How can I meditate when I'm surrounded by distractions?
How to meditate with distractions around you
Perhaps the first thing to say is that Meditation is a practice, which means the more you practice it the better you get.
Most of the time our minds work on a kind of default setting. Taking in information, processing it and previewing, directing and reviewing responses. It’s busy. busy. busy.
Our thoughts are like chattering monkeys and trying to simply tell them to “be quiet” doesn’t work.
Meditation and Mindfulness Practices are about learning to manage your mind and, if you like, engaging the chattering monkeys in some kind of activity … like counting your breaths or focussing on your breathing.
The key is to be kind to yourself when engaging in this practice, if random, spurious thoughts interrupt you simply acknowledge them and let them go. Putting energy into stopping them or getting drawn into them is self-defeating.
Meditation is not about starting to try to create a blank mind, it’s about not being drawn into the dramas your thoughts create. Regular daily practice of say 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening is a better starting point than trying to do an hour a week.
Set yourself some daily achievable daily “targets” for your practice
Choose a place, space and time where distractions are minimal
Focus in your breathing … breathe in through your nose, pause, breathe out through your mouth, pause
Acknowledge any thoughts that disturb the attention you’re giving to your breath and let them go. Be kind to your mind and accept that it’s used to sharing thoughts, memories and so needs to be retrained.
You can also choose to focus on your breathing at any time and anywhere just for a couple of cycles of breathing - a couple of minutes - is all part of the practice.
Now here's the thing.
It's worth considering the notion that Mindfulness and Meditation can be thought of as two different practices.
Mindfulness is the awareness of “something,” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing.”
Mindfulness is noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and everything else. So it can be practised anywhere. What could be thought of as being distractions are simply things you can notice and practice letting go of them. It's about showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment. It cultivates access to core aspects of our own minds and bodies that our very sanity depends on,” Jon Kabat-Zinn
In terms of Meditation, there are many forms.
Some are similar to MIndfulness, ‘Clear Mind’ meditations, which are about gaining mental clarityOthers are aimed at developing altruistic states, such as compassion or forgiveness, known as ‘Open Heart’ meditations. Others use the body as a means to develop awareness, such as yoga or walking; others use sound, as in chanting or intoning sacred words. Some are about connecting with what we could call transcendental states or even spiritual states.
We could describe the various forms of meditation like this...
Spiritual meditation is used in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Daoism, and in Christian faith.
It’s similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe.
Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience. Popular options include:
Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses.
For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or you can bring in external influences to help focus your attention.
Although most people think of yoga when they hear movement meditation, this practice may include walking through the woods, gardening qigong, and other gentle forms of motion.
It’s an active form of meditation where the movement guides you.
Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.”
It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you’ll be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness.
Transcendental Meditation is a popular type of meditation. This practice has been the subject of many studies
It is more customizable than mantra meditation, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
This practice is for those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.
Also known as body scan meditation, progressive relaxation is a practice aimed at reducing tension in the body and promoting relaxation.
Oftentimes, this form of meditation involves slowly tightening and relaxing one muscle group at a time throughout the body.
In some cases, it may also encourage you to imagine a gentle wave flowing through your body to help release any tension.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation is used to strengthen feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward oneself and others.
It typically involves opening the mind to receive love from others and then sending a series of good wishes to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and all living beings.
Visualization meditation is a technique focused on enhancing feelings of relaxation, peace, and calmness by visualizing positive scenes or images.
With this practice, it’s important to imagine the scene vividly and use all five senses to add as much detail as possible.
You might find this short video useful.
Elyn Bres runs a fortnightly FREE Mindfulness Meditation Session on Zoom. If you'd like to know more, you can follow this link.
Thanks for reading