Fog in valley with pine trees
Usually Distractions Are “Bad”
Distractions, such as any compulsion or addiction, are attempts to avoid inner pain and fear; They are in a sense a refusal or denial. As a means of survival, evolution wired us to avoid unpleasant and dangerous situations, and to move toward pleasant and safe ones.
In some situations avoidance makes sense, but in our modern society, where we have fewer survival concerns, avoidance can also prevent us from leading full and satisfying lives. Distractions can take us away from the good as well as the bad. In an ironic twist, attempting to avoid pain has resulted in avoiding goodness.
Distractions Framed As Messengers
Distractions can point us away from something, but can just as easily point us towards something, if we frame them correctly as messengers.
Messengers can be reminders. All things come paired with their opposites; there is no enjoyment without dissatisfaction. In fact, in the moment of enjoying an ice cream cone, there may also be the anticipated disappointment of finishing it.
Contrast is our teacher: we know comfort only by knowing discomfort. So, in acknowledging discomfort we can be reminded of its opposite, comfort. In acknowledging anxiety, we can be reminded of confidence.
It can be easy to become stuck in the negative (the negativity bias has survival value) where life can seem completely black. By framing distractions as messengers or reminders, we may be reminded of when the negative was absent; This can give us some needed emotional flexibility and perspective relieving the deep depression and anxiety we might be carrying around.
Try this Exercise
Imagine something you enjoy… spend several breaths steeping in the memory of it with all of the sights, sounds and scents that were present. Immerse yourself in the delight of the memory. Now take a few moments to notice that you are noticing and that the memory is something inside you – you contain it.
Now imagine the opposite, something you dislike… spend several breaths steeping in the memory of it with all of the sights, sounds and scents that were present. Immerse yourself in the delight of the memory. Now take a few moments to notice that you are noticing and that the memory is something inside you – you contain it.
Move back and forth between liking and disliking. Notice that liking and disliking are things that come and go; they are temporary. Now notice yourself as the Being or Presence that is present before, during and after the liking and disliking have arisen and passed away. What is that like?
Practising Welcoming as an Alternative
Meeting, greeting, welcoming and engaging with “the negatives” is a path to transformation and freedom. Fears that remain unseen and unexamined unconsciously “drive our bus.” In order to earn a deep, resilient happiness, each unhappy belief needs attention so that it can be examined and ultimately seen to be false.
As we come to know the unchanging truth of who we are – the Presence before, during and after arisings (positve or negative) we cab realize ourself as goodness and wellbeing itself. As we meet greet, welcome and engage our false core beliefs and past conditioning, the energy that was invested in refusing and denying is freed up, giving you an energy boost and deeper engagement in life.
So, ask yourself “What am I distracting myself from?” Now welcome it in, and let it remind you that its opposite is also present. Now feel back into your own sense of well-being for 6 or 7 breaths and absorb it.
Philip Beck is a Certified iRest Yoga Nidra Teacher, a graduate of the Spiritual Psychotherapy program at Transformational Arts College, and a 500-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher. He lives in Toronto and works with people who want to reconnect with themselves and their passion.
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