Distractions in meditation are not always a detrimental annoyance but can, instead, become a point of contemplative focus. I offer this personal example.
I’ve created a quiet place of meditation in an upper room of the house which is away from most of the activities which can occur in a home. Even so, I usually open a window just for the gentle circulation of air and, sometimes, to observe the birds singing, to observe to the rainfall or the wind blowing through the trees.
Every once in a while, however, other man made distractions such as people talking loudly, aircraft passing over or traffic rolling down the street can arise. The key to mindful meditation, to steadfastness upon the breath, is to merely acknowledge these sounds without attaching any kind of considerations to them such as “I wonder where that plane is heading to?” or “I wonder why those people have to shout as they talk?”
These considerations can also form into specific concepts such as “I think that must be one of those green military helicopters” or “Those sound like the voices of younger people.”
Both the considerations and concepts are the real distractions.
Recently as I was meditating I heard the sound of a vehicle that I immediately assumed was the garbage truck. I constructed that assumed concept based on past inputs. For instance, it was Monday, and I know that Monday is the day when the garbage is usually collected. It was early on Monday morning, which is the usual time of day when the garbage is collected. The garbage trucks are powered by diesel engines and the noise was clearly that of a diesel engine. Given all of these factors, and based on previous experiences and conditioning, I thought to myself on the out breath “Ah, that must be the garbage crew driving by.”
Yet when I returned to my point of focus on the in breath it occurred to me that I had just fallen for one of the tricks of the mind.
Indeed, what HAD I observed? What was ALL that I had observed? The only thing that I perceived was the sound of a diesel engine.
That is all.
My mind made up the rest of the scenario. My mind formed a concept which may or may not have been accurate.
I had no way of knowing that was the garbage crew. I just assumed that it was based on previous experience. It could have been a school bus or a delivery truck. Yet, because of the conditioning of past observations and experiences, I merely assumed that I had acknowledged the sound of the garbage truck.
Our minds have a habit of forming concepts based on previous conditions and experiences. When we fail to separate those conditions, preconceptions and experiences from what is ONLY there we can find ourselves captive to prejudices, faulty reasoning, legends, myths and all sorts of deceptions.
One of the benefits of acknowledging and merely observing distractions in your meditation practice is that you begin to observe the processes of your thinking instead of the thoughts themselves. There is a huge difference between the two. Understanding your very thought processes can lead to clarity, keen discernment, and honest understanding of your Self. Attaching conditions and preconceptions to what you observe leads to deception, prejudice, and gross errors and misperceptions of Who You Really Are and distorts or obscures the reality of the Universe within and around you.
Welcome the distractions into your practice. It only makes things more frustrating when you try to shut them out or deny them. They should not be denied. That is not being honest.
Even so, observe those distractions as they Really Are and not as you assume or desire them to be.
This is the Way.