t be a man '’cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me.
I can'’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that'’s what I say.

I can'’t get no satisfaction,
I can'’t get no girl with action.
'cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can'’t get no, I can'’t get no.
Mick Jagger sang it. Patanjali taught it. We just keep forgetting it.

Satisfaction. Contentment. They don't come from outside of you. You can't be made happy by acquiring more stuff. Even if you try and try and try.

So I'll say it here. It's just a little reminder to counter one of the advertisements you've heard already today: cultivate contentment. It's one of the niyamas.

Have you ever noticed how discontent stops action? I see it espescially in asana practice. You see a pose you'd like to try or a skill you'd like to accomplish. You try it. Then you get some instruction. And then you practice. But you don't get the results you want. Weeks later you still can't touch your toes or balance in half-moon pose.

What happens when you get dissatisfied with the results of your efforts? Most of us stop practicing. Stopping your practice guarantees a result.

Instead, Patanjali reminds us to cultivate contentment. Practice without attachment to the results. Choose to be satisfied.

Here's what he says you get when you practice contenment:
Perfect happiness is attained through contentment. (YogaSutras 2.42)

That's a pretty big claim.

Being content is easier to say than it is to do, in my humble opinion. So Patanjali gives us some suggestions about cultivating contentment.

He says to "cultivate the opposite." (YogaSutras 2.33-34) We should remind ourselves, through internal dialog, that holding on to discontent (and the other negative attitudes he lists) do nothing but bring unending pain and misery.

I like to think of another one of Patanjali's niyamas as a tool for cultivating contenment: svadhyaya. Svadhyaya is self-study and reflection on sacred words. Simply put, if you reflect inwardly and regularly reflect on Sacred scriptures, it elevates you and raises you up. To me this is my own "self advertising." Instead of passively accepting the messages the media are pumping into me, I am intentionally selecting the messages of satsifaction and gratitude.

Are you impatient with the results of your yoga practice? It only leads to suffering. Count your blessings. And methodically, systematically practice contentment.

Don't just read about it. Get up. Experience it. Experience yoga!

Kevin Perry

p.s., Several years ago, Dr. Andrew Weil came out with a book called 8 Weeks to Optimal Health. In it, he recommends a media fast. Give it a try. Start small. Take one whole day during which you do not expose your self to any broadcast or print media. You can build from there until you can make it for a week without any news, gossip, infotainment and advertising.

Copyright 2005. All rights reserved, Mo Yoga LLC.


Anonymous Kelly said...

Great suggestion!

Several years ago I read Weil's book, and heard the same suggestion from Dr. Christiane Northrup on PBS. So I tried a media fast, and it was amazing how my mood lifted and my thinking expanded - I wasn't simply reflecting on the messages/"news"/tv storylines I'd absorbed. My thinking space became more creative and more helpful in my life. I now am selective about my media intake.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin - Just wanted to send a general note of thanks for blogging. I read your blog regularly and it often reminds me of yelapa and my contentment while there.

All my best,

1:13 PM  

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