How Your Everyday Distractions Can Actually Be Beneficial

embedPhoto: Allison Scarpulla/Courtesy of Eyla.
In the age of constant communication, 24/7 jobs, and mandatory multitasking, finding a moment for reflection is almost impossible — almost. Courtney Somer made mental wellness her mission, creating Eyla, an online resource packed with inspiration and real-life tools to maintain your personal peace. We'll be sharing some of this goodness every week on R29 Guest Stars, so whether you're looking to get spiritual, clear your mind, or just read some motivating interviews, Eyla is here to help you shine brighter.
Advertisement
Sometimes, when I'm meditating in my small Brooklyn bedroom, I hear all the cars and trucks coming off the busy BQE, and the children who have just gotten out of school, and the dogs barking at the dog park, and I wish I had a pristine soundproof room in which to sit. I’ve even tried meditating with earplugs. But, then there’s my room.
The walls might look better with a coat of mint-colored paint, and my books could certainly use organizing. So, I close my eyes. And, then my mind is pulled towards a stiff spot in my back, and the sound of my heartbeat, and the sensation of swallowing. Suddenly I have the urge to check my twitter account. And I’m composing a grocery list. And now where did that memory of elementary school detention crop up from? If it weren’t for all these distractions, I’d have the best meditation session of my life!
The fact is, there will always be something around to distract us. Even if we find that pristine soundproof room, our mind tends to work hard to fill the vacuum. So, if we can’t eliminate distractions, we can instead change our relationship to them. We might even be able to transform the things we thought of as distractions into reminders of the present moment.
I’ve been holding a meditation and music workshop called Sound of Mind in the upstairs loft space above a restaurant these past few months. It’s an amazing way to really get into the idea that we can train awareness and begin to accommodate and make space for the so-called distractions in our environment. Mindfulness meditation is a form of training in awareness, so that we can intentionally place our attention where it is skillful. After sitting silently, I played some music for the meditation group and guided people through the idea of gently letting go of the stories we tell ourselves about the sounds. Can we hear them as just pure sound? Then, I switch off the music and we all listen to the ambient noise of the restaurant: the murmur of voices, glasses clinking, the clammer of plates as they’re whisked away from tables, chairs moving across the floor. I don’t mean to sound like Bjork or anything, but I truly believe that we can begin to hear these sounds as music.
Advertisement
When we loosen our grip on the habitual stories we tell ourselves about our distractions, and when we stop vigorously trying to push them away, we transform our sensations into music. I don’t know about you, but when I try to shut things out, they typically multiply and get ugly, like gremlins fed after midnight. With a little effort, we can begin to change the stories we tell ourselves. We could tell ourselves that a car horn is a reminder to come back to our breath and our body, rather than an annoying sound that is the result of misplaced aggression. When we really begin to look, there is no end to the opportunities for practice in our daily life.
Try it!
Sit on a cushion or in a chair in an alert, grounded and supported position. Keep your eyes open but lower and soften your gaze. Locate the physical sensation of the breath in your body and begin to follow the rhythm of the air entering and leaving your body.
When thoughts arise, don’t push them away. Just notice them, and then let them go as you return to the breath. Similarly, when you notice physical sensations or sounds, just let them be part of the environment. Don’t try to push them away, and try not to let them pull you out of the present moment. Just notice, and gently return to the breath.
After practicing this form of awareness training for five to seven minutes, begin to loosen your grip on the felt sensation of the breath. Begin to open your awareness to the space. Take in the sounds, the sights, the sensations. See what it is like to perceive without narrating too much. What is it to simple hear, or see, or feel?
This post was authored by Caroline Contillo.
Advertisement

More from Spirit

As you might have heard by now, the first black moon since 2014 will rise this Friday night. As ominous as it sounds, the black moon is just another term...
Let us all hold hands and increase the peace. This Monday, September 26, a rare event is happening in the skies. The radiant Sun and broad-minded Jupiter ...
What a week it’s been, stargazers. First, we were told our Zodiac signs have changed, that there's now a 13th sign, and that apparently everything we ...
(Paid Content) Your love life heats up as Venus heads into fun and flirty Virgo this month. And your beauty game responds in kind. Look for makeup that’s ...
Change is in the air: The days are ending earlier, the summer heat is dying down, and these are only signs of bigger things to come. The autumn season ...
If you're a big fan of personality quizzes, you probably know everything a quiz can tell you about yourself, from your Myers-Briggs type to what your ...
In case you missed it, this past weekend bore witness to an astrological shake-up thousands of years in the making (and also one that we'd already lived ...
(Paid Content) As eclipse season unlocks hidden desires in your love life, you’re able to approach relationships from a place of knowledge. Let that be a ...
Was your flight delayed? Blame Mercury retrograde. Notice some suspicious charges on your credit card? Blame Mercury retrograde. Get into a shouting match ...
Tired of stressing and obsessing? Turn your solo missions into tag-team ventures and watch how easy everything becomes. On Thursday, the sun wraps its ...
Here at Refinery29, we invest a lot of meaning in the astrological sign we were born into — like, a lot a lot. Imagine our surprise (and okay, slight ...
This month's full moon and 2016's final eclipse will collide this Friday, September 16. East Coasters will be able to see the moon as early as 3:05 p.m, ...
St. Matthew Catholic Church: LEAD Ministry from Eric Kruszewski on Vimeo. When journalist and videographer Eric Kruszewski first learned about LEAD, an ...
Supersize swagger? Check! This Tuesday, pushy Mars locks into a tangled angle with the ego-driven sun. While it's great to be confident, we could get ...