By Ishani Lauren Naidu
Leaving the doorways of our being open to the world, and forgetting the bliss we seek is not ‘out there’.
I read an article some time back about a television show that is so unsettling, so traumatic, so gripping to watch - that viewers have to, “brew a pot of Sleepytime tea, not to help them drift off but to keep their nerves at bay while they watch the heart-racing fever dream” of an episode. There are even memes and viral jokes about how painful and addictive it is to watch this series.
The viewers of this show are living the truth that ancient seers outlined millenia ago: What we experience through our senses has a profound impact on our inner landscape. What comes in through our senses can either help us go inward toward our inherent state of bliss, or carry us away into the sensory world and rob us of our contentment.
In the article, show viewers reported feeling emotionally raw, physically stressed and swimming in anxiety during and after watching this show. Even though they are sitting in the comfort and safety of their living room couches, the combination of images flashing on a screen and sounds vibrating from speakers caused psychological, emotional, physical and behavioral effects in the viewers.
One person is quoted as saying: “You’re just anxious for an hour straight… When you’re watching a horror movie or listening to something that’s super high adrenaline, you keep listening because you want to know what’s going to happen. You just can’t look away.”
Wisdom from the Vedas describes the five senses as five doorways into our being. When we leave them wide open, anything can walk right in. The qualities of that sensory input - agitating, depressing, inspiring… - alter the state of our mind, emotions and thoughts.
If it’s so painful, then why do people watch these shows?
When asked, viewers give answers like: To be part of the conversation around the office water cooler. For the ritual of getting together each week with friends. To spark conversations around sexual consent and drug addiction with their kids. Perhaps to feel empathy for others. For the fun of the drama, costumes and makeup.
A Vedantic reading of this addiction to overstimulating media would first juxtapose the satisfaction the viewers are truly seeking with the misguided source they are turning to for it. In this example, we see a longing for belonging and connection with a collective of other fans. This is also a kind of seeking for the spiritual truth of Oneness because something inside us knows we are connected to the beings around us, and when we feel isolated or lonely, something in us remembers and compels us to seek connection.
People in the midst of busy lives are carving out time each week for the ritual of watching the show, sometimes with friends or family. The pleasure here is a kind of sacred sadhana, where we feel a grounding in a rhythm, an inner desire to show up and be present on a regular basis. Even parents in the article described how watching the show with their teenager prompted difficult but important conversations that may not have happened so openly otherwise. Enduring the discomfort and anxiety of the show displays how strong the urge is to have vulnerable conversations. We crave fearless authenticity and are willing to go to extremes to find situations that invoke it.
Benefits that come at a cost
Mental health professionals were quoted as saying that even though the experience of the show is distressing, plenty of good is coming out of it in raising awareness about addiction and mental health, etc.
Yet the question we need to ask ourselves now is: What is the cost we are paying for the good that comes out of this and other programs like these?
The Vedic approach to tapping into, for example, our spiritual essence of Oneness, or anchoring our lives in ritual, or claiming our power and invincibility to talk about what needs to be discussed comes from the complete opposite direction.
Vedic wisdom tells us that any time we give our power over to what is coming in through our senses - any time we choose to subject our senses to unhealthy, agitating or disturbing inputs - we are looking in the wrong place for our sense of Self, joy and peace.
The fact that so many viewers flock to this drama every week is not a sign that we need more of these programs to satisfy the ever-growing appetite for this kind of entertainment. The mitigating observations that some societal positives come out of it is not a signal that it is serving the best interest of the public. This is a sign that our estrangement from our deepest desires to know our own Self has reached a fever pitch. It is a must to reflect on what we are really seeking through subjecting ourselves to this experience. It has to be acknowledged that there is a high price in mental and emotional health to get a weekly dose of satisfaction in those areas, which only fades and keeps us coming right back to the TV for the next episode.
Looking somewhere else
We are offered a true treasure trove of soulful wisdom and mind/body practices from Vedic wisdom that have guided humanity toward quenching those sensory desires once and for all, without any additional trauma in the process. The bliss we seek in these temporary and tempered places will never be met by the senses. But the good news is that it is ever-present and waiting for our re-discovery within our own very being.
You can learn more about the Alchemy Through Ayurveda program, where Laksmi is the admissions counselor, at www.acharyashunya.com/wisdom-school.
Catch up with Acharya Shunya's Advaita Vedanta teachings in her latest book, Sovereign Self.
About Ishani Lauren Naidu
"Ishani Lauren Naidu is a respected spiritual educator inside Acharya Shunya’s ancient Vedic lineage, who has been awarded the honorific title "Vidushi" by Acharya Shunya, which means “woman of wisdom” in Sanskrit. This title is earned only by the most earnest students of the Vedas, when they are ready to give back to the world, the fund of knowledge they have received, from their teacher.
Ishani immersed herself in the Vedic path and quest for the true Self under her spiritual teacher Acharya Shunya’s guidance, via a deeply held, one on one mentoring and grooming process, and study of source texts that lasted for an uninterrupted period of 12-years.
Ishani is the author of “The Song at the Heart of the River” (Harper Collins, India, 2020) that weaves classical themes of Ayurveda and nondual wisdom (Vedanta) into a heartfelt story and activities for children and adults alike."
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and Sovereign Self (Sounds True, 2020). Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she shares video teachings. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.