Tuesday, April 12, 2011

try to be distracted

Most people who practice something called meditation sit down. They cross their legs, perhaps, or kneel. Some sit on a chair. Once seated, they erect the spine, sit still and focus the mind -- perhaps on the breath, perhaps on a mantram, perhaps on a koan, perhaps on something else.

One of the common complaints that meditators speak about is distraction. The mind loses its focus and begins bouncing around from one thing to the next. The initial focus is lost. And if you look at internet bulletin boards, you will see a lot of heart-felt suggestions for how to cope with this monkey mind, how to regain a strong and steady focus.

But it might be worth the price of admission -- for those who actually practice -- to try this experiment. Sit down, erect the spine, sit still and then, by God, do your very best to be distracted. If any serenity or calmness interferes, then quickly find a distraction ... some blame, some love, some heart's desire, some neurosis, some something. Don't be lazy about it. Other times may be times when focus is called for, but this time, this time, erect the spine, sit still and do nothing but distraction.

As I say, don't be lazy about it. Don't lose your grip. Hold on tight. This time, for once in your life, really, really be distracted. You can do the other stuff some other time. But not this time. Not now. Now is a time in which to be distracted.

Try it. See what happens.


  1. Long ago, in my uninformed youth, i was discussing quitting smoking with a non-smoker. He suggested not worrying about it, but be zen about it. I asked for an explanation, and he said... when it's more of a hassle to smoke than to quit, you'll quit.

    The path of least resistance, capacity, dunno. I do believe that things run to capacity, and that capacity can be expanded by effort or forced to expand by circumstances. But a significant acceptance is involved, a sense of inevitability that leads you forward.

    Maybe focused meditation is just distracting yourself from the distractions, finding an interest in that breath, koan, etc. Whatever it is, it's a pretty personal experience and responsibility must be taken to have that experience.

  2. Reading your article brought to mind something I have been thinking about recently. While I realize this observation is not new and some will ask …”where have you been”? but I am shocked by the inability of young people (and some not so young) to give full or even a small percentile of attention to a meal, their family, partner, a hockey game, a TV programme etc etc without the constant need to be distracted by their IPhone, Blackberry or other electronic devise. This is not news and while I don’t get out much, at a recent outdoor event, I had an opportunity to people watch and the high number of aforementioned distracted people was alarming. I was tempted to ask why the need to be connected constantly, is it really necessary? Meditation is tough for me as an old guy but for these folks I just can’t imagine how challenging it must be! On second thought never mind the meditation aspect but just living life in general!

  3. Tullik -- Somewhere or other (a comedy news show? I'm not sure) I recently heard that there is a recognized and growing syndrome among those wedded to their iPhones et al: They imagine that the gadget is buzzing for attention in one pocket or another ... but it isn't. Perhaps this is the latest update on the wet dream?

    Associatively, I think I notice that people are given to shorter and shorter conversations on a given topic. And I'm not just talking frivolous topics. It's as if the mind, like some of the electronic connections, is limited to 141 characters.

  4. Genkaku,

    Have you tried to be "Zen" about meditation?

    Instead of working hard to get focused, just sit there and allow your mind to get settled and centered. Just give it enough time. I have seen this recommended although it seems to be done only rately.

    I tend to believe this passive method is somehow more joyful.

    Having said that I wonder if those of us who usually do use a more aggressive approach actually do develop stronger concentration over time.

    Regarding younger people and their cell phones / iPhones; I think they are somehow addicted. Folks used to say people get addicted to computers but so many jobs are computer based the addiction is no longer recognized.

    Related specifically to cell-addiction:
    I was at a job training program. We oldsters were like the goodie goodie kids in grade school, but the youngsters had their phones out on the desk and and they were constantly texting etc. I got so bad that the instructors got upset and started threatening the electronic communication junkies. One guy just walked when he was specifically cautioned against using the cell.