Reading the News as Spiritual Practice

Newspaper

I hold the perspective that all that we do is practice. So, for me, the question is not "do you practice?" so much as it is "what is your practice?" 

And that question arises moment-to-moment, becoming "what is your (or my) practice now?"

So, when I find myself rather regularly up reading the news at 12:30 a.m., four hours or so into my sleep (yes, I go to bed early), this becomes my question to myself:

"What is the nature of this practice of reading the news in the middle of the night?"

I think I've come up with an answer. But first, some background.

I'm usually awakened by some sort of signal from my body -- it's too hot, I'm thirsty, I need to visit the bathroom. Something like that. Then, with that out of the way, I sometimes go right back to sleep. But when I don't, I'm usually enumerating in my mind a variety of things on one of my task lists -- my business, my family, my volunteer activities. This can go on for a while. When I realize that this obsessive thinking about the tasks of my life, I crawl out of bed and tiptoe into the living room with my iPhone or iPad and start poring through the many news sources I find there. This can last upwards of 90 minutes.

When I go back to bed, I find that the task lists have faded into the background enough for me to go back to sleep.

Why is that? What is that about?

Here's my current understanding of this process. In the news -- all kinds of news -- I am drawn out of my contracted, egoic obsession with my small-s self. Whether I reading of the horrors in Syria, the global economy, recent discoveries in science, or new eruptions of human creativity in the arts, I hear the clarion call to know and identify with something much grander than my skin-encapsulated ego. 

Now, I realize that reading the news might not always have that impact on me, or might never have that impact on someone else. This is not some universal prescription to cure the middle-of-the-night frets. But when I see it as practice, what was an unconscious practice becomes a conscious practice. And, when I see it as conscious practice designed to lift me out of my False Self into a broader sense of connectedness and my large-S Self, I can see the beauty of the practice and rest in it.

What more can a practitioner ask?