Avoiding Mental Miasma

In Galina’s recent post On Being and Becoming in Devotion (which is worth reading in full), she talks about the potential for miasma resulting from certain sensory input:

“If we can be contaminated spiritually by what we see and hear, by what we experience, then the logical curative is to be vigilant with regard to our senses….How much are we shaped by our experiences? How much might our center be shifted by what we watch, or what we hear, or the settings to which we expose ourselves?”

I feel this more acutely as time goes on. At first, it was just noticeable during and around ritual practice – for instance, a desire to limit the topics of conversation on a holy day to those suitable for a spiritual mindset, or to avoid areas of excessive commercialization when going out for a festival. Eventually, it began to permeate my everyday life, especially as my spirituality more deeply infused every part of my life.

There are things I simply do not want in my brain, and they give me a strong feeling of miasma. These things feel distinctly incompatible with the spiritual forces that I surround myself with. And to a lesser degree – not miasma-inducing, per se, but not conducive to the mindset I prefer – I avoid being in the presence of too many reminders of mainstream American culture and other distasteful aspects of the world I must live in. As Rhyd noted about visiting my home, I do not have much technology there, I try to limit the amount of plastic I have to see around me every day, choosing instead to have reminders of my spiritual relationships and priorities everywhere I look. This even extends to the city I live in – I chose a place where my walk to work each day passes gardens and trees and (in the more commercial areas) a lot of locally owned shops, where the forest is extremely accessible, where the culture is for the most part supportive of my values…I can’t imagine how much my daily experience would change if I had to walk down a loud, crowded street in a big city full of chain stores where, say, fashion and the latest gadgets were the priority of everyone around me.

I think this is one of those things that might have more impact than we think. At the very least, our surroundings, the media we consume, the sights and sounds we are subjected to, influence our mental landscape and therefore affect our ability to dwell in the spiritual world. At worst, there may well be a spiritual-sickness, a miasma, associated with some of this sensory input, that might tangibly harm our well-being.

Galina goes on to consider whether such miasma can be fought by an overabundance of positive input:

“Is it possible to fill the mind and heart so with praises and prayers and devotion to our Gods, fill to overflowing so that every moment of every day as we move throughout our worlds there is no room for corruption or contamination to exist?”

I personally really like this approach, as I’ve used it before as a protective device (i.e., instead of warding or shielding against negative forces, I simply fill myself and the space up with my spirits and Their power to the point where there’s no room for anything else). However, I think it’s a difficult trick to pull off on a constant basis, even if it’s a good goal to have, and it would probably still be more effective in the interim to be culling negative input where possible.

That might mean a somewhat harsh evaluation of what we’re taking in, and why. I’ve found, for instance, that sometimes my so-called “guilty pleasure” activities (say, eating certain foods, or watching certain shows) are actually doing more harm than good, polluting my body and mind in a way that sets me back in my spiritual pursuits – in those cases, it is usually possible to find replacements that are better integrated into my life but still provide needed relaxation and enjoyment. Yes, that can be annoying at times, having to examine everything one does and everything one is exposed to, but it facilitates a life in the company of the spirits. And anyway, I’ve seen the sorts of people who consume what our culture tells us to consume, and I certainly don’t want to be one of them!

~ by Dver on February 24, 2015.

10 Responses to “Avoiding Mental Miasma”

  1. I find myself torn on this one. I know I feel better – more positive and confident – when I avoid TV and mass anything, other than 60s and 70s rock.🙂 But I’m also writing a book series where the main character is as obsessed with sci-fi as I used to be, and to continue writing her, I need to keep up with that kind of thing. It never goes well for me, though. I did buy 38 acres of land in SW TX, though, with no neighbors for two miles, and I plan to live there as soon as I get a cabin put on the property. That should help with the solitude issue for me.

  2. I’m working on getting over depression, and negative thought patterns/down-ward spirals of despair would be something I’d classify as spiritually impure thoughts (though that phrase makes me think of sexual thoughts, and Puritan-like taboos, which is not what I mean!) I am also autistic, and avoiding sensory overload from both things and people is something I have to be careful of. There’s a lot of crap I can block/filter out- I worked in a mall for a time, and it was then that I starting falling into the depression- I thought I was good at transcending/blocking out the crap, but maybe that was getting to me. That and several sets of horrible roommates, this house is very overdue for a mega-spiritual cleansing. Anyway, I’ve been trying to become more aware of what makes me feel better emotionally and what makes me feel worse- reading ranty things about environmental destruction/the evils of capitalism et al are some things I try to avoid- Like Rhyd- great guy, writes a lot of neat stuff, but I have to be selective about what I read so I don’t get sucked into a downward spiral. Glad the days are getting longer- the sunlight makes such a big difference!

    • Yes, good point, our own thoughts can even be miasma (I struggle with obsessive thinking myself, and it only serves to pull me away from a spiritual focus). And I know what you mean about reading certain things – I went through a period a few years ago where I was constantly reading about environmental issues and such to the point where it only served to make me anxious and despairing. I had to step back for awhile.

  3. I still haven’t read Galina’s Post, yet, but I think this was something that I needed to read right now.🙂 Definitely looking forward to reading Galina’s (once I’m off the bus and done with a few necessary errands, anyway).

  4. Reblogged this on rotwork. and commented:
    VERY relevant for me, and a lesson I’m learning the hard and grueling way on several fronts. Both as a polytheist — avoiding spaces and actions that are devoid of spiritual meaning to me — and as an anarchist — avoiding entertaining thoughts, relationships, and atmospheres that do not serve my anti-oppression, anti-consumerist, revolutionary praxis. This is putting a strain on many parts of my life that I’d previous taken for granted, but I am wholly convinced that this is a direction I need to go.

  5. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    Dver comments on my article “On Being and Becoming in devotion” and talks about her own way of approaching mental miasma. This is a good read.

  6. Very very thought provoking. Like Laura, I too am torn on this idea. As a writer, martial artist and mystic, I have been practicing restrictions in terms of dead time, pop culture, food, and alcohol for years. But Saturday is “cheat day” – I get to eat junk food, have a beer, and go to the movies. When practiced by me and people with whom I sympathize — like Milo here — it seems great. But when practiced by people with whom I’m less sympathetic (like when Mormons label things “not faith-promoting”) it feels a little dystopian. When taken to extremes by violent people, like terrorists or the Unabomber, it seems dangerous. So I’m going to say that this is a risky path that should be walked only by the mentally and emotionally mature and stable.

  7. For a while, I had a decent balance between my Spiritual work and my Mundane life. Then things went completely pear-shaped and we found ourselves living with a family member who does nothing but watch TV all day and totally buys into the mass-media influence. I hadn’t realized the toxic effect this stuff has on me until now.

    • One of the many reasons I choose to live by myself is so that I do not have to endure any type of noise (both literal and metaphorical) that I don’t want. I don’t think I could stand living with a TV on all day.

  8. […] Read the full article […]

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