the practical buddhist : essentials

ask baz: on being distracted

Is Being Distracted in the Present Moment a Bad Thing?

I was talking to a friend (who also is a subscriber to the blog) earlier today about the way we relate to the present moment. She made the following statement (which is shared with her permission):

S: “I think my biggest impediment [in relation to the present moment] is my distractibility; that’s not to say that I have an inability to concentrate, or to give myself over entirely to a moment, but I find that my mind is a devilish partner in my heart/mind collaboration. Your thoughts?”

Baz’s Response:

Distraction always takes us away from the present moment. However, the new present moment might fully engage us; if that is the case, then a new present moment is available for us to immerse ourselves in. The issue I see here is not the immersion onto a new present moment, but the ease of leaving one moment for another – as you put it, your distractibility.

Both the on-the-cushion practice of mediation and the off-the-cushion practice of mindfulness is about training the ‘unruly child’ to sit still for 5-10-20-? minutes. Over time -via daily practice of these two activities- our minds become less unruly: more calm and controlled. We adopt a new definition of ‘autopilot’ that includes a calmer, more serene operating style in both mind and body.

This week I’m reading The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he makes this statement:

“Our breath is like a string that connects our mind with our body.”

When we repeatedly focus on our breath (both in mediation and in mindfulness), we link the two and they operate as one. In the process we become less distracted. Perhaps, less distractible.

Going forward, I’d recommend being as conscious as possible in each moment of distraction; for example, when you are suddenly distracted by something, pause, take a breath, and knowledge the distraction. Take a few seconds and decide if is best to stay with whatever you’d be leaving or if it’s better to make the switch? Sometime it’s OK to switch based on importance, urgency, etc. But sometimes, it simply based on boredom or fatigue.

The key isn’t what you decide, it’s taking the time to know the difference.

What are you thoughts on this issue of distractibility?