Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


FOMO: The Cost of Being Permeated by Desire

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

I recently heard a new acronym: FOMO
(fear of missing out). This is a panic that runs through our culture. It
permeates, if we are not mindful, every bit of our psyche. FOMO account for one
large portion of the variance of our suffering. Another portion can be
attributed to a new acronym I just coined: FOGWINE (fear of getting what is not
expected). Together these comprise the vast majority of what the Buddha called
dukkha. Dukkha, often translated as suffering, is more aptly translated in on a
broader canvas as “pervasive dissatisfaction.” What are we
dissatisfied over? FOMO and FOGWINE. If you watch television, you are inundated
with messages about what you might be missing out on. If you don’t join the
Army, you’ll be missing out on glory, pride, and advancement of your career. If
you don’t drive this car, you’ll be missing out on excitement, status, and the
best bargain of your life. If you don’t get this drug from your doctor, you’ll
be missing out on strengthening your marriage, great sex, and fun. The
opportunities to miss out are endless. We keep watching television programs for
fear of missing out on something big that everyone else will have seen and will
be talking about. We stay at the party later for fear of missing out on that
something special that might happen, that Kodak moment that will define this
instant in time.

FOMO is the representation of what I call the “deprivation
mind” in my book, Wild Chickens and Petty
Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness
.” Are we really missing out? And
what is it exactly that we are missing out on? This is a problem that besets us
when we look outside of ourselves for fulfillment. The desire that underlies
FOMO is endless, a bottomless pit that can have us chasing our tails in
pointless pursuit. FOMO keeps us on the wheel like a hamster never reaching
that place of satisfaction (at least the hamster is getting exercise). Like
everything that arises in our minds, FOMO can be examined as a mental object.
We can see it as a production of our brain and not a reflection of ultimate
truth. We can challenge it too. What would be so terrible if we did miss out on
something? Why is it so important to have EVERYTHING? There is an episode of
South Park that features Cartman pacing in front of a game store awaiting the
release of the new Wii. Unfortunately for him (and everyone around him) the Wii
won’t be released for another three weeks. Cartman grunts, “Come on … Come on …
How much longer …” He bemoans his fate, “Time is slowing down, It’s like
waiting for Christmas, times a 1000″ Certainly we don’t want to resemble
Cartman in any way, shape, or form. So we can look at FOMO as it arises
throughout our day and try to touch it with mindful attention. We can breathe
into this fear and see what happens. 



  • The Rural Owl

    My grandmother Idalia would have said that FOMO and FOGWINE are “two sister’s children” (cousins so to speak). Let me tell you a story. I used to go to the clubs in NYC with my friends to dance, drink and meet men. I held a fantasy that the perfect “ONE” had either left the club before I arrived or appeared at the door of the club just as I departed the venue in a taxi heading for another club. Grasping, craving and looking. FOMO indeed … I was in hell. Of course I can offer other examples – jobs, meetings, clothing, experiences, gossip, being in the circle or outside the cirlce. Always “missing out”. Whew! No wonder I was so tired. All that thinking, fear and anxiety drained me. I continued to sit and breathe in and out and breathe in and out again. My FOMO dissipates and I am not missing out on much these days. The present moment is right before me and I can’t miss out on that!
    Metta,
    The Rural Owl

  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    You watch South Park? Never seen it. But I am content with missing out.

  • http://exquisitemind.com Dr. Arnie Kozak

    South Park is crude, vulgar, and scatological. It’s downright coprolallic. However, despite its over the top shock value, South Park is brilliant social commentary. Through parody it reveals the hypocrisies of our world today. No one is spared. They are an equal-opportunity disparager. They (Parker and Stone) embody a Buddhist spirit that is captured in this quote by Brad Warner (from his Hardcore Zen): “Nothing is sacred. Doubt–in everything–is absolutely essential. Everything, no matter how great, how fundamental, how beautiful, or important it is, must be questioned.” Nothing is sacred on South Park, except for, maybe, the bodily functions of 9-year-olds! You can watch all the episodes online at Southparkstudios.com

  • http://exquisitemind.com Dr. Arnie Kozak

    Thanks for your sage post, Rural Owl. Of course, FOMO can be more subtle than what you describe. If we are not paying attention it will creep into every moment, should I read this thing or that thing; what should I do this moment? Mindfulness will help us to overcome this. Thanks again and keep reading!

  • http://louellabryant.com Ellie

    Thanks for enlightening me on the coprolalia and copropraxia of South Park scatology. How wonderful it is to be human and experience waking in the morning, that delicious first cup of coffee followed by a satisfying evacuation, and the euphoria and degradation of all that embodies this terrestrial existence. “Nothing is sacred”? I demur. Everything is sacred…sweat, sex, shit, and a full moon rising over a purple mountain under a star-studded sky. Blessings to you for these blog posts, Dr. K.

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