Your Relationship with Distraction

A happy and love-filled day to you, friends,

I had conversations with two people recently which were quite similar and that I’d like to report on this morning for the common good. I bring up the content of these conversations because I believe it to be just about universally relevant, and supremely important as well for those of us who are attempting to wake up and end suffering.

One of the persons I talked with is relatively new to practice; the other one is returning to practice after having wandered away from practice for a period of time. Both are feeling highly motivated to become more present in their lives, to become more aware of the conditioned processes running behind the scenes, and to live more fully from their authentic nature. They both wanted to know how best they could support themselves in these endeavors. Both of these good people have developed a consistent meditation practice. Other than sitting down on the cushion to meditate every day, they wanted to know, what else could they do?

I told them that I don’t know of anything else to do other than to maintain a formal meditation practice, to carry that practice into their everyday lives, and use the awareness tools provided in our practice. On the positive side of things, it seems to me, things are pretty simple: we just need to do our best moment by moment, and all day long every day, to embody conscious, compassionate awareness, and to live from that awareness.

On the negative side, however, as I know from past experience in myself and through talking with others, things tend to get complex and there tends to be a lot to do. And so I asked each of these folks to tell me about their relationship with distraction.

What they each told me is what I expected to hear, which is that they spend their days distracted in various ways. This seems to be the case with just about everyone anymore. I suppose it’s always been so that people have struggled with distraction, but in these times, with the advent of the internet and the smartphone, the temptation is more irresistible than ever, and more difficult than ever to overcome.

I will tell you what I told them. This is only one person’s point of view, of course, but just so you know, I don’t see much happening in the direction of consciousness and change in the life of someone who is devoted to distraction. Said another way, if a person is working to be present, and is at the same time filling up there lives with videos, podcasts, movies, and so on, so that their attention is continually engaged in things that are not here, in the moment, then precious little presence is going to happen. And this doesn’t even take into account the inner distraction going on all the time in the form of obsessive thinking!!!I know this is hard news, and I know that if someone is willing to accept the reality I just articulated then this opens up the necessity that they work diligently and courageously to escape from their addiction to distraction, and that very few people are willing to do this. From what I can see, however, it is a fact that if we are to live freely and authentically in this life, we must eliminate most or even all distraction. That’s just the way it is.

I’m not saying that spiritual people can never watch movies or listen to podcasts or anything of that nature. A little of that sort of thing is fine, it seems to me, and if you are choosing quality things to consume then it can even be helpful and educational. To distract is not the same as to consume media or other things–to distract is to use media and other things in order to remove oneself from the moment and cease to be conscious. It’s not what, it’s how, in other words. And yet the fact remains that we have to take time and space in our lives, each and every day, and simply be present and connect with ourselves in silence, if we are to have and obtain what spiritual practice offers. There is just no way around that reality.

And so you might consider looking at your own relationship with distraction. How much distraction do you engage in? Is that what you really want to do? What do you receive from distraction? What do you receive when you choose to be simply present in silence instead? These are questions well worth considering.

In peace,