Move Your Mindfulness Practice Beyond These Distractions
Seemingly out of nowhere obstacles appear, distractions materialize, reasons develop, barriers are constructed, walls erected and excuses concocted, but these hindrances to your mindfulness practice didn’t appear out of nowhere.
Each of the monkey-wrenches listed above block our good intentions to spend time in mindfulness practice. And can dim our hopes of getting a clearer view of current reality. But the distractions are not external, they are created and buttressed by our own thinking.
The simple truth is, changing how we go about our daily life is hard and this truth doesn’t change even if our boss tells us we must change for the good of the team or that innovation will not occur if we don’t let go of all our assumptions we hold about others.
The CEO can scour the landscape for the brightest and newest coaching sensation in hopes of easing the pain of change, but when we wake in the middle of the night the same truth that stared at us in the clear light of the day is still staring at us. Change is hard, period.
It’s ironic that seeing current reality with a clear objectivity is the main benefit realized from a mindfulness practice. As we embrace the path to change we find ourselves standing on a river bank needing to get to the other side, but we don’t have a boat. What can we do?
Growing up in Vermont I often heard the story of a traveler who stopped at a country store to ask for directions to to the university, the storekeeper looked at the traveler for a bit and finally said “you can’t get there from here.”
As a child I was indirectly taught that people outside of my state lacked common sense, so I missed out on the gem resting in plain sight at the heart of the story.
You can’t get there from here, indeed.
If I got you to read this far you probably are wondering if I have any suggestions to help you on your path of change? I do, and they are simple suggestions.
- Scan the infographic below, do any of the barriers seem familiar? Spend a little time identifying your one or two biggest barriers to cultivating a regular practice of mindfulness. Once you are clear with what’s stopping you move on to number 2.
2. Each barrier in the above infographic is constructed by our thoughts and does not reside in external reality. Sounds a bit contrived doesn’t it? But I assure you it’s not, everything we interact with was created by thoughts and is maintained by our thoughts and the thoughts of all those around us.
Discovering and acknowledging the primary barriers keeping you from crossing the river (Change) may be the most important step you can take.
Learning mindfulness is easy,
regularly practicing mindfulness is not.
But, I promise you it’s far simpler than it may sound or appear. And there’s no judgement required, put one foot in front of the other and keep taking one step after the other, you’ll look up from your walking to find you’re on the other side of the river and you didn’t need a boat.
Below I’ve listed the 8 barriers from the infographic above and to them I’ve added a few suggestions for getting around them. the main thing to remember when moving forward on the path of change is to keep reminding yourself what the barrier is, (Thought).
One step, one breath and one thing at a time… Here’s a thought that may help. There are somewhere around 64 moments within the time it takes to snap your fingers. You have 64 opportunities within each snap of your fingers to take a new step, to start again and to move a bit closer to learning mindfulness or any other change you’re embracing.
I don’t know about you, but I get really excited when I think about infinite opportunities unfolding all around me. if I stumble and slam into a barrier all I need to do is take a step forward. And while success is not guaranteed, infinite opportunities to take the next step are. (Snap Snap Snap)
1. Can’t Do It
This may be the most common barrier. In monasteries practice often starts as soon as they wake. Get up 10 minutes early each day and practice for 5 minutes. In a month get up 15 minutes early and practice for 10 minutes – snap
Practice for 5 minutes in a car, in a bus or on the train. Keep your eyes open and no one will know what you’re doing. snap
Your thoughts will intrude while you practice (it’s what they do). Don’t jump up to write down all the brilliant inspiration that pops into your thinking, treat it like all thoughts by acknowledging thought and resume practice.
It’s a common happening to fall asleep while practicing. The easiest remedy is to practice with your eyelids open slightly. You may experience more distractions but you’ll stay awake. ?
Practice while sitting either in some version of the lotus posture or sitting in a chair with a straight back. Posture helps keep you awake.
Discomfort can be a great teacher within your practice, but pain is not something to endure. The practice is not about being a hero. Try different postures, cushions and chairs to find something that won’t wreck your joints.
Often our mind will create discomfort as a way to get us to abandon the practice. You can watch the discomfort as part of your practice as long as it is tolerable.
5. Don’t Want Too
Few of us want to practice (at least in the beginning). Use your resistance as an object to focus your breath on. Breathe in resistance and as you breathe out let it go. Don’t judge it as either good or bad, give it room to take up all the room it wants within your breath. And, snap
Emotions will come and go as you practice and as with physical pain there is no need to be a hero when uncomfortable emotions wash over you (and they will). Mindfulness practice opens doors to feelings and thoughts, but they are not you. Your thoughts and emotions only define you if you agree with them.
While you practice give your emotions and thoughts room to express themselves, they will go on their way when the next thought or emotion comes into view.
Use your thoughts and emotions within your practice but don’t torture yourself thinking you’ll conquer your emotions, judgement and control is not what mindfulness is about.
At some point we all obsess within practice, after all we are sitting quietly with our thoughts running free. ? Try acknowledging your thoughts and shift your attention back to your breath.
Try talking out loud explaining to your self that your are obsessing and it’s just thoughts running wild. Come back to your breath.
Be compassionate with yourself and with the person or object your obsessing about.
When I say distractions I’m pointing toward external distractions such as loud neighbors, screaming kids, television, cell notifications and not the noise inside our own heads.
But if fireworks went off while you practiced mindfulness and you weren’t distracted, would that be considered a distraction? Maybe something is only a distraction if we grab hold of it with our mind. Ask yourself, is the distraction coming from outside the window or inside my head?
If the noise from life is distracting you while you are learning mindfulness try not labeling it as anything at all. When a car goes by your open window watch the sound in your mind come and watch it leave without attaching to it. snap
As you go about your day and you experience any type of resistance within yourself and you feel angry or frustrated at your coworkers or boss for causing these feelings and thoughts of resistance, snap your fingers three times, snap snap snap to immediately connect with your mindfulness practice.
When you’ve snapped your fingers take a deep breath and exhale while reminding yourself that 192 moments to move forward in life came and went as you snapped your fingers. Wow!
Reminding yourself like this is not about good or bad or right or wrong, it’s not about judging of yourself, it’s simply a small awakening to the marvelous stream of moments we exist in.
Each moment unfolds full of opportunity briefly coming into existence then disappearing into the next moment.