First I’m going to get all hocus-pocus on you, then I’ll get practical. Just hang in there for the first few paragraphs.
I recently attended a talk about meditation. Specifically, meditating amid distractions. Don’t wig because I said meditation. Keep reading.
When I started to meditate in earnest, I’d become annoyed with the many distractions that were all around me. The barking dog outside, the noisy rain storm, my noisy kids, thoughts of Zooey Deschanel. If only those things would go away, I’d be able to do this! How can I clear my mind when that dog won’t shut up, or the wind keeps whipping tree branches against my window? This experience is ruined.
During the talk, the speaker said to think of a mountain and a cloud (Here comes the hocus-pocus-y part. Just hold on, there’s a payoff). Does the mountain attend to the cloud as it passes by? No, not at all. It’s just dirt and trees and stuff. Likewise, does the cloud notice the mountain? Of course not, it’s just water vapor. Each goes about its business, regardless of the other’s presence. Let’s take it further and ask, does the mountain care if it’s teeming rain or oppressively hot? No. It just goes on being a mountain. The rain is neither good or bad, it just is. The heat, the cloud, all of it is neither good or bad. They’re just ingredients in the soup we call “now.”
When I’m meditating, the barking dog isn’t a problem. Neither is the loud rainstorm, my noisy kids or Zooey Deschanel. They don’t hinder my work, they don’t enhance my work. They just are.
I mention work because that’s were we get to apply this stuff. In fact, that’s the whole reason to meditate (for me, at least): to extend those moments of focus to real life. When you’re at your desk and emails come pouring in or the phone rings off the hook [1. My geriatric readers remember phones with hooks.], remember the mountain. “Oh, there’s the phone. Oh, there’s email.” In and of themselves, they’re not bad. Or good. They’re just a phone and email.
The other point is that it’s easy and dangerous to become dependent on a distraction-free work environment. Someday a construction crew will set up shop below your window and you’ll be screwed, as your “tune it out” muscles have atrophied. Mediate with distraction, work with distraction, live with distraction.
Then it’s not distraction. It’s just now.
*Yes, you ought to be in the woods, at the edge of a pond and braless while Zenning. #GreenTea