Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean sitting cross-legged with
your eyes closed. Simply observing how your mind is responding to the sense world as you go about your business – walking, talking, shopping, whatever – can be a really perfect meditation and bring a perfect result.
Today’s article covers a danger that we all face – the demon of
distraction. I know that distraction is a challenge for many.
Hopefully , this article will help you see the problem clearly and
give you some strategies for overcoming it.
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One of the biggest challenges you face to making progress in your life, or achieving any measure of success, is the Demon of Distraction. It truly is a demon because it seems to feed upon us, and gets ever larger and more powerful the more time we sacrifice to it. The sources of distraction are growing daily. TV, internet, email, SMS, mobile phones, news events, computer games, and much more. In fact, with so much to do and respond to, it’s a wonder we get anything worthwhile done at all. A case in point is that my meditation sessions are deteriorating somewhat of late. The mind is always a thing to be tamed, and its fickleness is most evident when you try to meditate. However, recently I find that there is an increasing tendency to be distracted. My mind is endlessly multi-tasking; trying to figure out what it should do for the day, how it should react to such-and-such a situation, and so on. Maybe you are finding the same? The problem is that the sources of distraction are ever growing, and we seem to do nothing to counteract it in our daily lives, i.e. to take control of what we allow into our attention and how we respond to it. Hence, after a while, we start to experience overwhelm at the ever-growing list that demands our attention. For example, email is a big source of distraction. Spam is bad enough. But more importantly, there are all those people to answer, the latest offers to check out, and more. Before you know it, you have trained yourself to be an email addict, forever checking your inbox to see what new messages have arrived in the minutes since you last checked. Naturally, this takes a continual toll on your concentration. If you have a TV handy when you are eating, do you switch it on when you are eating? Of course, while skimming one program, you also have to flick around the channels to see if you are missing anything else better. And finally, when it gets to the top of the hour, you need to head over to the news channel to see what is going on in the world. The truth is, you have already done this several times during the day, and not THAT much extra has really happened in the last few hours. But that does not seem to bother you. Before you know it, you’re addicted to checking the news. What about cell phones? So much to do! Games to play. Email/SMS to check. Calls to make or respond to. Gosh! It’s a world all to itself. The problem is that, without our being aware of it, sources of distraction are steadily multiplying in the world. If you think that nothing is changing, you are in danger of being caught up in increased distraction without even being aware of it. In any case, the brain is easily distracted. It takes effort to keep it on course towards any goal or desired outcome. Distraction only knocks you off course. You may think you are doing very well by handling so many things simultaneously, but you really are not. The truth is, you are setting yourself up for achieving very little, and taking a long time to go about it! As you allow distractions to fill your time, your mental discipline slackens. Before you know it, you are wasting vast amounts of time, while persuading yourself that it was time well spent! In corporate culture, this can manifest itself as extended chats around the coffee machine, or popping around to a colleague for a blatant chat, or else asking something work-related initially which soon degenerates into a general chat at the first excuse. Online, it can be surfing around, allowing your mind to take you wherever it will. Maybe you go online to check out a new book at Amazon. Before you know it, it occurs to you to see if the DVDs of your favorite TV series are out yet. You type the keywords in. Yes, it’s there. You read some reviews. One of the writers mentions some scandal involving one of the show participants. You head over to Google to check it out. The results page comes up and you click on a site. While waiting for it, you see an interesting ad on the right-hand side of the page,and decide to check that out. Oh, and then you remember to check your email as well. You see one from a friend of yours. You reply to those while the two pages are still loading. When you click “Send”, some more emails come in requiring your attention. Meanwhile those two web pages have loaded and await. And so on… That is how you can easily spend several hours at your computer, and yet the actual amount of real work you do is very little. You come away tired and drained, with a false feeling of satisfaction, feeling like you have been very busy. Really though, you have done very little of any lasting value. Even if you don’t identify with any of the above examples, you nevertheless DO have your own personal version of this, and you know what it is. So how do you begin to make sense of all this? Realize what the sources of distraction are in your life and become conscious of what they do to you, i.e. how they are leading you off course. For many people, this may prove to be a great revelation, both in terms of how many such sources there are, and how low is the ability of their minds to concentrate upon a given task without feeling the need to multi-task something else. Another way is to make out a table of your waking hours and log in it, on a 15-minute basis, everything you do during the day. Rigorous honesty is required. Keep this up for several days and the results will probably be quite eye-opening. You will be amazed as to how little you actually get done! Once you have awareness of the sources of distraction, take steps to get the matter under control. If email is an issue for you, decide to only check your email twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening – and handle responses at those times only. You may wish to consider unsubscribing yourself from a bunch of ezines. Maybe you find that they serve no real useful purpose. Instead, you spend too much time reading them to the detriment of advancing your progress in your desired direction. Are you checking the TV news too often? Become aware of this addiction and get it handled. So much of the problem with distraction is to do with out own compulsive nature. Between stimulus and response, there is always a choice to be made. However, the problem is that when we always make the same choice over and over, before long it ceases to be a choice. Soon it becomes automatic behavior – conditioning. This is often what is really going on. You see the time, i.e. that it is nearly top of the hour, and you automatically switch the TV on and flick to the news. You’re working at your PC and you feel a moment of restlessness So you automatically go over to check you email. And so on. Automatic responses, where there used to be a choice. The trick to winning against the demon of distraction is to win back the power of choice. This applies not only to individual situations such as those just named, but also to choosing what you will pay attention to in the first place. Do you really need to watch that much TV? Do you really need a cellphone in the first place (some of the wealthiest people in business refuse to have one, whilst seemingly every teenager is a proud owner. What does THAT tell you?)? Do you really have to check your email so much? Assess what real value you are receiving from your various personal distraction sources. You may find that you can eliminate them and not suffer any great loss at all. Some people do just fine without a mobile phone. Believe it or not, the whole world once functioned that way. Yes, really! There are people still alive today who remember that world. Ask them sometime, if you don’t believe it. You would do well to also develop your powers of concentration. This can be done very well through meditation. In daily life, it can also be done by focusing on ONE major task at a time, and not beginning anything else until that one task is finished. This is a key secret behind some of the most successful people in the world, whether it be in business, the arts, or wherever. It’s hard to do lots of things simultaneously all by yourself. The mind experiences overwhelm. If you are caught with a lot of tasks in your work life, see how many you can delegate and outsource to other people. If you cannot, then try to complete each task in order of importance. The demon of distraction CAN be overcome, but it takes daily vigilance and continual personal awareness. Be vigilant against the continually changing forms of distraction that society invents and throws at you. Be aware of your own personal universe and how you react to a distraction stimulus. If someone lobs a ball at you, you don’t HAVE to catch it, you know. You always have a choice. Between stimulus and response, there is always the moment of choice. Develop that awareness through meditation
, and also through being aware of the continual threat of distraction as you go about your daily life.
Copyright Asoka Selvarajah 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Asoka Selvarajah is a writer on personal growth and
and the author of “The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing Your
Self”. His work helps people achieve their full
potential, deepen their
understanding of mystical truth,
and discover their soul’s purpose.
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