So you’re meditating. Sitting comfortably or something, eyes closed.
Breathing in, you are aware that you are breathing. Relax.
Breathing out, you are aware you are breathing. Relax.
Suddenly, you realize you are thinking about dinner. Or that time last year when you cut your hand. Or how much that jerk pissed you off.
So, you notice that you’re not aware of the breath anymore.
Let that distracting thought or feeling be there, but don’t pay attention.
Relax you head and body one time.
Smile, cause its all ridiculous.
And go back to breathing.
Sometimes sitting will be awesome, and very interesting things will happen. Keep going, good work, etc.
Sometimes you will get distracted and the session may not be as fun. Again, keep going, good work, etc.
So, what about distractions?
When you practice with these instructions, distractions may arise. In fact, by relaxing and avoiding a very tight focus on the sensations of the breath, you are allowing mind to be fluid enough to do something unexpected, something spontaneous. Perhaps this sounds bad? Maybe meditation and life are not supposed to have unexpected feelings and events? Well, if you believe that, you are left with trying to force things to be the way you want them to be. That is fighting with reality. It's probably a really a bad idea, fighting with reality. Guess who loses?
One thing that is happening in the meditation is you are retraining yourself to stop trying to control stuff. When you notice you are distracted, let whatever it is be there and relax, you are creating a new habit. Instead of fighting or trying to control, you are allowing and opening.
This opening and allowing mind does not have suffering in it. There may be uncomfortable feelings, but there is no preference or identification with them. What was YOUR pain, YOUR anger, YOUR lust for whatever, becomes something quite neutral if you let it be there, relax, smile, and breath. Fitting, because you had nothing to do with it being there in the first place! You were sitting in meditation, breathing, and suddenly the distraction came up. Right? You were actually doing something else and it happened anyway. That process does not sounds like volition, or YOU to me…
This is a fascinating, although disturbing notion: most of our thoughts and feelings happen TO us, they are not necessarily created by us. They are part of an impersonal process.
More usefully: this impersonally process might feel good or bad, but either way, it could suck if we fight it, or not suck if we allow it to be however it is. Better to allow, then.
Interestingly, having an uncomfortable distraction come up is a great way to get over it. If you deal with it skillfully and don’t suppress/control it, eventually you wont react, and it won’t re-occur.
So, it is totally useful to have periods where mind gets full of turmoil. This way you can let go, not react, and move on. You can be sure that turmoil happens when you’re not paying attention. When this happens without noticing, you react, suffer, and this limits your apparent choices.
When you notice that there is turmoil or any level of distraction, you suddenly have a choice. You can react and not like it, or you can let it be there, relax, breath, and move on so it will eventually stop bugging you.
Nicely, this process works for good feelings as well. Good feelings tend to change, but if we let them do what they will without a lot of preference or any attempt to control, we will enjoy them more and they tend to hang out longer. Sounds good to me.
As we get better with how this all works and we let go of more stuff, Samadhi arises - it's direct result of letting go of distractions, not controlling them.
So, you get to be tough and sharp of mind. Keep your butt on the cushion and pay attention until the timer goes off, no matter what is happening. It’s really not that serious at all, so be gentle if you get caught. When there’s rough stuff on or off the cushion, you know what to do. Let it be there. Relax, smile, return to the breath. Just do that. At the very least, it will kill time and give you something to do that is actually your choice. And that’s the point.
There’s a lot to talk about with meditation in one sense, and in another sense meditation is just about breathing (or whatever your object of meditation happens to be), and not taking ANYTHING personally. Anything that happens is part of a process, and so you might as well let it go and get on with whatever you meant to be doing.
Once you understand this approach to distractions, you are basically prepared to respond to anything that could come up, and are ready to go deep. Sure, you will sometimes get caught, but you know what to do.