23 January 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: What distracts us?

Thought for the week

Whatever distracts us
Draws us back into the state of non-distraction.

One way to explain the point of  “Why bother to meditate?” is that meditation is a process that teaches us how to remain undistracted.

When we are undistracted, we are giving our full attention to where ever we are, what ever we do or who ever we are with. By doing so, we get the very best out of each and every moment of our life. The value in this is easy to rationalize and appreciate.

Yet the fact is modern life makes it so easy to become distracted. To be distracted.
All the busyness, all the complexity, all the good things to do. The bombardment from the media, the emails, the SMSs, the mobile phones. The pace, the hype, the rapid scene changes in movies and TV programs. The enticement, the engagement, the allure of advertising. The joys of families and friends and cafes and entertainment. The hopes, the fears, the worries, the joys.

Cripes! I hope I have not exhausted you just listing some of life’s potential distractions!

It is not to say that many of these things that can distract us are inherently bad; the real problem is that when we are distracted, it is so easy to live out of time. Our attention is taken by thoughts about the past or fantasies of the future. Or maybe we just spend time dissociated from the present. Living out of time, preoccupied with the past or the future, we are distracted and miss this precious present moment.

Meditation is a process that gradually brings our mind home. From being “out there”, lost in all the activity, busyness and distraction; meditation brings us back to the present moment; to being clear, calm, even more incisive and potent; present, alive, peaceful and active.

When it comes to learning to meditate, most of us benefit from having a focus for our attention – something to meditate on. Rather than allowing the mind to wander all over the place, we chose to focus on just one thing. This one thing may be the process and feeling of relaxing the body, the breathe, the sounds around about us, a mantra, even our thoughts themselves; whatever one thing that serves to hold our attention.

We focus on this initial support for our meditation lightly. As they say, 25% of our attention goes to concentrating on the particular thing we have chosen to concentrate upon. Another 25% goes to noticing how our concentration is going and if it wanders, to gently, kindly, bringing it back to the chosen focus. The remainding 50% we leave open and spacious. Like giving a wild horse a big paddock to run around in for a while and allowing it to find its own natural peace.

As we progress, we may not need a specific focus. We become more mindful, more aware of what it is that does come to out attention. There comes an ease, an effortless ease with resting contentedly in the meditation. Calmly. Simply being aware of our present moment experience.

And then we arrive at the state of non-distraction.

Now a key for stabilizing non-distraction in daily life. Once we have gained some initial stability in meditation, whatever distracts us serves to remind us to let that distraction go and to remain undistracted. This principle is a powerful key and is easy to apply in daily life.

Whatever distracts us, draws us back into the state of non-distraction.


1. “Meditation in the Forest”, March 30 – April 5, is the only meditation retreat Ruth and I will lead in 2012. Amidst the tranquil beauty of the Yarra Valley for 7 days before Easter, it will be an ideal way to learn and deepen your meditation, whilst having some time to yourself for reflection and regeneration. These retreats always attract a wonderful group of like-minded people and booking soon is recommended as the numbers are limited. Full details: click here.

2. It is great to be receiving positive feedback from people using Mindbody Mastery. Those who are a few weeks into it now are reporting the daily emails are welcomed as an inspiration and a reminder to practice, as well as deepening their understanding of the many facets of meditative practice.

3. New National Food Guidelines – a chance to comment and contribute.

The National food Guidelines are being revised and are at the stage of public consultation. In the current draft, and I quote from Geoff  “the word "vegetarian" is used 29 times in the report, but, apart from a technical definition, it never appears without some kind of warning. The Guidelines make it sound like you need to be a bloody genius to balance your nutrient intake on a vegetarian diet. In UK and US studies of many thousands of people, vegetarians have lower rates than the general population of almost all major diseases. So why all the warnings?”

If you are interested in Geoff’s views on this, as well as his take on the essential amino acids in protein (that I will look into more myself and report on later) go to the link here; for the actual guidelines link here.


Mindbody Mastery: online meditation program

Meditation - an In-depth Guide by Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson

Meditation in the Forest: retreat with Ian and Ruth Gawler

My biography: The Dragon's Blessing by Guy Allenby

You Can Conquer Cancer:  documents my cancer work

The Gawler Cancer Program: the CD that presents the paradigm I work with

Programs: The Gawler Foundation

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