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Lions Roar : May 2014
“cliffhanger” retreat cabin, Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia PHOTOByAARONkLOkEID Distraction: A Contemplation in Four Parts I n this conteMplative exercise, you are invited to embark on an imaginary retreat. In this retreat, you have the chance to look more deeply into the whole distraction project, and get a glimpse of the power of simplicity and aloneness. It is a reminder that we can view every meditation session as a mini-retreat, no matter where we are. Part 1: External Distractions Imagine going to a small cabin in the woods, where you plan to spend some time alone. The cabin is simple, with a bed, a chair, and a small kitchen area. you bring some clothes, your bedding, food, and water. But there is a lot that you do not bring. you bring no clock or watch. you leave at home any books or reading material. you bring no paper or journal or anything to write with, no musical instruments. Staying at home are your laptop, desktop, home phone, cell phone, iPod, iPad, camera, recorder, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, appointment book, calendar—every bit of electronica. As you unpack and settle in, you are aware of all that you left behind. This may feel refreshing, or it may make you feel slightly uneasy. Part 2: Internal Distractions Here you are in your cabin, but now what? you wonder, shouldn’t I be doing something? Maybe I should do some meditation or contemplate something. Maybe I should go on a walk. The cabin could use a little cleaning and straightening, maybe I should clean it up. Might want to do some yoga. As you are figuring out what you want to do, you begin to notice not only what you left behind, but how much you have brought along with you. you realize how hard it is simply to just be, without a plan or agenda. Part 3: Fear of Stopping In your little cabin, not much is happening. you try to cook up something, but you don’t have a lot of material to work with. Streams of thoughts, fantasies, and daydreams help. Floods of memories provoke moods and emotions and trigger further streams of thoughts and reactions. you laugh, you cry. you begin to wonder what will happen if you can’t keep up this constant stream of thoughts and feelings. It is like a horror movie: you wonder, “What lies beneath?” you feel a bit of desperation in your attempts to prop up this pattern. Part 4: Cutting Through to Simplicity Over time it becomes obvious that the fewer external distractions you have, the more internal distractions you cook up to replace them. The effort to keep this distraction- thing going wears you down. It is tiresome, but it is clear that you are doing this for a reason. you are using these distractions to avoid facing something scary but essential. you realize that this gigantic, self-created cover-up has kept you from facing what is most heartfelt, raw, and true about yourself. you see that when you’re less afraid, you disempower this pattern of continual distractedness. And you find that when you do so, you are capable of going about your life with greater ease and simplicity. ♦ — Judy lief SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2014 49