8 Things That Suck Your Spiritual Energy and Make You More Mindless
Remove these ‘fillers’ to make space for things that matter.
“Fillers”. We all have them. But never think about them.
These are useless activities that fill our lives when we have nothing else to do. We think perhaps they’ll fill the gaps in our soul as well — solve our problems, take our mind off life, and help us relax.
Yet, seldom do they keep their promise. Instead, they quickly become suckers of energy, enthusiasm, focus, and mental clarity.
Their specialty is to seem harmless at the moment. But putting them together over weeks or months forms bad habits that are too hard to break out of.
They seem innocent and ‘normal’, but rob us of the most essential resource we have — time. Here’s a list of these filters you should minimize or avoid to get more out of life.
Who am I kidding? TV is not the vice of our choice. It’s Netflix! Or some other OTT platform.
At any rate, if you’re like most people and binge-watch your favorite episodes, you should reconsider how you’re spending your time.
3,662 adults, older than 50 years were examined during the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The participants measure time spent watching TV along with their thinking and reasoning skills.
The study authors looked at the time spent watching TV in 2008–09 and the cognitive measures of language and memory in 2014–15. Over this six-year period, people who watched 3.5 hours of TV each day experienced a greater decline in verbal memory — independent of other factors including socioeconomic status, overall physical health, and depression.
That’s quite something from an activity that seems nontoxic.
Dr. Fancourt, Ph.D., a senior research fellow at University College London explains why watching TV leads to such a decline in cognitive ability. When you’re watching TV all you’re doing is passively receiving rapid changes in sounds and images.
“Watching television has been shown in laboratory studies to lead to a more alert but less focused brain. Some television viewing is stressful, and stress is also associated with impairments in cognition,” she said. Not only do you degrade mentally but also physically — for most of the time watching TV is sedentary.
I’m not saying that TV and movies are no good. But we need to exercise our discrimination to:
Limit the time spent on it
Choosing the right kind of content to watch
I can intuitively know a lot about you by the kind of content you watch. Because it has a significant effect on our consciousness, moods, and behaviors.
Just like a slowly dripping faucet can waste gallons of water in a day, the habit of binge-watching taken all together over a period of a couple of years is formidable, even though it seems inconsequential at the moment.
Gossip is often argued as important for us to survive and socialize. In fact, psychologist Robin Dunbar writes, “Were we not able to engage in discussions of these [social and personal] issues, we would not be able to sustain the kinds of societies that we do.”
Gossip is a form of cultural learning. And you may point out that it’s not always negative. But I’m not talking about the esoteric definition that research gives. I’m referring to the conversations about other people, which are never fact-checked, sensational, and that which you talk about after you’re four drinks down.
While it can help connect people, the connection is fragile. Deep bonds are not formed out of casual gossip. And small talk always comes out of big mouths.
As many will attest, gossiping often leaves us feeling empty inside. It develops a subconscious belief that you’re the kind of person who talks about people behind their backs. That we’re always rambling about what we can’t control. Or the things that have nothing to do with us.
Don’t let the important things slide away in favor of mindless gossip.
Shiv Khera in his book, You Can Win gives practical questions to remove it from your life. The next time you’re tempted to gossip, ask these questions:
Is it the truth?
Is it kind and gentle?
Is it necessary?
Am I spreading rumors?
Do I say positive things about others?
Do I enjoy and encourage others to spread rumors?
Does my conversation begin with “Don’t tell anyone?”
Can I maintain confidentiality?
Asking even one of these questions is enough to break your gossip loop and avoid toxicity.
We tend to think that to have peace, we need to have a lot of stuff. At some point, we all have thought about the perfect antique that would look good on the side table which doesn’t need to be there in the first place!
To some extent, having possessions and living in a beautiful place is fine. I’m not promoting asceticism. But if you let it go out of control, it takes up a lot of money, time, and mental energy. The more stuff you have, the more you have to clean and rearrange. Add to that the constant worry of it breaking down.
In Delhi, India, the city I live in, the concept of residential apartments is popular. There are floors and floors full of apartments that are built with the exact same dimensions.
As a child, I remember going to my friend’s place in the same apartment and thinking “Wow, this place is so much bigger than ours!” Later I said to my mother, in part excitement and part jealousy, “Ma, they have a bigger house in the same residential complex!”
And then my mother explained that they just have lesser stuff in their drawing room than we do which makes the room look larger. Alas, that’s true even now. To date, our drawing room has 4 couches and two stools for heaven’s sake!
As you can guess, this makes everything difficult — finding shoes that are often tucked in below the couch, no space to move around, and obsessive cleaning whenever one of them starts to collect dust.
When you live in such a place, you’re not surprised to see minimalism on fire. People have finally realized that their peace of mind is the top priority and not the momentary satisfaction of owning things. Perhaps you should too.
Social media in many ways is the TV, radio, and newspaper of our generation. Countless hours are being wasted on social media, as you read this, by people who’re trying to impress others by what they have and do.
Just like everything in life, not all social media is bad. I myself write and post on LinkedIn — but I try to be valuable to people, instead of showing off. I’m not saying that my content is good to consume and others are not. But it’s for you to decide where you draw the line.
I know people who can’t resist being with themselves for even a minute before they open Instagram. I’ve seen people on the subway “pull to refresh” their Instagram feeds a hundred times on a short ride.
At the end of the day, it’s just an unhealthy preoccupation with others’ lives. The best people in the world may be creating on social media but not spending their time consuming it.
I’ve long removed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and not even downloaded any other social media app that has come since then. And without a doubt, I feel a LOT better now.
Too Much Reading
When I started reading, I had a major problem — I wanted to read *and *finish everything that I was interested in. Soon I realized that’s not going to happen and so I quit reading for some time.
After a few months, I came back to reading with full force. But this time I went to the other end of the spectrum — I was reading all the time, literally. Whether I was in the queue getting groceries or on a road trip, I had a book in my hand.
That too didn’t work out. Because the balance is right in the middle. Consider what Naval Ravikant says about reading:
“I just view it as a blog archive. A blog might have 300 posts on it and you could read just the two, three, five that you need right now. I think you can think of a book the same way. Then that opens the world wide web of books back open to us instead of it being buried somewhere.” “Feel free to skip around; it’s your book. There are books that I’ve literally started in the middle. I’ve read near to the end and then I’ve put it down…That liberation, that freedom just allows me to read.”
Reading for the sake of reading is a “filler” you should eliminate. Just because others think you should read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear doesn’t mean you should. I still haven’t read it. I may be wrong, I may be right. But who cares.
Many books themselves are “filler” books. They have one single idea that they keep wrapping the whole book around. The titles may be promising, but the content turns out to be a bunch of fluff.
Reading books is not a competition. It may look good on your Goodreads profile but it doesn’t matter. It’s not about how much you’ve read, it’s about how much you’ve understood.
Swami Sri Yukteswar would spend months on one aphorism from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. His disciples would often want to move on. But he always insisted to understand and meditate on it for a longer time.
It thus took a lot of time to finish the aphorisms by Patanjali. But once they did it, Sri Yukteswar told his disciples that they don’t need to read any scripture now. They’ve understood everything they need.
That’s the power of chasing understanding over quantity. Don’t chase a vanity metric. Life’s too short for that.
Even though no one talks about it, I’ve said it before — music can be dangerous depending on the way you use it.
A study exploring the use of music for mood regulation found that the wrong kind of music can intensify the feelings of depression in a person. Further, during a bad mood, we’re more likely to listen to music harmful to us, if we’re not careful of this fact.
Happy and uplifting music can help you feel positive thoughts that allow you to achieve your dreams while sad music can make you out of the mood. Why? Because music bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart.
You don’t listen to a melancholic melody and think “I should feel sad after listening to this.” You automatically feel sad.
Thus, be prudent about the kind of music you listen to in your free time. It contains the key to your mental and emotional state — give it a scrupulous thought.
There will inevitably be people in your life that create unnecessary drama. Out of concern or politeness, we decide to keep up with it, thinking that our friendship is more important.
But eventually, it catches up, until you can’t do anything about it. These people aren’t aware enough to work on improving themselves and take you down as well.
Remove yourself mentally from their company, if not physically. Instead of indulging in their drama, pray for them to be cured of this negative energy.
This way, you don’t get entangled in their useless ‘spectacles’ and keep yourself calm throughout.
Work You Can Avoid
Only recently have I realize the power of what Marcus Aurelius said in [Meditations](https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30659.Meditations), “If you seek tranquility, do less.”
Simplicity and minimalism are ideals not only for your physical possessions but for your mind as well. We fill our lives with things we know we can’t do partly because we’re terrible planners.
At any rate, the key to a happier life is not to do more, it’s to do less, but better. Everything you do in life, ask yourself “Is this necessary?” What would happen if you didn’t do this?
In many cases, the answer is no, it’s not important. By doing less you’re not running away from your responsibilities. In fact, you’re giving your best to the things that matter — your work, relationships, and yourself.
After all, we should never be in a position where we’re doing things just because we have nothing else to do right?
How To Fill The Time Freed?
If reading this list gives you the feeling that I’m too much of a purist, then let me tell you this. I still fall short on the points that I mention. I take too much work, I’m caught up by my favorite shows occasionally and I resort to idle chatting with my friends when the opportunity arises.
Because the goal is not perfection — for no one knows where perfection begins and ends. The goal is to be aware. Being aware that these things are nothing more than ‘fillers’.
When you find yourself trapped in one of these fillers, take a harsh look at your life and introspect. See how you can cut back.
Of course, you have to fill your time with ‘something’. So use that time to do things that don’t just fill your time but add to it.
To identify what these activities are, think of the things you’ve always wanted to do but never get time for. Exercise, meditation, reading, learning the guitar, etc. And then replace those fillers with these activities.
Eventually, you’ll be much more satisfied and happy. Fillers are energy-suckers. They drain your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. Cut those weeds out from your garden of consciousness to plant the seeds that will soon blossom.
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