A common challenge that arises when we meditate are the frustrating distractions that cause our concentration to waver and wander. We sit down on that cushion and close our eyes, and a barrage of thoughts immediately start swirling: boredom, anger, restlessness, unfinished grief, maybe even joys and hopes and dreams. We might fantasise about having a nice latte, or feel that it might be so much nicer right now to be enjoying a massage.
After a while of this, we manage to capture the monkey mind and focus our attention on our breath again, nice and smooth, in, out, in, out. A couple of seconds later, we’re starting to plan our day, what we’re going to do, what we’re going to say, how are we going to make a good impression…on and on it goes, distraction after distraction! But actually, distractions are the key to our meditation practice. The key is to learn to observe them with openness and curiosity, without becoming overwhelmed.
It is impossible to clear the mind of all thoughts. This is silly and will leave us with a bad headache, at best. What we want to do is be aware of whatever arises, when it arises, and as it arises. We start wherever we are, not where we want to be, and we bow to the whole of our experience. If we look at it this way, in meditation, distractions do not exist. Whatever thought or sensation arises in the mind is a challenge that we should be grateful for and which we should welcome with a spirit of love and acceptance. The thought will then quickly lose all its power.
Using this method, we can make any distraction the object of our meditation. There is no need to fight against the disturbances as it’s a battle we will never win. Sometimes we’re calm and centered, and that’s great. Sometimes we’re distracted and emotional, and that is also fine. In meditation it is all equally transient.