I am currently teaching a Meditation For Stress Relief course at Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring. We are cultivating a state of witness consciousness in which we can sit and accept whatever thought or feeling arises as it happens by observing without passing judgement. Recently a student asked me about how she can maintain better focus when she is sitting because she seems to always notice sounds — someone walking, a cough, a siren in the distance. Here is my response:
Sustaining focus is a big part of the practice! There will always be things that distract us, so first of all, just knowing that is the case can help relieve you of some of the burden of “should.” For example, “I should have better focus than I do,” or “I should be able to sit still and not be distracted for longer than 2 minutes!” When something distracts you, it is natural to notice it, but can you notice it without falling into the “should” trap or without having a physical reaction, like the adrenaline rush if it is a loud, scary noise for example. Simply notice it and return your attention to your point of focus for your practice. (Unless that loud scary noise is actually a warning of impending danger. Must beware of danger.) Continually returning your awareness to your point of focus is major.
So the question is not necessarily how can I sustain better focus? But the question becomes, how can I accept fully each moment as it arises? If that moment is one of silence and focus, all the better; if that moment is one of a distracting noise, or a phone call, or an appointment that you do not want to attend, can you allow yourself to be in that moment without getting too caught up in the drama, in the story of it.
Meditation practice helps smooth the edges. Over time, your awareness no longer has huge swings from happiness to sadness, pleasure to pain, anxiety to calm. Over time you learn to maintain a more even keel which actually brings about a state of “satchidananda.” The yogis call this state our true nature. And our birthright as human beings.
Sat = being or existence, the truth of our lives
Chid = conscious awareness, knowing that we exist
Ananda = joy or bliss
As they say, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. Like standing on your head, this shift of perspective can turn the world upside down. In a good way.
Go back to Durga Mahashakti.
Go forward to I Feel Good… But Not That Good.