How do you let go of distractions and focus on what’s most important to you? The key is to spend time away from them. The pull towards the distraction holds much less power when you’re not always engaged with it. In my work as a mindfulness coach, I help show people how you can stay focused on your goals by paying less attention to those things that don’t serve you. This frees up your attention for what matters in life. Distractions can come in many forms (TV, phone, substances, etc.), but the one thing they have in common is that they’re usually easy. In my younger years, I watched a lot of TV and it was always so easy. It took very little effort to sit there completely absorbed in the never-ending content for hours at a time, while my waistline grew and instruments gathered dust. This all changed when I developed a consistent meditation practice and became more aware of my behaviors.
Meditation came into my life at a perfect time. Recently separated, living in a friend’s basement with my blood pressure through the roof, I found myself in a therapist’s office looking for some answers. Stress had a tight grip around my life and would regularly show that control through debilitating migraines. At the end of the first session, she asked if I wanted a prescription for an anti-depressant and I politely declined. I wanted another way. So instead she handed me a stack of photocopied pages with excerpts about meditation and mindfulness. This small act changed how I lived my life. I quickly devoured the content and went right to the bookstore to learn more. I started meditating in the morning before work and at night before bed. It wasn’t always easy, but I fought through the discomfort to proceed with the meditative path before me. I slowly became more aware of how I lived my life and it gave me the opportunity to shift behaviors that were no longer serving me. It felt like I had been driving through life without realizing that there was a switch for the wipers to clear the mud from my windshield. I was seeing the world with much more clarity that I had ever experienced.
Meditation is something that anyone can do. It may seem ridiculous with everything that you have going on to just sit, however that time away from the noise can do wonders for your focus as you go about the rest of your day. If you’re in a safe space right now, try closing your eyes for a couple minutes and see what thoughts emerge. If you’re anything like me, the thoughts will range from what you want to eat, replaying a conversation with an old friend, thinking about who you need to email, regretting choosing study hall over band in 6th grade or wondering if we really are alone in this universe. The mind has its own agenda, taking us back in time or pushing us into the future and switching back and forth at the blink of an eye. The key when meditating is to notice these thoughts, to let them go and then come back to the breath. It’s important to do this without any judgement at all. Be a neutral observer and don’t criticize yourself for what you’re thinking or that you’re thinking at all. New thoughts will emerge and continue to let them go.
When I first got started with my practice, I would visualize 3 buckets in my mind – good, bad and neutral. As thoughts would emerge, I would put them in the appropriate bucket sorting them quickly like a seasoned veteran at a bottle redemption facility. By envisioning the thoughts coming towards me I would move good thoughts to the left, bad to the right and neutral directly behind me. This helped me to notice and let go of anything that came up in order to bring focus back to the breath. The power of a meditation practice is the space between you noticing the thought and coming back to the breath. That process of letting go of the thought (distraction) and coming back to where you want your focus to be is important. It’s training your mind to ignore the noise and stay calmly focused. So, when you need to write an article for a wellness magazine, learn a new song for a gig or do your taxes, the social media notifications beckoning you or the desire to do something else easier will have less power over you.
This process is simple in theory but takes time to develop. The real key is to start taking that time for yourself each day. If you live in a busy household and don’t have a space to sit quietly, then you can take a couple extra minutes after you finish your shower or in your car after you arrive at your destination or during your lunch break at work. You might feel like there is no time to take for yourself but look closer at your day and there’s bound to be a few moments to just breathe. Whenever I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, I like to stop and enjoy a few moments to just be. Even a minute of stillness can do wonders for anything that I might have going on in my mind. Sitting with no agenda allows the mind to slow the never-ending cycle of thoughts to get down to the heart of who you truly are. You could distract yourself for many lifetimes with the content that we have access to, but the real content is what’s inside of you and slowing down allows it space to exist.
Jeff Arbor is a musician, mindfulness coach and Reiki practitioner based out of Portland who is focused on helping people slow down, breathe deeper and connect more with who they are. He enjoys working with fellow musicians and creative artists, but holds a special place in his heart for people that want to bring a sense of calm to their lives in what can be a stressful world that we live in. Jeff’s Reiki practice is mobile, so he’ll meet you at your home or office to perform the session. For more information about Jeff, visit: www.jeffarbor.com.