It can be difficult to stay focused during meditation. Sometimes your mind wanders through overthinking, and your concentration can be disturbed.
It is important to know when you are becoming distracted; that way you can bring your focus back to the meditation and acknowledge the distraction. Knowing what distracts you helps you get to know yourself. Everything has a cause and effect, as the sixth hermetic principle states. This means that each cause has an effect and each effect has a cause; a law of the universe.
Every cause produces an effect.
A mental disturbance in meditation is not exempt from this law. A mere distraction in the mind can have multiple causes, and cause various effects. We live in this infinite change of cause and effect; all events which take place are held together by the thread of this law. We must observe the effects of something to lead us back to its cause. If we see that our friend is crying, we know that they are experiencing it because of pain. The crying is an effect which leads us closer to the cause.
Similarly, when we observe the effects of our distraction during meditation, we are able to acknowledge the cause. The Buddha’s first noble truth to alleviating suffering is to acknowledge suffering. Before we can take any steps to heal, we must first acknowledge the problem.
Meditation gives us the open space to do just that, through observation.
In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali shared four accompaniments to the mental distractions we experience during meditation to help us be more aware of when it happens. These accompaniments to distraction are:
- Trembling of the Body
- Disturbed Breathing
Each one of these effects has its cause. Distress can be caused by a lack of sleep, overthinking, excessive worrying, poor diet, or fear of the future. Despair can be caused by dwelling in sorrow, ungratefulness, poor relationships, regret, fear, or self-doubt. Trembling of the body can be caused by anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, or fear. Disturbed breathing can be caused by shallow breathing, anxiety, lack of focus, anger, sadness, or discomfort. (Of course these are only some causes.)
Meditation is about becoming aware of yourself; so when you notice one of these four symptoms during your meditation, don’t react. Simply respond by noting that you are experiencing one of these symptoms, with gentle awareness. Because you sat in mindful awareness of yourself, you were able to experience one of these symptoms. It is through taking the time out to be with yourself that you get to know yourself. Notice when you feel one of the four accompaniments to mental disturbance, and use them as tools to get deeper to the source of your problems.
Why am I distressed during meditation? Maybe your answer is a little like this: “Traumatic thoughts from my past surface when I sit quietly with myself.”Wonderful, now you are closer to the cause. Here and now, you can take the steps to resolve your past trauma. You can decide to journal, talk to a trusted friend, and release the burdens of the past which still haunt you.
Until you sit in meditation and acknowledge how distressed you truly are, you may not ever take the time to heal. When this mental disturbance haunts you while you sit still, it is an important reminder that there are issues to be resolved. Always be aware of the four mental disturbances during your meditation so that you may get closer to the root causes of your issues, resolve them, and enjoy a meditation free from those burdens as you continue to heal with your awareness!
Distress, despair, a trembling body, and disturbed breathing work as symbols to represent a deeper issue. It is through awareness and acknowledgment that we may take the steps to heal, and make the necessary changes to liberate ourselves from the suffering that lingers deep within. Be aware, notice the four accompaniments to mental distraction, and use them as tools to help you know yourself. The path of yoga is that of self-discovery; and we can only know ourselves through observation.
As Patanjali states in The Yoga Sutras, “the restraint of the mind is yoga. Then the seer (observer) abides in its own nature.” Be open to observe your experience. and get to know yourself from that still place of being. The four accompaniments to distraction merely work as tools, a manifested effect to get you closer to the cause of your suffering.
Rubaab’s articles can be found at https://beingtobecome.com