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.
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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