All year, we've been told to go easy on ourselves and take time to recharge. Pandemics are stressful, the CDC says. (Really?! I hadn't thought about it!) And yet, despite these consistent reminders to check in and take time to do things I enjoy, I feel like I'm doing even less of it than usual.
I'm working more, like many around the world, for one thing. I'm also a little less inclined to flip on the TV after work, since I'm already staring at one of several screens I own all day. The simple pleasures of watching a movie, or even a 30-minute sitcom, seem somewhat exhausting.
That's why I was intrigued today to read this piece in InsideHook from Tanner Garrity, arguing that watching TV, in times like these, counts as a meditative activity. Garrity says he tries to practice what he calls "proactive television" – TV-watching that doesn't come late at night or while he's supposed to do something else, TV-watching that involves paying active attention to what's unfolding on the screen. (Doing this with reality television has actually been shown to increase one's natural empathy and compassion for others.)
That being said, we generally aren't being "proactive" when we watch TV. Studies measuring electrical activity in the brain have found that much of our higher functioning is pretty much dormant when we're watching TV, while the visual cortex is stimulated. If we're watching TV after a long day of work and simply letting the story transport us somewhere else, we're not being very present, and won't be meditative.