Over the years I’ve been asked countless times how to address the problem of distracted meditation. It’s a common problem. There’s a simple solution. It’s just not easy to start…
If you cannot sit still in mindful awareness without the monkey mind taking over for five minutes a day – the rest of the day your brain is just as much of a mess! You already know this; it quite likely just doesn’t feel urgent.
You know this. I know this. This isn’t a five-to-ten-minute a day meditation problem. Your mind is going ape-shit every waking hour of the day and causing a host of problems and complications, ranging from anxiety to depression.
Consider the mental and emotional waste you’re allowing. Consider how little care you’re able to give the things that matter most because your monkey mind is rapidly skipping to other things that are urgent, but not really important. You’re unable to discriminate and allocate conscious attention to things of import over wasteful noise because there’s no sense of urgency around not-doing and just-being.
THIS IS NOT GOOD. It’s an urgent problem.
Meditation isn’t a deed, it’s a skill. Just as one good meal won’t do much to counteract the damage a poor diet does to your emotional stability or body composition, neither will your first few five-minute meditation attempts counteract the hours of chaotic thought that steal your attention away on a daily basis. That’s a bad-thought diet.
Meditation is a skill. You have to show up to it frequently, both on good days and bad, which means you’ll fail for a while the way white belts in Karate throw a lot of shitty kicks and punches. You’re gonna have a lot of shitty meditation sessions until you don’t, because the state of your mind is shitty. (I say this with a weird sort of love. I think.)
I’ve been eating McDonalds every meal for four weeks, but today I ate organic chicken salad, why do I feel like crap? Why am I still fat?
Same goes for your mind. You gotta show up – daily - with intention to heal. You gotta show up – NOW – with intention to connect with what’s real, with your present experience. Why? Because:
1) Your life matters, and you’re missing it.
2) Its real. The present is all that’s real.
Your memories of the past occur in the present.
Your hopes, ambitions, plans and projections of the future occur in the present.
The present is all there is. Meditation is merely the practice of living in it. Cause hey, that’s where life is!
One of my favorite Dalai Lama quotes goes something like, “If you don’t have time for twenty minutes of meditation a day, then you need an hour of it.”
Hidden within this humorous, albeit frustrating suggestion by a man with a lot of free time is the insight that you can’t expect one salad to correct daily McDonalds.
If every day you’re practicing undisciplined, distracted thinking by default, you’re going to need more than a few sessions of meditation to balance what you’ve conditioned to be normal. So don’t be hard on yourself about it, instead:
- Show up to it daily
- Show up at the same time each day
- Create space for it – don’t plan something immediately after
- Create space for it – don’t rush into it
- Start small, but consistent – even when your punches suck!
- Be patient.
It takes time. Be patient. Give yourself this gift.