When it is time for you to sit down and poop, what do you do? Do you experience the pooping (perhaps it will be a bit painful today, or perhaps it will feel quite good), or do you pick up a Yoga magazine or some book and distract yourself while you’re pooping?
When it is time for you to eat food, what do you do? Do you taste the food and feel the textures, or do you talk to people or travel in incessant mental circles as you re-live your day?
When it is time to drive, what do you do? Do you drive your car (when you were a child, you would have thought this was a pretty neat thing to do), or do you play the radio to distract yourself from the experience of driving?
When you are near someone whom you claim to love, what do you do? Do you give them your full attention and the passion of your emotions, or do you talk about meaningless things (‘the boss yelled at me again today’) and go on and on about your own insecurities and problems (‘do you think I look pretty in this dress’)?
Pooping, you see, is quite a miraculous experience. When someday you can’t poop, or can’t control your pooping, you might wonder why you never took the time, just once in your life, to really pay attention to what pooping was like. When you can’t eat wonderful foods any more, you may wonder why you didn’t take the time to relish some of the food you ate. When your driver’s license is taken away, you may wonder why you never noticed how fun driving was. And when your loved one dies, you may wonder why you spent most of your time with them in a perpetual state of distraction – which wasn’t really time spent with them at all.
Life will provide plenty of distractions like this. If you like, it will readily provide you with a whole life-time of distractions. You can go through almost your whole existence in a constant state of listening to music, watching TV, taking drugs to remove pain or emotion, reading books, and making yourself very busy. In the few moments when you are not engaged in such major distractions, you will find that your mind has become so hyper from all these activities that now you are constantly thinking. Even if you stop and sit down, your mind is running off into other places, so that never, for one moment, do most of us experience anything but our mind’s galloping around and our culture’s constant infusion of stimuli. Today, with cell phones and ipods, we can bring our distraction everywhere. Even most backpackers carry a cell phone!
When we read this, we may feel that we need to make a change. We may toss out all the magazines we keep by the toilet, or if we are really aggressive, we may take a screwdriver and remove the radio and cd player from our car.
But you do not have to try to make an effort to change these things. You will not eradicate distraction in this way. You will only give power to your fear of distraction. Distraction is all around us all the time. If we run away from it by trying to create an environment where there is no distraction, what are we doing?
Your effort will become another kind of distraction, and once again you will be missing out on the beauty of your meal as you think to yourself – this is good, I am paying attention to my eating, and now my life will gain clarity and I will become a better person. It is so good not to be distracted!
You are an intelligent person. You do not need to be told what to do about distraction. All you need to do is notice, for yourself, how you are living your life. Pay attention to a single day, and watch how hungrily you devour distraction. Feel the feelings it gives you.
Experience the distraction.
Try this for a day here, a day there. You will notice how you are spending your life. You may discover, when you pay attention to the distractions, how dull they really are, especially compared to the richness of experience they are distracting you from. Your own intelligence, after that, will move you to find a new relationship with distraction.
All you need to do is pay a little attention.