Some of your “distractions” are not distractions

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Stones on the seashoreOne of my students recently commented: “I regularly have to readjust my posture, which slightly changes now and then without my noticing it. These readjustments distract me from focusing on the body/breathing.”

What I suggested was that she might usefully reframe how she was seeing this situation.

If you’re being mindful of your body and making adjustments to your posture, then in a very important way this isn’t distracting you from your body. Making readjustments like this doesn’t even have to take you away from your breathing, since you can maintain awareness of your breathing and make adjustments in your posture in time with the in-breaths and out-breaths. For example if you need to open or straighten the body, then allow that to happen on the in-breath. If you need to relax the body, let that happen on the out-breath. If there’s pain or tension, then imagine your breathing flowing through and around the area of discomfort.

You can certainly do all of this in a mindful way, and so you don’t have to think in terms of your being distracted, which leads to a sense that you’re not doing the meditation correctly, which probably involves an element of judgement and aversion, which probably leads to a loss of mindfulness.

There are times when we simply need to pay attention to the body in this way. It may be that we don’t have our posture set up quite right, or we’re tired, or there’s some discomfort in our experience. And in those situations it’s actually a mindful thing to give the body the attention it needs.

What is a distraction is anxiety. When we’re worrying that we’re “not doing it right” we’re making judgements about ourselves, and probably getting into a state of mind that isn’t very mindful. It’s actually our attitudes to our experiences that are our distractions, not the experiences themselves.

Aversion is also a distraction. When you think that making adjustments to your posture is something you shouldn’t have to do, then the whole experience is something that you resent doing. And you may be paying attention to the body, but you’re not being mindful of your resentment, and so you’re not really being mindful.

So just keep coming back to the question, “How am I relating to my experience? Am I relating with craving, aversion, or anxiety? Or am I relating with curiosity, kindness, and acceptance?” It doesn’t matter what the experience is — it can be a vehicle for becoming more mindful.

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