We say ‘interrupted’ as if it’s a bad thing. What to do when your meditation is interrupted?… like it’s a problem!
Yes, we certainly may feel that anything disrupting us from our meditation goals is annoying, frustrating, and therefore unwanted. However, unless you shut yourself away in a sensory deprivation chamber, or isolate yourself in a cave way up in the Himalayas’, you will at some points experience interruptions when meditating…..
…… and for some people, it happens every time they meditate! Even in monasteries, nunneries, and meditation retreats, there will be distractions…… So…. What’s our lesson here?
How do we make the best of a ‘bad’ situation?
What To Do When Your Meditation Is Interrupted?
Interruptions are going to occur many times during your meditation journey. Regarding them as a ‘problem’ takes you out of your meditative state and negatively impacts your mental and emotional well-being. A better option is to understand that they are not something you need to overcome. And that they don’t have the power to disrupt your practice….. unless you allow it! Instead, simply acknowledge them as a part of your practice, just as breathing is, as a mantra can be, and like other physical sensations you may experience.
Not All Interruptions Are Equal, And Your Response Should Reflect This!
If during my meditation, I smelled smoke because my house was on fire, I would be grateful for the interruption. My senses may have just saved my life by alerting me to impending danger… and I would react appropriately, grateful for the interruption.
If the family next door decided to mow their lawn outside the room I was meditating in…. that’s a different story. And the important thing to realize is that I CAN CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE WHAT TO THINK AND THEREFORE HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS.
And the thoughts I choose will determine how my meditation practice is affected by this ‘interruption.’
You will notice that I used the phrase ‘CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE.’ And this concept of being KNOWINGLY and WILLINGLY responsible for our thoughts is what separates those who will continue to benefit from their practice from those who are still pretending to be victims of external circumstances.
– If the interruption takes you away from your practice, so be it! There will always be more opportunities to practice again…. it’s just a matter of choosing to do it. Or just pick up your regular time slot the next day.
Whatever you do, don’t make a big deal out of it! Because this just sets you up for negativity now and these negative thoughts and feelings will arise during your future meditation sessions.
– If the interruption is minor and you can continue meditating (even if your mind is disturbed,) just notice how you are feeling. Notice that these feelings are a result of the thoughts you are having….. and now, gently CHOOSE thoughts that guide you to how you want to be feeling…..
With time and experience, you will notice that all things pass. Yes, nothing ever stays the same….. And you can become really good at ‘steering yourself’ into the good feeling, peaceful state that you desire…..
But…. To achieve this, you need to be PRESENT IN THIS MOMENT. And CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE to allow the irritation of the ‘interruption to fade away and be replaced by something more desirable…. It’s easy…. It’s just a matter of choosing to allow it to happen in the best possible way for you.
Beginner Meditators May Benefit By Attempting To Reduce Interruptions.
Learning any new skill takes time and effort. There is a natural learning curve that most people go through. And it is easier to learn something if we are not distracted all the time.
So what are some of the ways you can reduce the possibility of being distracted while learning to meditate?
1) Put a large DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door….
2) Choose a time to meditate when everyone is out
3) Get others who are present to meditate at the same time as you
4) Shut your pets out of your meditation space
5) Turn off all phones, notifications, and any appliances that are likely to make a noise.
I mention these things as a way of making it easier while learning to meditate. However, one of the goals of meditation should be to let go of the need to control external events and instead, just accept things as they are.
And this implies that at the core of a meditation practice, there really are no such things as interruptions……. All that occurs is part of the experience, and it is our reaction (or not) that is of importance.
We would benefit by asking ourselves ‘why am I upset/frustrated/stressed/anxious about….. anything that we feel is an interruption?
With time, you will come to realize that even if you can limit or control this interruption, and the next, and the next…. more will keep coming. There is always going to be something that occurs that is outside of your ability to control.
And you will come to understand that the only thing that needs to change to ‘eliminate all interruptions’ is you!….. When you stop seeing stuff happening as an interruption to your practice and instead just ‘life happening,’ you will experience equanimity. Yes, real beneficial meditation…..
Some People Have No Choice But To Practice In A ‘Disruptive’ Environment.
Meditating in a busy environment has its own rewards. And while it can be difficult in the beginning, the benefits are that within a short time, you will be able to meditate anywhere and at any time you choose.
Sitting in groups of thousands of people in India was one of the best experiences I have had. Initially, it was overwhelming….. a different culture, and a strange environment with all the unique sights, sounds, and smells.
However, what was special about these experiences is that I saw/experienced thousands of people JUST GETTING ON WITH THEIR PRACTICE….. REGARDLESS OF ALL THAT WAS HAPPENING AROUND THEM. They didn’t care about any of the interruptions/distractions. They were there to meditate, and they were good at it…. And I learned that I could do the same… AND I DID!
So maybe you don’t need to isolate yourself from your kids when they are happily playing, from the pet that wants to sit on you or near you and join in your ‘good feeling experience.’ The noise from the busy road outside can become a reassuring sound. And the neighbors, well, they are just doing what they do, trying to get along with their lives in the best way they know how….. bless them, for they know not what they do! (hahaha)
So, what’s the difference between a wanted event and an interruption???? The difference is to be found in your thoughts…. That’s all.… Change your thoughts and you will change your world!
Life is all good! Or should I say ALL OF LIFE IS GOOD, but only if we choose to look at it this way….
Final Thoughts On What To Do When Your Meditation Is Interrupted:
– If we can view interruptions as a part of our practice, an aspect of normal life, we can view them with non-judgment. Therefore, there is no reason to allow them to disrupt our practice…. Just acknowledging them and continuing with your meditation is a huge part of the discipline you are learning.
– Be grateful for the disruptions as they are teaching you how to find equanimity under any and all conditions. By learning to see past the distraction and continuing your practice, you are shaping your character to become more focused and indomitable.
– Your frustration is caused by your judgment of the event as ‘bad.’ So your meditation was interrupted…. It’s not the end of the world. Just get over it, take a couple of settling deep breaths, and pick it up where you left off.