Meditating during distractions

Person outline sitting

Image public domain from Clker.com

Recently my two yoga classes have changed venues temporarily. It’s great that I can still hold the classes and we’re settling into the new venue. One thing that is different is the background noise levels. This is providing myself and the students with a useful challenge of remaining focused during the class, particularly during the pranayama, meditation and sivasana relaxation.

In any situation it’s easy to get distracted by something, then annoyed by it (e.g. people talking during films in a cinema). We tend to meditate in very quiet settings, removing all distractions and noises. But, it can be helpful every so often to meditate in settings where there are other things seeking our attention. Rather than get annoyed by them, we can use them to our advantage to focus even more on our breath or mind.

I’ve adapted the last 15 minutes of my classes to reduce slightly the sivasana time (I could see more fidgeting than usual!) but include some mindfulness of breathing meditation practices so that there’s something else to think about other than the background noises (which actually aren’t that bad at all really). The two practices I like are ones I first experienced at Taraloka.

Mindfulness of breathing – counting

Sitting comfortably, let the breath happen. You will be counting your way up to 5, on your natural breathing rhythm. Inhale, thinking ‘inhale’. Exhale, thinking ‘exhale’ then count to yourself ‘1’. Inhale again, thinking inhale. Exhale again, thinking exhale. Then say to yourself ‘2’. That’s two breaths. You repeat this up to 5. If you get to 5, congratulations! I’ve not got there yet. If you have any other thoughts other than ‘inhale’, ‘exhale’, or the number you’re on, you go back to number 1. If you get to a number and can’t remember how you got there and suspect you had other thoughts, you go back to 1. If you forget what number you’re on, you go back to 1. If you are quite advanced you can do this up to 10 instead. I find it a very useful practice.

Mindfulness of breathing – mantra

Sitting comfortably, let the breath happen. As you inhale say to yourself ‘I am breathing in’. As you exhale say to yourself ‘I am letting go’. The exhale is the releasing breath so let go of tension, stress, worries, thoughts etc. Just carry on breathing and repeating the mantra for as long as you want.

These are both quite useful practices for giving the mind something simple to do, allowing the thoughts to settle slowly, but also to keep you focused.

4 thoughts on “Meditating during distractions

  1. I must say I’m quite enjoying the challenge of remaining mindful in noisier surroundings. I think it’s because if it’s too quiet my mind tends to kick in with all sorts of useless anxieties so the external noise provides a deterrent for unwanted thoughts and encourages me to focus inwards and find a quiet still place. I’m not sure whether or not that sounds positive!

    • Hi Bethan, thanks for your feedback on the meditation practice and the surroundings. Your comment IS positive! Everybody is different when it comes to meditation: for some the thoughts can occur when it’s too quiet; for others the noises could be irritating and put them in the wrong frame of mind for concentrating. Learning what we like/don’t like and working with that is all part of the process. Of course, it can all change on a daily basis as well!

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