Distractions and Restlessness: Common Problems During Mediation

The excited mind:

Sometimes during a meditation session, with the best will in the world, our mind simply will not settle. The all too common "monkey mind" is jumping from one thing to another. Uninvited thoughts keep popping into your consciousness. Thoughts about the past, both pleasant and not so pleasant. Or perhaps outside noises are proving too much of a distraction. Whatever the thoughts or external distraction, in most cases they bring with them emotions. Emotions that are sometimes quite disturbing that we would rather not have right now. These can be pleasant experiences that we are attached to, or unpleasant emotions, giving rise to anger and hatred. Under normal circumstances we experience our mind running riot like this as this has become the habitual way the mind operates.

This, our normal expectation of how the mind operates, is actually the antithesis of meditation. Providing we give free reign to the mind in this fashion, we will struggle to truly perceive reality that comes with a developed concentration.

Several methods exist that offer a remedy to this problem such as counting the breath. By focusing on the calm, natural rhythm of the breath, the mind eventually follows that pattern. Effectively you are gently training your mind to this new habit of being, thus replacing the older, habitually ingrained distractions. As you count the breath and focus on these rhythms, when the mind does inevitably wander, you simply notice this and once again gently bring back the focus to the breath. You are not in a battle with the mind, as it naturally wanders, but simply observing the feelings and thoughts as they arise, but not attaching or involving yourself with them.

There are of course many methods of meditation and concentration, but ultimately the goal of inner calmness is the same.

The dull sleepy mind:

Although the "monkey mind" is a common problem associated with meditation practice, the sleepy state carries its own problems. The natural reaction of the body and mind once we close our eyes, and particularly when we are tired, is to go to sleep.

If we are genuinely tired then perhaps sleep is the only option. However if we are feeling dull and listless and really not in the mood to meditate, then the following can help:

Firstly it is important to note a correctly aligned posture. The back should be straight, also make sure that the head does not bend too far forward. It is important to open the eyes half way so that you can meditate and direct your gaze in front of you, most probably a point somewhere on the floor. You should not be concerned that there is too much light in the room as this can greatly help in you staying alert.

These are a few short examples of the many ways available to meditate. The key is to be flexible enough and not become too caught up in there only been one correct way. As these too opposites illustrate, sometimes it is necessary to judge your current state and choose an appropriate technique.

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