We become good at whatever we practise. The funny thing is, most of us are experts at practising distraction. Often, we seek new distractions to distract us from what is distracting us to distraction!
We live in a society that trains us to multi-task. Our focus flits constantly and we jump from one thing to another without any conscious control on our attention.
In a world, where incessant and mutually competing inputs keep bombarding us with sensory feeds through all conceivable media, leaving us distracted and scattered in every waking moment, rushing from one thing to another all the time, has become an unconscious habit that is destroying our minds. Social Media Addiction is an invisible monster that is taking over our minds. Distractions are an addiction now. We want excitement, variety and new experiences all the time. Our mind, numbed with myriad social media inputs, gets bored very quickly, seeking new thrills all the time. We are constantly swiping our phone screens, or switching TV channels and ingesting information that hardly register or retain.
The mind is flitting constantly, and looking for its ‘fix’, moment to moment. This is an addiction which is tough to deal with. The threshold of thrill to keep the mind engaged needs to keep rising. Media content that excited one’s mind a few days back, cannot elicit the same pleasurable response and thrilling experience anymore, and thus, the mind seeks different, more provoking media content. This drains one’s energy and pulls one deeper into the cycle of this sensory input addiction.
We need to learn to concentrate, and get away from this constant bombardment of the senses. Ironically, there are many, many self-help sites and videos explaining processes to work on the mind, which also bombard and overwhelm us constantly, advising us to practise the art of concentration!
We need to figure out one mind-stilling and concentration technique that can aid in focusing and discarding sensory temptations and indulgences, that is suited to us. We cannot flit about trying out this technique now and that one later all the time. At some point in time, we have to settle down, and trust the process. Learning to hold a single thought for a period of time is not easy. But it will surely help bring the mind to stillness. Japa is the constant repetition of a single mantra or word. It stops the mind from indulging in distractions. Often, synchronisation of the mantra with your breathing is a good idea.
Chanting collectively and audibly with a group of practitioners is a good starting point. Later, one can chant on one’s own, sitting in a secluded space. After a while, one can chant inaudibly, and eventually, mentally. As one progresses in one’s practice, distractions begin fading away and the mind begins to quieten down. Choose a simple mantra. Any word or phrase will do, but it is always a good idea to go to an adept yoga practitioner or a meditation teacher and learn. Ancient traditions always advised learning meditation, japa and yoga techniques from a wise guru who is established in the self.
Finding such a teacher is rare. You will not be able to find them through advertisements. They remain obscure and mysterious. They too are eager to find deserving seekers upon whom they can bestow their deep wisdom. Do not spend too much time searching for a guru. Start your practice wherever you are right now. The road will reveal itself as you stumble along. You will often lose your way. You will meet charlatans, swindlers and fame-seekers as you walk the path. That too, is spiritual understanding and education. However, if you keep going through your meditation practice with sincerity, the true master will soon seek you out.