Distraction effects us all the time. But it is blatantly obvious when one is trying to meditate. Arising thoughts can be seemingly purposeful or not. Examples of such include thoughts related to work, family, friends, or one’s self, cravings for kind words or an easy day or a taste on the palate. These seem to arise out of nowhere.
Meditation is a two-fold process:
- the cultivation of inner tranquility and ease,
- while, at the same time, cultivating meditative focus. This includes the development of a non-deviated attention such that Awareness becomes more constant and Beingness is increasingly the meditator.
Yet, it is not possible to develop either until we understand the nature of distraction.
Distractions are of two categories: coarse and subtle. We can feel the difference in the moment. The thought “remember to get gas today” arising during a meditation sitting is a coarse distraction. Other examples are:
- negative inner commentary or that which is judgmental
- almost all cravings
- as well as an inability to sit still or stay on track with something for a sustained period of time
- as well as the enticement of movement (mental or emotional, or physical movement) is coarse.
These types of distractions are easy to notice. It is obvious that these are of a low vibration level. We are best served by not engaging them. Non-engagement (non-action) is like starvation to a coarse distraction. As a result, the distraction or craving or judgement looses vitality. We are momentarily free of the pull of the distraction and simply must repeat the non-engagement again. Doing so we discover the power of neutrality, not to mention saving money or time, or energy, or happiness with friends and family.
Subtle distractions are less obvious because they seem right or good, therefore do not seem to be distractions. Examples include:
- becoming too engaged with the inner phenomena going on in one’s meditation. This is tricky because for a long time in meditation training the good feelings and experiences are necessary to keep us coming back to our practice. They are the carrot on the stick. At some point, however, these experiences are highjacked by the personal ego and become a way by which the egoized mind derails the potential deepening into the simple profound nature of light as light, space as space, and simply being as Being.
- thinking that one has accomplished a state and no longer has to “work” or be vigilant. Again, this is the personal ego highjacking the good that has developed in one’s practice. If one is having such prideful thoughts, that’s the indication of hoodwinking oneself.
- As the great sage, Patanjali, taught, always remember that you are Awareness itself, not the phenomena that Awareness can witness or choose to participate in. Therefore, subtle distractions are those which take the meditator away from Awareness as it simply is – naked, unadorned, profound, and sublime.