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  • Writer's pictureAnn Manning

When I am distracted ...

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Woman balancing pencil on upper lip rather than working

I sat for meditation – my daily practice – and almost immediately jumped up again. I couldn’t focus and, seeking distraction, I grabbed a novel to read.

I stopped myself, though. I reflected that this was not the behaviour of a meditation teacher. I have no right to call myself that if I am unable to sit for even a few minutes before looking for diversion.

I put the novel aside and acknowledged that there was most probably some inner resistance at play here. I asked myself an important question: ‘What is it that I don’t want to experience?’ Then waited to see what came up. The response that arose surprised me. It was anger. Intense anger. I was so angry that I feel sick. Anger because ‘it’s so unfair.’

At this point I had a choice. I could go down the path of exploring the ‘story’ to discover what the (presumed) child in me is so angry about. Once this would have been the obvious path to take. Endlessly fascinating. I’ve always been attracted to stories.

Over time, though, I have learned that pursuing the story, while providing some context for what I am experiencing, will not take me deeper or lead to resolution. What I did instead was focus on being present with the sensations in my body, with the energy underlying the anger. And, paradoxically, by being present and simply accepting my experience, change begins to happen.

What I noticed was tension in my stomach. At the same time my jaw was trembling. I stayed observing these sensations, quietly offering myself compassion: ‘This is really hard for you.’ Then further emotions emerged, presumably underlying the anger. There was sadness and a sense of being alone, abandoned, and vulnerable.

And then my awareness settled, my mind became still, and next thing the time for meditation was over. The anger, the sadness the vulnerability seemed to have dissipated. It is very likely that this is not the last time these emotions will show themselves, but it is enough for now.

The lesson for me is that, whenever I notice that I am wilfully avoiding something major, rather than berating myself, I become curious and open to what is going on beneath the surface? I’ve learned that a distracted mind is a sure sign of some inner resistance. The resistance is not rational, so will not be easily resolved with reason.

Simple presence allows the resistance to melt, to soften. Whatever underlies that resistance can show itself and also have space to release. This happens a little at a time, and each time, each release lightens the inner load and enables us to be more engaged, more content and more productive.



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