How can we cope with distraction without getting harsh?
If you've tried meditating for more than a second or two, you'll be familiar with distraction. You may have thought you were meditating, only to discover your mind problem-solving, running To Do lists, pleasantly daydreaming or painfully obsessing. It happens to everyone. Our creative minds have endless ways of slipping us away from a mindful, open presence. It's how we bring ourselves home that makes all the difference.
Here are four steps to help you bring yourself home without sabotaging your mindfulness practice.
(1) NAME IT
Put what's going on into words: Thinking, Restless, Daydreaming, Angry, Tired, Excited, Bored.
Labelling takes some of the intensity out of the experience. It gives us a little perspective on what's happening, so that we can see it rather than being in it.
(2) ACCEPT IT
Accepting with kindness is key to sustaining a mindfulness practice. Every human mind wanders. At the moment we have an average attention span of about 8 seconds (yes, goldfish out-perform us these days!). Why would you expect yourself to have super-human powers of concentration? And if you've had a busy day or year or life, then you've built up a strong habit of momentum. This experience of being judgemental, restless or impatient is part of who you are right now. It's very important to accept yourself completely. You're not a self-help project. You don't need to be fixed. This is simply your life, in this moment.
Deliberately release yourself from the distraction, and re-establish your attention. The practice of unclipping - of extricating yourself when you've been hooked - gets stronger and easier with time and repetition. You learn to let go and bring yourself back to an object of mindful awareness: your body, your breath, the soundscape around you. Let go and re-establish a connection.
(4) GREET YOURSELF
You made it home again. It's all too easy to reprimand or get caught in self-judgement. You took yourself off autopilot, and that is wonderful. Welcome yourself back to this moment of your life. You're home again.
Sometimes we avoid mindfulness practice because we feel we're not calm enough. But we don't need to wait. Mindfulness meets us exactly where we are. We only need to keep coming back with a sense of openness and curiosity about ourselves. That way, we stay refreshed, kind and authentically present.