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Learn & Practice

Well-Being Tip: Meditate with Your Distractions

By The Healthy Minds Team

In this week’s Well-Being Tip, we explore how to use sound as an anchor for tuning into your own awareness.

Photo by Samuel Rios on Unsplash

Sometimes, it can feel like the whole world is battling for your attention. And it makes perfect sense that our instinct would be to avoid these distractions at all costs. But often this brings the battle into your own mind – it doesn’t help you remain focused.

But distractions aren’t the enemy. Instead, it is possible to train our minds to relate to the sources of distractions so that they become sources of mindfulness instead. 

The goal is to use the very thing that is distracting you as a support for your practice. You welcome it and let it be there rather than resisting it. You don’t even try to ignore it –– take it in and rest your attention on it, just as you would with the breath or any other object of mindful awareness.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are working from home and someone outside starts mowing the lawn. Without practice, you may react with anger, frustration or just plain distraction. In a situation like this, the sound is happening. It’s a fact. And all of the resistance and aversion will make it worse. It doesn’t make the sound go away and in fact, it creates more tension in the mind, which leads to tension in the body.

But what if instead you used the sounds as an anchor for your awareness. You tune in to the pitch, the volume as it moves closer and farther away from you –– the patterns of the noise. 

This alternative may sound crazy, but it is remarkably transformative. Forget about the avoidance of your distraction and use the distraction itself as the object of your meditation. Pay attention to the sound. Let it be there, be aware of it. Use the natural force of the distraction – in this case, of sound – as an ally rather than an enemy.

When you do this, resistance and aversion are replaced with openness and curiosity, and over time those qualities transform into an experience of equanimity and deep calm that you can feel even when you’re sick or experiencing some other challenge.

In simpler terms, for this approach you go with the flow of experience. Once you try it out a few times, you can learn to use any experience as a support for mindfulness and attention.

The beauty is that there isn’t anything that can’t be an ally. You can use any experience as a support. And the difficult ones are especially powerful, precisely because we usually invest so much mental and emotional energy trying to escape them and get rid of them. So next time you’re distracted, don’t beat yourself up, use it as a support for your meditation and be amazed at how you transform your mind. (You can train your mind in these skills with the Healthy Minds Program app, like this 5 minute seated meditation, Mindful Seeing.)

Get more practices and tips by downloading the Healthy Minds Program App, freely available thanks to the generosity of our donors wherever you get your apps. Dive deeper into the Healthy Minds Framework for Well-Being by registering for our upcoming Masterclass: Founders Edition.

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