Focus, Distraction, Realization and Return
Meditation isn’t a constant, permanent state; it’s a continuous flow. We use meditation as a way to practice being mindful; being present in our everyday activities. Whether traveling, eating or talking with a loved one; mindfulness will allow us to experience deeper connections, more vivid memories and more satisfying experiences.
Throughout our practice, there are four phases which we flow through; Focus, Distraction, Realization and Return. As these are all part of the process and expected.
Chi tip: we want to be gentle with ourselves and not let judgment creep in; this includes judging ourselves. The purpose of meditation isn’t to stay rigid and locked on an idea, it’s to acknowledge that we’ve wandered and come back.
Most meditation practices will incorporate a focus; listening to the breath, scanning the body for comfort and discomfort, reciting a mantra etc. Our goal is to maintain this focus as a base, as something to come back to as ideas and feelings come up, with the knowledge that we’re never going to do it perfectly. Distraction is natural and expected while meditating, random thoughts are always coming in.
Distraction is inevitable; you’re focusing on your breath and all of a sudden you go off thinking about what you’ll be having for dinner, your leg will pick that exact moment to fall asleep or you’ll remember something embarrassing that happened in the second grade. These are all natural occurrences; keeping the body still and the mind quiet are very unnatural practices for most people. Many who are new to meditation feel discouraged if they have difficulty with distraction. This judgment, discouragement and doubt are exactly the opposite of the energy and space we’re trying to create.
Chi Tip: The goal here is to forgive ourselves for wandering, to accept distractions and move on.
Realization can take a while, depending on how tired or present we are, sometimes we can spend ten minutes thinking about all the situations which may happen later on in the day before we realize and remember that we’re actually supposed to be meditating.
The best thing here is to know that this IS meditation. One of the biggest secrets of meditation that I’ve learned is that the purpose isn’t to see how long we can stay perfectly focused on an activity, it’s to shorten the time it takes us to realize we’ve gotten off track.
The brain can be trained like a muscle, the longer we consistently practice these processes, the better and more natural they become.
This is the simple piece which completes the cycle of mediation. The most important part of the return is to do it without judgment or self-criticism. We have to be gentle with ourselves, accepting where we are in our practice and knowing that sometimes we take a step back before stepping forward. I have days where I’m distracted constantly and some days where I’m more focused. I have to remember to allow the ebbs and flows without beating myself up. The benefits will come if we continue to work on the practice.
Each of these four phases activates a different part of the brain. Think of this as a cycle, going around a baseball diamond or walking through the steps in a dance. It’s something we practice by doing over and over, when we do it well, we can smile and enjoy the moment and when we take a while to realize and come back we let it go and move on.
Meditation has been so helpful in improving not only my relationships and experiences but also lowering my stress and helping me relax and sleep.
Benefits in daily life:
Chances are that distractions and rogue thoughts don’t only show up while we are meditation. We’re just able to notice how frequent they are when we sit quietly and begin becoming aware of our bodies and minds. Distractions occur just as often when we’re eating, working, studying, exercising or doing any number of activities. Practicing mediation and moving through the four phases will train ourselves to notice when we’ve wandered away from the task at hand and become better and better at coming back to the moment.
Chi Tip: This is all in the goal of becoming aware of our surroundings and the task at hand. By being present, we’ll find that we use less energy and find more enjoyment in our lives. The difference is transformational and will have positive impacts in all areas of