One of the big challenges with meditating is learning to handle distractions. It shocks no one to learn that it's a useful life skill, too. Staying focused daily noise, discomfort or even your own thoughts will transform more than your inner life.
It's a challenge. No one will pretend that it is not. Some days your thoughts are calm like a pleasant stream. Other days the world around you is a turbulent mess.
Good meditators can enter the right state no matter where they are. Let me tell you from experience that being able to meditate on international flights is amazing.
Great meditators can even handle their thoughts being noisy.
It's funny – even as I write this, I'm getting distracted. There are noises outside, which are nothing compared to the ideas popping into my mind.
That's okay, though, as I'm still writing. And my meditation sessions are similar.
In fact, the problem's worse when I'm meditating. When my mind is quiet, that's when ideas start flooding my mind.
At least, they try to.
The trick is not to ignore distractions. That takes effort and is itself a distraction. There's a much better way to keep you on task.
Suppose that your young child brings you a drawing of their. That's cute, right? But let's assume that this is the ninth drawing this hour … and, to be blunt, they're not very good.
What do you do? Do you yell at the child? Tell them to leave you alone? Pretend they do not exist?
Well, you could. It might even stop them distracting you.
But I hope it's clear that this is not the best approach.
What do you do? You take the picture, smile, thank them for the beautiful drawing and wonder if they can make an even better one.
It's a loving, accepting, patient attitude.
Strange as it sounds, it's often useful to treat your own mind like a child. If you are meditating and fixing on distractions, do not blot them out. Acknowledge the thought or sense, and thank your mind for bringing it to your attention. Calmly explain to yourself that you're busy right now. Later, you can give any distractions that they have your full attention.
Now, though, you need to focus on this.
Meditation is the ultimate me-time. You need to protect it, even from yourself.
But it can never be a clash of wills. When you fight your own mind, you lose no matter what. Calmly owning what you are entitled to is the smarter way to win.