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Meditation - Dealing with Distractions

Article written by Julie Smith

Distractions come in many forms and can be triggered by internal or external sources. It is important to recognise that being „distracted is part of meditating. Simply accept that this will happen and use the following techniques to manage them the best you can at that moment. Some methods will work better for you than others so experiment with them and develop these into your own coping techniques. As your practise evolves your ability to hold your inner focus will come naturally.

Internal Distractions


During meditation you begin to realise just how preoccupied your mind is with thoughts. Most of our stress & anxiety is caused by thinking about our past or future (i.e. regretting, planning, worrying, etc). If you are fully aware of the present and truly only living in this moment you have nothing to worry about. The present is the key to freeing yourself from worry.  

One simple thought quickly leads to another and before you know it you are caught up in the chaotic process of thinking. Even during meditation you will undoubtedly struggle with a restless mind. Here is a simple two step process to quiet the mind and bring yourself back to the present.  

1.   Become aware that you are thinking. Acknowledge your thoughts but try not to engage with them. This is often enough to break the pattern of thinking and quiet the mind.

2.   Gently bring yourself back to "this moment". Come back to the object of your meditation. This could be your breathing, a specific object or even a mantra. Whatever it is, it is important to bring your attention fully back to focus on what is happening to you in the present moment.  

When thoughts do enter it is important to gently put them aside. There is nothing worse than getting frustrated during meditation. Remember to be patient with yourself.  

Try one of these methods of visualisation before coming back to the present:  

-      Imagine the thoughts fading away. Envision them as little boats sailing across the ocean. Just watch them sail over the horizon, and then return to the „object of your meditation8223;

-      Labelling your thoughts. Sometimes just acknowledging your thoughts with a single word makes it easier to release them. For instance you can say „planning, planning, planning8223; to yourself. Take a deep breath and return to meditation.

-      Counting breathes. Starting with the number one, on every exhalation visualise the number in your minds eye. Every time you catch yourself thinking, start back at one. Over a period of time you will find you are back on track and ready to resume the meditation technique you were practising.  

Physical discomforts and tiredness

Firstly chose a position that is comfortable to you. Although good posture is important do not attempt a position that is too difficult for you to maintain.

At some point you are likely to feel tingling, itching or numbing sensations. This is one way the mind distracts us from our meditation. Try to sit with the feeling for a while and use the techniques for managing thoughts to release these thoughts from the mind. If the sensation persists, feel free to change position in a slow manner to avoid losing focus.

If you feel sleepy slowly adjust your position to ensure your back is straight as this helps you keep alert. Try not to fight the feeling but just concentrate on your breathing. Imagine the feeling brushing over your head and behind you. If this doesn8223;t work try to vary the volume and rhythm of your breathing to refocus your attention.

External Distractions

External distractions from nature may be easier to accept. Birds chirping, wind moving through the trees or the scent of flowers are pleasant and therefore do not interfere with your focus as much. However, you will probably be sidetracked by „unpleasant8223; distractions at some point.

It will be difficult, but try to keep focused on the object of your meditation. The more you focus on the distraction (often a noise) the more you bring it into the foreground of your mind. If you focus intently on your object of meditation the noise will gradually fade from your attention. It is a difficult skill but with practise this will affect your meditation less and less until you can almost block out such disturbances.

copyright © Julie Smith


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