#296 Testimony of Angeline

Embracing Distractions with Oakville Zen

In September, after Cathy spoke about her time with this Zen meditation group, Arnaud asked that more members consider submitting a talk about their experience with meditation.  When I first attended this group in March, I thought it was a silent group except for Arnaud’s insightful talks because we arrived and left quietly.  The group was comfortable but is even more so since others have talked about their experience. 

I began meditating in 2003, at the beginning and end of yoga classes.  Yoga itself is a moving meditation.  I was taught that yoga prepared the mind and body for the healing stillness of seated meditation, and that a compassionate mindset would make for a healthier, more beneficial practice.  Many teachers and writers in different mind/body practices seem to teach this common theme – Accepting what is now, with reverence.  

Mindfulness distractions vary.  Mental, physical or energetic.  Sometimes my mind whips along the surface of whirlpools thought.  A physical pain and an overwhelming emotion may erupt at the same time.  A noise may jump into my awareness accompanied by thoughts of who or what caused the sound and why.  A dog barking outside makes me wonder if there is a coyote nearby.  A father arguing in the hallway with a toddler makes me imagine what they feel and what family history is motivating their behaviours.  My mind spins off into stories.  If I try to silence or control all these messages from my mind, they multiply.

Like the baby Jack Jack from The Incredibles movie, duplicating himself every time he is caught.

The word control can be positive, implying discipline and organization.  For me, “control” has a restrictive, abusive association.

When I instead gently observe, name, and accept each distraction, it’s like diving deep into the calm below the current.  Patience, appreciation and care swing me back into gentle awareness of this breath.

Arnaud has talked before about self-love and embracing all aspects of self.

Through mindful study, I’ve learned to recognize the true nature of my mind. 

My vivid imagination and strong empathy used to create more frequent stories and emotions when I sat to meditate.  Every sound and sensation meant something symbolic and begged for attention.  Rather than fight to control or silence these instincts, I befriended them, and now see them as cooperative aspects of my ego. They help me round up and tame all other distractions through close inspection.  For example, when my back hurts I listen actively.

I use my natural tendencies to feel deeply and think creatively.

I imagine the pain is an impermanent object like a sandcastle, and each breath gently softens it like a wave would.  I don’t try to change what I feel.  I just use imagery to feel more deeply and breathe more consciously.  By three cycles of breath, most distractions fall quite in love with just breathing. 

When our group breaks to walk or stretch, the second meditation is often deeper and easier.  Tension falls away when I move.  My body is more comfortable. My mind is even more at rest than if I sat alone the whole time. 

Shared meditation seems to magnify the peaceful effect. 

Side by side and breath by breath, we’re working in unique ways to be fully present.

I dive deeper every time we meditate together. 

Thank you for welcoming me into this group and sharing this practice. 

Now I’m curious to hear from you.  What distraction did you find difficult at first, but has since helped you to be more mindful?