The midterm elections are over. The 33 Chilean miners have been saved. Burma's most famous political prisoner has been freed, Prince William of England is engaged, Staff Sargeant Salvatore Giunta received the medal of honor, the terrorist plot to mail bombs from Yemen was successfully thwarted, but now Americans are being patted down in airports and Taiwanese animators are spoofing us in amusing videos.
Maybe I can take a break from the news stories that have been swirling around lately and catch my breath.
Nope. Easier said than done.
Here comes another news story. Here comes another wave of information I think I might need, or want. Something to make me a better citizen, wife, or mother... But not a better meditator. I've spent the last year meditating my way out of a panic disorder. I can see light at the end the tunnel on many days.
So why do I feel a need to start looking for storm clouds? Should I be shielding myself from the stories exploding out of the world's media outlets? (By the way, what ever happened to the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy? And is it good or bad for me to wonder?) Senator Jay Rockefeller seems to be on my wavelength, opining about the "endless barking" of the 24 hour news cycle.
But are there some stories worth worrying about? How can I maintain awareness of the outside world and a clear, peaceful mind as well? I am reminded of a talk I once had with Rabbi Simon Jacobson about my soul's mission on earth. Is it selfish to look for inner peace? I wondered. Should I accept the idea of being unpeaceful? (Especially when I turn on my computer, TV, car radio or cell phone?)
It's possible to maintain "a sense of healthy angst that keeps you motivated, alive and not complacent," Rabbi Jacobson told me.
So how do I do that?
Should I take my cue from the University of Michigan's star quarterback, Denard Robinson, who's been electrifying fans this year? According to my son, Denard does not have cable TV, so he can't watch all the pundits debating his chances of winning a Heisman trophy. He can stay focused on doing his best on the field. I've learned to let thoughts and emotions pass through my mind like clouds while I meditate. Surely I can do the same with news items.
Some stories are actually lifesaving. I used to worry that my children would strangle themselves on the cords of window blinds, and people laughed at me. Now I read stories about all the children who died in accidents with those cords and am grateful that the information is out there. My friend just sent me a link to a story about cell phone radiation that details important issues to be discussed with my friends and family.
I want to know more about the new staging of "Angels in America," and about Mark Bitman's minimalist menu for Thanksgiving. I want to know if I might have plantar fasciitis and if any new babies have been born to my favorite gorillas at the Bronx Zoo
But I am also taking charge of how I take in news. The other day, I downloaded some radio podcasts in anticipation of a long car trip. On my drive up to New England, I heard an interview with a psychologist named Dan Gottlieb, who expanded his practice in Philadelphia after a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down more than 30 years ago. Dan lives "with death on his shoulder," to quote Sartre. He talked about his prayer for the world, that it might become "softer, more gentle and more loving." I heard him say things like, "When my neck broke, my soul began to breathe." I listened intently as he described a "gift" his accident gave him: "I can't run away from my demons, literally," Dan said to Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air." "I have to sit with them," he said. "When I broke my neck, I had to be the man I was."
Monitoring the news is working out well for me, at least for today. Dan Gotlieb spoke about a patient who once told him "I feel like my soul is a prism, and everybody I know only sees one color and never sees the whole prism."
"To see the prism of one's soul" is Gottlieb's goal as a therapist, radio host and human being.
My goal is to try and see every color of the world's prism, without feeling overwhelmed.
And just as this post was finished, my selected news monitoring paid off: Dan Gottlieb wrote a beautiful piece right here.
Priscilla Warner is the co-author of "The Faith Club." Her new book, about her journey from panic to peace, will be published by the Free Press in 2011. Follow her progress on her blog, and meet her mother at www.rivaleviten.com