Dealing with Distractions in Meditation is really an opportunity for practice. There are many types of distractions that arise during meditation, they can be a thought that catches your attention, sometimes they’re a sensation in the body or they can be noises in our environment.
Dealing with Distractions in Meditation
Elbert Hubbard an American writer and philosopher, was quoted as saying “Life is one damned thing after another,” and meditation is the practice of letting go of ‘one damn thing after another.’
One of the first practices in mind-training is to bring your attention to a point of focus, witness the rising images and thoughts and then let go of the distractions. The problem is that in trying to ‘control’ your thoughts it is easy to get caught up in the idea that they are your adversaries.
About dealing with distraction and, seeing them as your adversaries, Zen master Wolfgang Kopp, expressed it this way, “many are of the opinion that once the evil intellect is suppressed, the ardently desired nirvana will automatically reveal itself. It cannot be stressed enough that this belief has not the least to do the true practice of Zen. The point is not to suppress thought, but rather to surpass it.”
Distractions are not your enemy, you should treat them with the same kindness that you would your five year old who innocently wanders away from you. You find them, take them gently by the hand and lead them back to where they should be.
Speaking of children and distractions, Olivia Rosewood wrote a wonderful post about meditation, children and distractions. As parents of young children it can sometimes feel as if there are almost insurmountable obstacles to a peaceful meditation. Olivia notes how many of her friends, who are moms, become frustrated when they try to meditate because of the distractions and interruptions created by their young children.
Here are Olivia’s amusing thoughts and insights on meditation and distractions, beginning with…
“…Eckhart Tolle espouses the simple yet profound encouragement to “allow what is without resistance.”
In fact, Eckhart has spoken at length about meditation practice and children. His most poignant recommendation, from my point of view, is not to yell harshly at your child when they interrupt your meditation practice. You are sitting quietly on your silk pillow, breathing, perhaps repeating a mantra silently. A child bursts in the room screaming and tackles you. How do you react? Scold? Ignore? Hug?
A meditation practice is just that: practice. Practice for what? Practice for life. It is practice for dealing with life as peacefully and receptively as possible, not just superficially, but on the inside, too. So if your child interrupts your practice, it’s no longer practice, it becomes real. Therefore hug the child, love the child, and if you can, resume your practice afterward. If you can’t resume your practice, whether it is energy cultivation or silent sitting, then practice is over and the game is on. How loving, receptive, and calm can you be in real life? Can you have boundaries without being reactive or emotionally volatile? Can you bring the principles of a meditative practice into your parenting style?
On my second trip to India, my meditation teacher felt it was in my best interest to sit in the basement of the ashram for several hours a day first in a mantra practice, and then sitting in silence. This kind of meditation is my idea of sheer heaven: the peace, the depth, the inner quiet are so blissful. Except that just outside of the ashram was a graveyard, and wandering that graveyard shouting out prayers to Shiva for his own personal reasons until sunset was a devoted older man gifted not only with loud voice that carried well, but also gifted with a bullhorn. It was through that bullhorn that he shouted his prayers to Shiva. One early morning, I wandered out to this gentleman in the graveyard and asked him why he shouted, and why the bullhorn? He told me that Shiva was more likely to hear him if he was as loud as possible. He said it with the sweetest smile that I realized there was nothing more for us to talk about. He was on a sincere mission, and I loved his devotion to it. “I understand. Thank you. I know Shiva will hear you.” I told him.
Directly on the other side of the little ashram was a wedding celebration center. In India, weddings can last as long as five days, and they are serious about their celebration. They are beautiful, ornate, full of joy, and constantly accompanied by dancing music. I learned that many Indian newlyweds love to have Celine Dion and Cher alternately played all day and night through surprisingly high-tech speakers that seem to penetrate thick walls — as though they don’t even exist.
Sitting in meditation in the basement of the ashram, my friend blasting his prayers to Shiva on one side, and a very happy bride and groom with all of their loved ones pleasantly rocking out to “I’m Alive” and then “My Heart Will Go On,” I experienced a deep surrender. As soon as I let go of resisting the sounds around me, I not only stopped giving them attention, but they disappeared deeply into the background, passing through my awareness like a cloud passes peacefully through a sky. It was such a relief to stop resisting what was unchangeable. (Well, perhaps I could have changed it, but that would have required great effort. And I had no desire to rain on anyone else’s beautiful journey.)
It’s since then that I can meditate no matter the noise level. And now that I, too, have children who like to be children, this “allowing” really comes in handy” Read more..
You may not have learned to meditate while being blasted from one side with prayers to Shiva or distracted by wedding music on the other. Yet anybody who has tried to sit it quiet solitude, even if they were sitting in a cave in the wilderness, as had to deal with distractions in meditation.
Meditation, as Olivia points out, is a practice and it’s a gentle practice, so if you face a thousand distractions, whether in the mind, the body or the environment, like the young child you gently return to your meditation a thousand times, without judgment.
With the consistency of practice you will naturally let go of trying to control your mind, as you strive for stillness, and as Sally Kempton said, “simply let it be.” The paradox is that when that happens you will be able to deal with all the distractions in your meditation.
Please share your thoughts on meditating with distractions, what works for you.
I wanted to share with you Olivia’s video on silent meditation practice.
Please meditate. You can try it at a sidewalk cafe while you wait for your lunch to be served. Simply stop thinking and feel the peace of being wash over you. Be stillness amidst hustle and bustle. Experts agree that meditation is as essential to overall health as good diet and regular exercise.
Here’s a another way you can help.
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On September 8, 2011, for four days of Kirtan, Yoga, Meditation, Workshops and Loving Community, many thousands will arrive at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, “to express our love and devotion as one community through an enchanting array of activities.”
Bhakti Fest 2011
This will be an absolutely a cornucopia of the spiritually gifted and the event has been billed as the Spiritual Woodstock. There will be yoga led by Shiva Rea, Saul David Raye, Bryan Kest, Seane Corn and there others as well. Of the many workshops, one will be led by my one of my beloved teachers, Ram Dass.
Krishna Das, will of course, be leading Kirtan, but along with the singing and playing Krishna Das and Radhanath Swami and others will also be leading workshops. Speaking of Kirtan, Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer, Donna de Lory, Wah!, MC Yogi, Larisa Stow and Shakti Tribe, The Mayapuris, to name a few will be there adding to the joy.
Jai Uttal, just back from India, has a new album out, “Bhakti Bazaar,” which is absolutely wonderful with hints of rock, reggae, and classical music. In his blog Jai said about the music, “We took some beats and grooves and simply wandered. No rules, no formulas except following our feelings,” and “Making an album is a journey across mountains and valleys of moods and emotions.” We have certainly been blessed to have been invited along and the treat of hearing it performed live, well, bliss.
There are so many notables that will be attending Bhakti Fest it’s hard to decide who to write about, because if I were to write about all the wonderful people ths would be a book not a blog post!
If you’re a fan of Krishna Das you’ll be happy to know he’ll be performing and doing a workshop, the Heart of Devotion and this will allow you the opportunity to ask him questions. The workshop will include chanting with musical accompaniment, storytelling, dharma talks, and discussions about life on the spiritual path.
I would like to note that substantial portion of the profits from Bhakti Fest will go to charities like the Seva Foundation, created by Ram Dass, an organization of “compassionate action.” That is the meaning of “seva,” compassionate action and that is in perfect balance with bhakti, which translates as “devotion.” Together they fulfill the mission of the Seva Foundation, “To be fully human, we must translate our compassion and concern into useful service.”
Damien Rose returns to Bhakti Fest for his third annual performance, those who are unfamiliar with Damien or his performance with the Tibetan healing bowls, are in for a very wonderful surprise. Damien have had a very synchronistic introduction to the Tibetan healing bowls, says he first discovered the Tibetan bowls when he picked up a hitchhiker in Northern California after graduating from law school. After arriving at hitchhiker home, he was invited in, and it was there he saw “a vast array of ancient bowls set up in the living room.” It was from that point on he decided to dedicate is energy to “working with sound vibration as a revealing and healing source of spiritual experience.”
My own experience was, as I said, synchronistic. I too, picked up a hitchhiker in Northern California. It as thirty five years ago, I noticed a man hitchhiking with a baby so I pulled my VW over and offered them a ride. It turned out that he was a somewhat of a local celebrity in the Bay area. Karman Moffitt, then also known as the ‘bell ringer of San Francisco,’ had played, on occasion, with the Grateful Dead and other area band, when they were in town. Karman was also a pointillist and on a trip to Nepal a couple of years earlier had traded some art for a set of Tibetan healing bowls. That was my introduction to the bowls.
And like Damien, the bowls have been a part of my life ever since. A few years ago I was introduced to my master teacher, Suren Shrestha, and began to become immersed in the healing practice. And as a side note if you are interested in the Tibetan healing bowls, Suren’s book “How to Heal with Singing Bowls,” is a chance to learn from a master.
Here are a few other highlights to look forward to at Bhakti Fest. Philippo Franchini will talk about musical alchemy and how “creation is vibration.” Hoop Girl Christabel Zamor brings her love of hoopdance to Bhakti Fest. Joey Lugassy will enlighten us with the message of “stillness,” and how to release attachments and transform them “with a lighter touch” as “doorways to relevant self-discovery.”
Many of people, I’ve come to know and call friend, from the Chopra center will be attending and participating. Max Simon (assuming all is well with his dad) will make, as he has in the past, an appearance. Paul Heussenstamm, will be leading a mandala workshop. By the way, Paul’s workshops are of the ‘not to be missed’ variety, truly fun and transformative.
Bhakti Fest is a Spiritual festival not a religious one, though there is a loving acceptance of all faiths. It’s the coming together of a loving community, creating a space as was said “to express our love and devotion as one community through an enchanting array of activities.”
I thought I would leave you with a couple of videos of past festivals, so that if you’ve never had the opportunity to attend you can a sense of the ‘vibe’ and if you have, well, for a moment to be there again.
Bhakti Fest brings people together from around the world to celebrate life through kirtan. This is an event that you do not want to miss. Next festival September 9-12, 2010, Joshua Tree, California. www.bhaktifest.com
Jai UttaL led Kirtan for 3 hours! It was so crowded I could only get long shots but the sounds and psychedelic lightshow are awesome! My pleasant surprise was Wynn Paris’ band Groove Ananda ~ a sweeet mix of Music my fav being the Gospel type song. M…
The last piece of advice given to Deepak, by his Abbot, The Venerable Arjarn Ekachai, at the end of his two weeks of a “monk’s journey” in Thailand, was advice that Deepak wanted to share with us all.
"Monk's journey" in Thailand ~ Photo Gotham Chopra
Here’s the piece of advice that the Abbot gave to Deepak, “The only moment that never ends is now. The most important activity in your life is what you are doing now. The most important people in your life are the ones you are withnow. And the most important way to create the future is to be presentnow.”
When we are present in this moment life will consistently reward us. When we see in the present moment, we won’t miss the beauty, when we taste in this moment, flavor will be our reward, when we are fully present to the sound we will feel the music in our soul, when we are present to the aroma the scent will become sense, and when we are present to touch we will know that we are alive. That is the power of the present moment.
Being in the present moment we enter the timeless and we arrive at the true nature of our being.
Does this all sound esoteric? Well, in fact it’s very real and practical. All meditative practices, from mantra meditation to mindfulness, seek presence, either as deep inner awareness or being wholly present in the moment.
Before a thought arises in the mind we are in a timeless state and in this timeless state we need no, nor do we seek any, reason to be happy, we just are. This is the true state of happiness and our birth right.
When we are dependent on, people, positions, places or things to make us happy, then our happiness becomes conditional and bound to those people, positions, places or things. When our happiness is dependent on the world outside of us it can be taken away from us at any moment because the nature of the universe is change.
Bliss is defined as happiness that needs no reason, and the wisdom traditions came to the conclusion that time is the movement of consciousness, not far from Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity (Some physicists argue that there is no such thing as time). In consciousness time has a ‘flow,’ often described as the ‘arrow of time,’ but that flow is subjective and personal.
When we focus on the present we are attuning ourselves with our deepest reality and that this level happiness can never be taken away.
This focus on our true nature, or being present in the moment, doesn’t mean giving up participation in the everyday world; it simply means giving up attachment to it. Letting go of attachment is not becoming aloof, or detached from the world, it’s allowing the world to be as it is, the wonderful, the good, the bad and the ugly, without identifying with it or losing sight of your eternal nature.
Ram Dass, in the title of his iconic book, “Be Here Now,” said it all. And in his book, “The Ultimate happiness Prescription,” Deepak said it again with one of his favorite sayings, “being here is enough.” Deepak explained it this way:
“When people hear this, particularly successful people whose lives are full of projects and accomplishments, they look confused. To them, “being here” sounds passive and empty. Yet think about it. As they pursue lives that are so full of activity and goals, most people are not fulfilling their being. Quite the opposite. They are running away from a deep-seated fear that life is empty unless you constantly fill it up.”
Our ego drives our need to identify with people, positions, places and things, starting as children we begin our attachment and identification with our toys, and as we grow we continue to identify with the changing world, and to us this is the ‘real world.’ Yet, we live in two realities. The reality of the time bound is the reality created by the ego, and it’s thought be, by most of us as the only reality, but for some, the invisible world is the primary reality out of which all other realities are created; realities which arise out of every moment of now.
Experiencing presence and ‘being here now’ are the same and no effort is required to enter. And as Deepak puts it, “Easy come, easy go” actually has a deep spiritual meaning. What comes and goes isn’t the real you. The real you is the bliss that exists beyond time.”
In This video, recorded at TEDMED 2010, Deepak speaks on the subject of happiness and being present, NOW.
All meditation is a search for the unconditioned level of awareness. In his search for this level of awareness, Deepak Chopra says he uses four types of meditation in his everyday practice. Each style of meditation, when practiced on its own or in conjunction with one of the others is capable of taking the mind out of its restless, agitated state while leading it towards a higher state of awareness.
In the video below Deepak discusses the four different meditation practices he uses and what their benefits are.
The four types of meditation that Deepak is referring to are Transcendence, Divine Attitudes, Self-reflection and Self-regulation.
The first of the four types of meditation is Transcendence which is reached, in this particular method, by means of a mantra or the repletion of a Divine word or phrase.
In mantra meditation the mind is kept occupied with a sound that competes with your thoughts; this allows the mind to settle down which, eventually, will take you to a place where there is no mantra or thoughts.
In the wisdom traditions, from which meditation originated, reality was understood to flow from the source, moving from the subtler levels of creativity to the grosser level of physicality. This route of creation, which moves from stillness and silence into the subtle levels of the mind, through thoughts, emotions and sensations, finally arriving at, and creating through perception, the solid object of the material world.
Meditation is the practice of retracing this path, leaving the world of the material first and then slipping beyond thoughts, emotions and sensations, arriving back at the ground state of creation, stillness and silence.
Meditation is a process that develops and grows over time, with repetition being considered to be the quickest way to calm the mind. And mantra can be repeated, silently or out loud, in a formal meditation or at any time during the day. By repeating the mantra the mind is released from its habitual and negative thought patterns, as Deepak says, “it’s going beyond the body and the mind.”
The second meditation practice that Deepak talks about is, “remembering the experience of love,” or “Divine attitudes.” In the remembering the experiences of love will awaken the limbic system and ‘evoke specific neurotransmitters and self-regulation mechanisms.’
The practice is to stay with the feelings of love, empathy, gratitude, joy, forgiveness, compassion and equanimity; these are the ‘Divine attitudes,’ that take us out of our ‘separate selves.’
In remembering joy we are remembering the peak experiences in life; experiences that take us beyond our individuated selves. When we feel Empathy, we are feeling someone else’s pain and in feeling compassion we feel their pain and have the desire to help alleviate it.
Equanimity, which from a spiritual perspective encompasses the Divine attitudes, is described as a state of mental or emotional stability or composure arising from a deep awareness and acceptance of the present moment. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that equanimity is a balance and centeredness that endures through all change, and is achieved through meditation.
In Buddhism equanimity is the conscious realization of the transience of material reality and is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love.
Creating the feelings of equanimity or compassion can be accomplished by evoking thoughts or images of Buddha, Jesus or any other figure that embodies the feelings of those qualities that you are seeking to recreate in your own heart.
The third process or meditation is Self-reflection. Self-reflection, as a meditation, is a process of contemplation, which is practiced by asking and reflecting on questions that are fundamental. Questions I think of as ‘soul questions,’ such as, ‘who am I,’ ‘what do I want,’ ‘what is my purpose,’ ‘how can I serve,’ or what are my relationships like and how can I contribute to them?’
This Self-reflection meditation is the meditation of archetypes; it’s the practice of embodying the qualities of the mythic logical archetypes in consciousness. The emphasis in Self-reflection meditation, being on the qualities of the archetypes, while the emphasis in the “Divine attitudes” meditation, is on the feelings of archetypes.
Archetypes help us understand and define who we are and they allow us to get in touch the god or goddess inside of ourselves.
The archetypes can be from mythology or they can be from real life, for example Martin Luther King Jr., (who himself evoked the archetype of Mahatma Gandhi), Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha or anyone who reaches greatness, beyond daily life, by tapping into the collective consciousness.
The process is to ask the ‘soul questions’ and evoke the answers by embodying your archetype while connecting with the collective consciousness in the field of stillness and silence.
The fourth type of meditation is Self-regulation. A Practice known to the ancient yogis is body regulation, which is accomplished through the use of intention when in the field of silence.
This practice of Self-regulation through body awareness, known in science as, the psychosomatic process and mechanism of visceral sensory psychobiology, defined as interoception, and is understood to be how consciousness influences bodily functions, including the effects of the input on cognitive functions, behavior and emotion.
From the yogis’ point of view, body regulation is how they see their interior world. In the beginning the practitioner simply becomes aware of their interior, perceiving their heart, lungs, all their internal organs and then after a time can, through intention, begins to control them.
Deepak believes, by practicing Self-regulation a person can restore wholeness and homeostasis or balance to the body-mind, and by practicing these four types of meditation, that not only would we be healthier but we would gain a deeper sense of spirituality.
Millika Chopra: Meditation and the Qualities of Kindness
Research has shown that in as little as eight weeks of regular meditation can lead to measurable changes in the brain, especially in the ‘feel-good’ part. When that part of the brain is activated there arises a natural desire to purposefully develop qualities such as kindness, compassion and a desire to serve.
The qualities of kindness and compassion cannot come from outside of ourselves, it will only arise if it part of who we are. As one of my favorite teachers, Ram Dass, put it:
“You can’t offer love until you have love in your heart. You can’t share the way to peace until you are peaceful, nor can you share serenity when you’re not serene. When you have these, you will have the greatest gifts of all.”
Millika Chopra, author and founder of intent.com, held a public guided meditation last month on June 25th, in San Francisco, and during the group meditation, Millika, asked those meditating to contemplate how they could serve the world. Here are her thoughts as she shared them in her post, “What is your intent to serve others?”
“…I asked the participants to contemplate in silence how they can serve the world. I believe this is an important question that we need to ask ourselves every single day.
This is not an easy question to answer and there are no right answers. Serving others requires us to get out of our comfort zones. Serving others requires us to stop living life on auto-pilot and to consciously challenge ourselves to grow into a stronger, more loving and more courageous person. The fate of our world depends on all of us waking up to the greater reality of interconnection and helping others.
I am inspired that so many people consciously chose to meditate in peace and practice yoga in the middle of a busy weekend in San Francisco when they could have been doing so many other things. We need more group meditations for peace. We need more public parades celebrating the diversity of our human brothers and sisters of all colors, religions and sexual orientations. We need more people asking themselves what collective intent for the greater good they are willing to help manifest to bring greater change in this world.
No matter who you are and where you come from, you can be the person organizing the next event or movement in your community that inspires people to bring more peace into this world.
And so I challenge all of you to take the time today — and for the rest of your days — to truly contemplate what your intent for the greater good is. And then see what you can do to help actualize this goal. It can be as small as starting a blog expressing your authentic voice, creating a meet-up group in your neighborhood or organizing a weekly group meditation among your family and friends.
Give other people a venue, a forum, a space — whether online or in the real world — to do good and spread peace. You just may be surprised by how many people show up, eager to join your cause. Your courage just may be what others need to actualize their own collective intent to bring more goodness in this world.” Click here to visit the original source of this post.
I can remember a quote from Bishop Tutu that expressed a similar challenge and desire to Millika’s when he said, “Please make it fashionable to be compassionate.” Through meditation we begin to naturally foster within ourselves the qualities of acceptance, generosity, kindness and compassion, these are the foundational or ground state qualities of the Universe that naturally arise in us as we slip in to the silence.
Seren-i-Tea in the Square Guided Meditation By Malika Chopra, Founder Of Intent.com
A guided meditation lead by Mallika Chopra, founder of Intent.com, at Seren-i-Tea In The Square, a public flash yoga and meditation event at Union Square, San Francisco on June 25, 2011. Presented by Sokenbicha.com and Intent.com.
This is a beautiful mantra is based on a hymn of the Rig-Veda and is cited throughout Vedic literature. Deva Premal, a classically trained musician, truly offers a meditative and spiritual interpretation of this mantra.
Learn how to harness the benefits of meditation like millions of others!
The Gayatri Mantra, as the story is told, was chanted by her father to her while she was still in her mother’s womb and continued to be a lullaby sung to her at bedtime, so it’s no wonder that it was the inspiration for her first album, “Essence.”
These abstract pieces are an attempt to clear your mind by grabbing your attention. I hope they act as a conduit from our fast paced media saturated lives to an inner center where one can then sit and meditate properly. Liquid Vista music here: bit.ly