Finding Perspective in Your Practice: Dealing with Distractions August 01, 2017 14:33

 

What’s right in front of you matters.  This moment matters.  Navigating now seems simple in theory, but in practice…distractions can compete for your attention and hijack your intentions. They can dominate your view and force you to take unexpected detours and delays.

Last month, I took a personal retreat and spent a few days nestled in a small, circular cabin in the woods. My intention was to use this time to practice yoga, meditate, read, write, and simply enjoy being mindful and present.

On the first day of my retreat, I noticed a small spider that had created a web on the railing of the deck.  Stretching to a cluster of branches in a nearby tree, this web was a perfect circle, and the spider sat in the center, patiently waiting for her lunch to arrive.  She was beautiful. Her pale green body shimmered in the sun, and each leg curved like a tiny arch. I wanted to capture this moment, this now, by taking a photo.

Over the next three days, I attempted many times to snap a close-up photograph of this lovely, eight-legged architect. I had a small tourist camera—nothing fancy or expensive, but it had a decent zoom capacity. Unfortunately, it didn’t recognize the spider as the focal point of the shot, so it would zoom in on a nearby cluster of leaves or the trunk of a tree that was behind her instead. I struggled to capture the image that was right in front of me—the image that mattered most was elusive—the lens of my camera couldn’t recognize it as meaningful like my eyes (and mind) did.

I changed position, experimented with different angles, moved furniture around…no luck. In the meantime, I practiced yoga, meditated, read, wrote, hiked, and simply savored just being in each moment.  Morning eased into evening. Sunlight shifted, moved, and disappeared through branches as the days progressed.

Meditation can be like this, too. Your intentions are good—you want to practice—you want to sit and focus on mantra recitations—but the phone rings, a siren sounds in the distance, a random memory or thought surfaces and will not let go.  Distractions are a part of navigating now.  Ignoring  them, or growing impatient with them rarely helps.

Acknowledging them, however, is essential.  It’s part of the practice. The phone is ringing…that’s an ambulance…this is a thought…that is a memory from the past. Taking a moment to breathe, briefly acknowledge what surfaces, and then offer a little time and space for these distractions to move, shift, and pass will help in navigating the detours.

Be gentle, and give yourself permission to continue your practice—to pick up where you left off—without berating or judging yourself for succumbing to yet another distraction.  Be kind, mindful, and consistent with your practice. Eventually, the benefits will unfold and appear.

On the last afternoon of my retreat, I had returned from an hour-long hike in the woods. The sun was at just the right angle on the deck, creating enough shadow for me to zoom in and capture a close-up shot of the spider and her web.  As an added, unexpected bonus, tiny orbs of dappled sunlight appeared to be caught, glistening and suspended in her web. Patience and consistency, these are the jewels of any practice.