January 23, 2010

Meditation Tip: Minimizing Distractions

Like my mom, I too often experience "monkey mind" when meditating. While I don't have any special hints for dealing with distracting thoughts, other than just continuing to meditate, I do have a few tips for minimizing other distractions.

Checklist for before you meditate:
  • Let your partner/family/roommate know you will be meditating, how long, and that you would like not to be disturbed
  • Turn off your phone and any other electronics that may beep, flash, etc.
  • Adjust the thermostat to a comfortable level, drape a blanket or shawl over yourself if needed
  • Put on lip balm and lotion
  • Pull your hair away from your face
  • Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes - nothing too tight or that digs in
  • Remove any jewelry that may bother you or make noise
  • If you have time, do some stretches or gentle exercises before sitting
  • Take a moment to notice whether there is anything urgent you need to do floating in your mind - if so, take the time to jot these things down on a piece of paper so your mind will be less likely to keep coming back to them during meditation
  • Set a timer - I use the timer function on my watch - and make sure it is working
  • Experiment (over the course of several days) with finding the best sitting position - in a chair, on the floor, on a small cushion, large cushion, or no cushion, etc.
I also recommend that when distractions come up during your meditation you experiment with which distractions you can sit through and which need to be dealt with. I have noticed that an itch will go away if I continue to sit and focus on my breath, whereas if my foot falls asleep, it will continue to become more and more uncomfortable until I shift my position to correct the problem.

What are the distractions that challenge you, and how do you respond to them?

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