Manage Distraction by Awakening to Life’s Moments

We’ve all sped past intended freeway exits out of distraction. We’ve also missed whole paragraphs in articles like this one due to daydreaming (another form of distraction). Focus can be challenging for all of us: for me quieting my mind at bedtime, can become a daunting (and exhausting) exercise.

Recently, after a restless night’s sleep, I sought to regain some mental clarity by taking an early-morning stroll. My meditative goal was to center my attention outside my head instead of repeating the unproductive loop of stories still echoing within it.

Fortunately, I live a stone’s throw from a wilderness area with public trails. A few minutes into my hike, I was able to relinquish my inner-thoughts to the natural surroundings and get some relief by focusing outside of myself.

However, by shifting my attention away from my heady chatter, I witnessed a litany of befuddling behavior: I counted several cars parked in a clearly-marked temporary tow-away zone. Two gossiping people absently yanked at their leashed dogs who were checking “pee-mail.” One father impatiently dragged his kindergarten-aged son forward along a crosswalk.

Distraction infects most of us and affects all of us

I pondered the probable consequences of what I saw: impounded cars, cowering animals, and a boy being raised with aggression more than affection. Shockingly, the people perpetrating these reckless acts were totally unaware of the weight of their actions.

Other than the innocents (whose natural spontaneity and curiosity was uniformly reprimanded) everyone I witnessed was misbehaving because they were out-of-the-moment and lost-in-thought. These adults were unintentionally victimizing themselves and others because they were too self-absorbed to notice the residual effects of their disconnection with their surroundings:

They weren’t driven to distraction, they were fueled by distracted thinking.

Stress most often develops through self-created narratives – and the people around me were unwittingly breaking laws or bullying others because of it. Even my mind tugged at me to relinquish the moment and focus instead on passing judgment so that I could feel superior. The reality is, we are all in this together: We are all guilty of creating scenarios, and then reacting out of what we’ve conjured as if these assumptions are real, not imagined.

Let Nature take its course

Our systems are designed to take care of both our physical and emotional balance: Our hearts beat without our conscious focus, and our wounds naturally clot even without intervention. We also have an instinctual predisposition for emotional regulation. Understanding that we’re organisms that know how to heal helps us get on with the purposeful work of living without the distraction of self-consciousness.

The simplest and most effective way to achieve a blissful state is to understand that the many aspects of our lives will most likely right themselves if we relinquish our mind-based habit of complicating things and, instead, pay attention.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” – Sid Banks

We need to work with, not against, life’s unfolding circumstances. Trust the natural order of things on the inside and the outside: When we acknowledge that we are not our thoughts, we open ourselves to participate in life with a giddy abandon that our self-consciousness could never allow.

Wake up from Distraction

The answer to our struggles is far more straightforward than our minds would allow us to believe. Just as imagined monsters lose their steely grips over us once we wake from our nightmares, the way toward active living is through the practice of becoming aware.

Decide to break-free from managing your life with brain-based stories and strategies: Instead, let the realities of your surroundings lead you toward appropriate decisions and away from towaway zones…