A team of rivals

There once was a ruler who was constantly informed that the crop harvest quota was reached, yet this was far from the case. Thus famine approached but he was none the wiser.

The “yes-people” surrounding the leader literally pandered the harvest levels to him so that famine seemed impossible, yet the truth was that the harvest kept falling short. Eventually the ruler was left wholly unprepared when a famine hit that seemed to come without warning.

To be surrounded by suck-ups is not good. There are many famous historical figures who have fallen prey to this phenomenon. Powerful people may have a role in creating this undesirable scenario. Even subtly rewarding peddlers of feel-good information or punishing the purveyors of truth in any way will pave the way to warped perceptions. We need a hearty appetite for the actual and true reality, no matter how uncomfortable it can be at moments.

You’ve heard of Abraham Lincoln’s team of rivals? He chose the most qualified persons regardless of their political affiliation. He ended up with an adversarial crew, and this, in part, is why he stands in history as one of America’s great leaders. 

Celebrities with their entourage seem to me to offer the opposite of the Lincoln example. Too often no one suggests that the chimpanzee named Bubbles or doctor-administered anesthesia for a better night’s sleep probably is too much. There is too much to gain or maintain by keeping quiet.

Social media algorithms are similar. They aim to keep us on their app. They surround us with the things we like, not the things we need to see or should be seeing. There’s not a dose of the contrarian… ever. It’s like a team of “yes-people”.

Furthermore, when funding for scientific research comes from a place that is invested in certain outcomes, even subtly, science is not free. Without science being free it’s like we are surrounded by yes-men in our scientific life. Only a certain picture of health, one tied to industry, is allowed to emerge.

If we are not careful we find ourselves in the dangerous place of not getting crucial re-orientation. The Lincoln path was always special due to its rarity. Modern life adds extra layers.

Here’s today’s message: don’t numb out on the social media reels. They are yessing you as they form your thinking. Don’t settle for the standard approach. Choose intentionally what you are viewing, what you are eating, and what you are using for medicine. Limit your exposure to media, in every form. Remember this:

“If you are not training your mind, someone else is training it for you.” 

Mark Divine (Retired Navy Seal and meditator)

Media mediates your reality. Spend more time directly in reality. There is more and more manipulation in media, politics, and even science. In summary: what’s important now?:

  • start to limit your exposure somewhat to media.
  • when you use it, take breaks, every hour.
  • train your mind- meditate every day.

Regarding tips on meditating, the Harvard Health newsletter had this to say last year:

“If mindfulness meditation appeals to you, here are two mindfulness exercises you can try on your own.

1. A meditation exercise

This exercise teaches basic mindfulness meditation.

  1. Sit on a straight-backed chair
  2. Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
  3. Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and ideas.
  4. Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it good or bad. If your mind starts to race, re-turn your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation tend to be related to the duration and frequency of your practice — the more you do, the greater the effect it usually has. Most people find that it takes at least 20 minutes for the mind to begin to settle, so this is a reasonable way to start. If you’re ready for a more serious commitment, But you can get started by practicing the techniques described here for shorter periods and still derive a benefit.

2. Practicing awareness in daily life

A less formal approach to mindfulness can also help you to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. You can choose any task or moment to practice informal mindfulness, whether you are eating, showering, walking, touching a partner, or playing with a child or grandchild. Attending to these points will help:

  1. Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
  2. Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. This pattern may slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, helping you relax. Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
  3. Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation.
  4. Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor every sensation.
  5. When you notice that your mind has wandered from the task at hand, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of the moment.