Every day our attention is drawn to promotional and marketing messages on virtually every channel or platform we spend time on – the internet, social media platforms, TV, billboards and so on. There’s always someone who wants to sell something. The better ones try to make your life better or build a relationship with you – but they eventually are on the mission to make you buy something.
For decades, we’ve seen advertising on the rise and diversify into so many channels – from print media, radio, and television to now into streaming platforms, social media and ever clever and innovative methods of catching our attention.
While many of us have matured to this phenomenon and even grown resilient in some cases (turning off or muting the advertisement for instance), it’s useful to understand the deeper effect of marketing and advertising on our spiritual life.
From a spiritual perspective, marketing and advertising messages target our Agnya chakra. Very few of them have a positive effect or can benefit us unless we only look at them as a source of entertainment. Watching the newest ads during a Super Bowl party can be a great experience!
But, for the most part, they can bias our decisions and guide us in the wrong direction; most often, our attention is clear, and we are unopinionated – these messages try to shape our thinking so we can become a source of revenue for them. And they leave us with our attention that has been colored with some information that we probably never needed. Attentional junk, in other words, that we have to later deal with in our meditative routines.
Ad makers and marketers have a way with words. Also, it is possible to prove anything in today’s world by referring to carefully chosen science, data and studies, not to mention some great images, videography and compelling writing. All these compensate for the lack of substance in their content and message and the product itself. The most compelling, convincing, and eloquent voice wins, often with no correlation with the product or service quality.
Of course, in the face of their primary goal to sell something, they disregard higher purpose and subtler values in life or how their material can have longer-term effects on our children or us. This is another problem to contend with.
They should be willing to tell us the truth – not pamper our ego or trigger unnecessary wants and desires. However, that’s unfortunately how all marketing messages are designed. In most cases, we never realize the depth of research and planning that goes into each message. Till the end, we never realize how we have been convinced or tricked. They use the many clever psychological tricks without us realizing it; the power of persuasion is one of the most important ones. The other popular one is to create an artificial sense of fear or craving or insecurity and make us buy what they sell.
They can introduce us to things and concepts that we don’t know and bait us into trusting them under the pretext of greatly enhancing our knowledge.
They overload our attention, distract us and prevent us from stabilizing our attention for meditation. Our attention can become wobbly if we are over-exercising our Agnya chakra through reading.
Not all content is bad.
Many of us may be involved in some sort of marketing activity in our day-to-day lives and a few of us in jobs that are explicitly involve advertising. Good content that brings issues and even good products to our attention can be helpful. In a highly competitive world, those with good intentions, services and products need to survive and make a living. This makes marketing and advertising a kind of a necessity.
However, staying as close as possible to the truth and verifying that the product or service ultimately benefits the greater good is essential. The skill and creative talents of the marketing and advertising industry can also stimulate inspiration and a call for action for good causes.
Marketing and advertising efforts also need to consider the long-term impacts of what is being sold and that of the content itself.
What you can do as a meditator
Develop a strong filter for your attention and protect your Agnya chakra.
One of the biggest challenges meditators face is to cross the Agnya chakra and elevate our attention to the 7th chakra – to that higher consciousness of our meditative state. Most of us struggle with clearing the blocks and negativity in our Agnya chakra, which is absorbed through the content we consume by reading, watching and listening. The first step is to use content filters for our attention to prevent our Agnya from becoming clogged and hard to clear. It is good to check how much of these external messages and content we really need or matter to us. For instance, how much of news and involvement in social media do we really need? Are we doing this merely because they’re available and we have nothing else to fill our time with?
Preventing external messages and content from influencing us
It is one thing to be exposed to a lot of marketing and advertising, it is quite another to allow them to linger, analyze them and allow them to shape our views and choices. On our spiritual journey, our intuition and instincts become very strong and guide us. We need to rely more on these and become strong, independent personalities than let the words and ideas of marketers and advertisers dictate or influence us.
In today’s complicated and busy world, it is worthwhile checking if our world views, opinions and decisions are largely built from what we hear, see and learn from these external sources. Or from our daily introspection and an elevated level of consciousness available to us in our meditation. The latter is clearly what we seek and good for us.