Sometimes it can be hard for us to meditate even for three minutes. There are many factors that cause this but the most prominent among them are irritating noises, physical discomfort, and distracting thoughts. What we may not realize at first is that all these meditation distractions can become a part of the process and we can learn to be comfortable with them.
I went through that stage myself. Looking back, all I can remember is irritation and disappointment. Prolonged sitting caused physical distress and stirred memories from my past that I learned to push away, and it wasn’t what I wanted. But in the end, it did help me let go of the things that were burdening my mind. Meditation allowed me to observe my thoughts without judgment and I was able to focus on the now, the only thing that truly mattered. In this post, I would like to share the three most common meditation distractions and how we can deal with them.
I’m a part of a meditation group, and one day a member posted a question on behalf of a friend who lived on a farm. This friend wanted to meditate, but pig noises interfered with his concentration. So he wanted to know what he should do about it. The right answer to that question is two-fold.
First, we have to take the right action. Do whatever we can to find a quiet place. However, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
If there is no practical way to get rid of the distracting sound, we need to get comfortable with it. We should observe our internal reactions and let them uncover our habitual thought patterns.
As we practice more, we might notice that the noise doesn’t really bother us anymore. So whether we meditate in total silence or with pigs around won’t make any difference.
Even if we try to sit still we might find that our bodies want to move and on top of that it seems like forever because time has slowed down, almost stopped.
In my experience, this irritating feeling can be linked to physical discomfort. One way to deal with this meditation distraction is to adjust our sitting meditation posture.
For example, many of us may start with a cross-legged position on the floor. I do not recommend this approach because it does more harm than good. If we are not flexible enough, we might feel tense and uneasy.
The best option is to sit on a chair, placing feet firmly on the ground and arms on the lap. This way, we can keep our bodies relaxed, and our minds alert for meditation.
Sometimes it seems impossible keep out distracting thoughts when we meditate. Only a few minutes into meditation and a random image from our past shutters our concentration. And when that happens, we blame ourselves for not being able to meditate the right way. As this keeps happening, we consider dropping meditation because it doesn’t work. If we ever felt that way, then we had been doing everything right. Becoming aware of our thoughts is one of the main benefits of meditation.
For example, when we count our out-breaths during breathing meditation and get distracted, we have to start all over again. Only then can we move on to the next stage of the technique. In the long run, this repetition helps our minds to let go of thoughts and go back to our breath. We learn to “catch” our thoughts, becoming aware of something that was unconscious. So there are two components at work here: we notice that we are being distracted by a thought and we go back to our breath
The moment we notice the distraction is the moment we create a small gap between us and our thoughts. That gap means that we can “see” the thought from a distance. We break our identification with it. We become the observers. This gap is tiny at first, but with time it expands, and our concentration improves. It becomes much easier to follow our breath and come back to it whenever we want.
This practice profoundly changes our everyday life. Even when not meditating, we can catch ourselves thinking negative thoughts. Our awareness grows, and with it, our ability to remain calm and take the right action.