This week we deepen our skills of attention, awareness and the management of distraction. The aim this week is two fold: to increase our concentration, whilst also gaining insight into our patterns of thinking.
These two are of course related. Understanding what distracts us, allows for better concentration. And visa versa, strong concentration is a great opportunity to investigate our distractions.
Specifically we introduced a few new techniques around how you might pay attention to sensations of the breath.
- Close following – do your best to be continuously aware of the sensations of the breath. All the way in, and all the way out.
- Labelling – give a light mental note to each phase of the breath. “In”, “Turning”, “Out”, “Turning”, etc.
- Counting – experiment counting the breaths at the end of each exhale. Count up to 10 and then start again at 1. If you forget where you are, start again at 1 (with self-kindness!).
By paying attention in this deeper way, distractions can become more obvious. Giving us an opportunity to investigate that aspect of our minds. What are the themes that continuously draw our attention out of concentration?
Some directions you can practice with this week:
- Every time you notice a distraction, e.g. a thought or feeling, label it either ‘clinging’ or ‘resistance’. Depending on whether the thought is about wanting something, or not wanting something. A going towards vs. going away.
- Experiment practicing explicitly with mindfulness of thoughts. Can you be continuously aware of your thoughts? When do you become aware of your thoughts? (the beginning, middle or after it?)
- Is the thought about the past, present or future?
- Is the thought somehow about me, or not about me?
- Are you hearing the thought or thinking the thought? (juicy)
A huge insight from meditation is realising that we do not need to always believe our thoughts, or take them to be us. Instead we can get some space around them and realise we are much more than just ‘the thinker’. This frees us from our minds – using thinking as a powerful tool instead of being enslaved to it.