Occasionally I’ll look up from what I’m doing to see a scarab appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Appearing out of thin air or perhaps from another dimension, the scarab disappears from my field of view as quickly as it appeared. Accompanying this mirage there’s occasionally a buzzing sound as it flies out of my field of vision.
Do I think I’m witnessing an extra dimensional vision? No. In all probability I was so engrossed in what I was doing at the time of the appearance that my mind had shut off some of my perception and then turned it back on when I looked up from my work, so the scarab was flying toward me but I was unaware of its presence until I looked up and caught sight of it in mid-flight.
My mind had shut off all external distractions while I focused. And once I shifted my focus the projector (so to speak) started running again. Oh sure, if I open my imagination wide enough I can accept the possibility that this scarab appeared and then disappeared into another realm. I’ve thought about this scarab a number of times because it’s the only thing that has had this type of appearance and disappearance over the years in my life. I mean why not a grapefruit rolling along the floor, appearing and disappearing, why a scarab?
My experiences with the appearing and disappearing of the scarab is a good example of how distractions work. A distraction will break through your conscious awareness and hook your attention. The hook may come from an external distraction such as a cell phone, a barking dog, the smell of coffee brewing or a myriad of noises calling your name in the external world.
Internal distractions are far more powerful and prevalent than external distractions, but we often don’t recognize the internal hooks until they have hooked us.
Society Loves External Distractions
Society loves easy answers to problems (real or imagined) and blaming cell phones, video games and all the other external time sinks robbing us of our attention is how we avoid looking at the alternative cause for loss of attention and focus.
So what is my take on all this? I’m saying that external distractions have no power over our attention and time if we recognize our internal distractions and deal with those. Of course our internal distractions don’t lend themselves to easy fixes such as taking away a cell phone for a couple of days.
Mindfulness creates space for us to deal with our internal distractions and it’s that space that gives us the strength and vision to ignore the repeated screaming that surrounds us in the form of external distractions. If we deal with the internal distractions within us the external distractions won’t be able to hook us.
Below are 10 slides listing internal distractions. I’m sure you can come up with many more to add to the list but spending too much time creating an exhaustive list would in of itself be a distraction. Take a look at the list to see what might jump out at you.
Recognizing the internal distractions that cause you to easily be hooked by external distractions will give you room to not be hooked or at the least hooked less often. The more we recognize out internal struggles the less need we have to anesthetize ourselves.
Chasing perfection is a no win goal. Perfection doesn’t exist and if we spend an unimaginable amount of time on a project we risk accomplishing very little.
Ask yourself why am I seeking perfection? And what’s keeping me so stressed out? take a long walk to clear your head or meditate to help give you more space with yourself.
It’s so easy to get caught in the emotional roller coaster that is the past. We all have a bucketful of regrets that can hook us seemingly out of nowhere.
if we decide to grab onto our sorrow about what might have been or allow the hook of guilt to control the direction of our life we lose and everyone around us loses.
Try going somewhere new such as a museum or join a yoga class or spinning class. Getting active can help shake your brain cells into looking forward to the now.
Grasping toward the future is a bit like running away from rain clouds when your thirsty, you’re running toward something that doesn’t exist, never has exited and never will exist. It’s easy to get hooked into thinking if I can just hold on a time will come where everything will be ok.
Instead of waiting for the future try doing something small right now that will open space within yourself. Of course 5 minutes of mindfulness practice is a great place to start.
This is one of those distractions that gets confusing for many people, it’s not about getting or not getting rich it’s about making it the primary motivation of your life.
For those of you who don’t know, when someone talks about jonesing for something they are talking about craving or needing something to the point of obsession, needing it to the point that it blocks out all other things and people.
Getting in touch with this distraction requires we spend lots more time with family and friends doing simple things like walks in the woods, cooking together, playing board games and practicing meditation with a group
Ask yourself do I compare how I look in comparison to others? Do I choose my friends by how they compare with others. Do I judge people by race, religion, DNA?
Sometimes I think we all compare ourselves and others to a set of benchmarks that requires we exclude people who don’t measure up because of how they dress, what they eat, where they went to school, etc.
In the long list of internal distractions this is very common to most people, we all have a desire to associate with people who are like us, but this can lead us to become closed minded and petty.
The best things we can do when we see ourselves making judgements based on comparisons is to get yourself somewhere where you can volunteer to help others.
It’s easy to think an obvious distraction is the cause of our jitteryness, our inability to concentrate, to pay attention to the task at hand. But often it’s the non-obvious distraction that is the real cause of our discomfort. Check out this additional post for another look at distractions. Distractions To Mindfulness.