Dealing with Distraction: Can The Mind Really Stay Still?

dealing with distraction

The goal of yoga is to still the mind. Stillness gives us a clear view of our true Self and shows us our connection to all that is. The Yoga Sutras teach us how to get there and offer many tools for dealing with distraction. So, once we’ve practiced with commitment, our minds will be still, and we’ll reach our goal. Right?

What Happens In Between

It would be nice to learn yoga and never have to question who we are again. Imagine if we could quiet our minds and always live from that clear-headed place of stillness.

Unfortunately, our minds—and our humanity—continue to get in the way.

After showing us how to move toward Absoluteness, Patanjali give us sutra 4.27.

In between, distracting thoughts may arise due to past impressions.

The truth is, we are beings with minds, and our minds will continue to do their thing. Dealing with distraction is a lifelong challenge. That’s not entirely bad, since our minds do help us get through life.

Dealing with Distraction in Between

If you’ve practiced yoga for a while, you’re probably noticing it’s easier to quiet your mind. There may be fewer obstacles when it comes to knowing who you truly are and how you’re connected to the divine.

But always, the mind will start to do its thing again! It’s inevitable. And not surprisingly, Patanjali points us back to the practices we’ve already learned to continue dealing with distraction. Hopefully, the distractions will come less often, but sometimes the twists and turns of life grab the mind’s attention and don’t want to let it go!

It’s worth revisiting the verses that teach us tools for dealing with distraction. If I asked you to stop right now and list as many of these tools as you can, what would you include? (Try it before you read further!)

A Short List of Tools for Dealing with Distraction

Among the many tools in the yoga toolbox are:

  • Practicing kindness, truthfulness, and simplicity
  • Being grateful for what we have and not wanting to take anything away from others
  • Being content and pure
  • Looking for inspiration and learning about our true nature
  • Trusting a higher power
  • Eliminating obstacles to enlightenment
  • Recognizing that we are not our minds
  • Practicing detachment
  • Doing the physical postures and breathing exercises
  • Chanting mantras
  • Meditating, which can take many forms

These are all practices we can return to when the mind gets too loud and chatty. And the mind will get loud and chatty at times, even for adept yogis. Our goal is not to still the mind permanently but to get better at getting quiet each time we notice we are not.

We Must Keep Coming Back

Knowing that stillness is not permanent can help us with the discouragement that often comes with sustained spiritual practice. Every seeker has times of doubt and frustration. After years of yoga practice, sutra 4.27 is one of my favorites. It’s worth repeating:

In between, distracting thoughts may arise due to past impressions.

I read this verse as permission to be human and not be thrown off course when distractions arise. I know that I can return to the practice, and it will not let me down.

Keep practicing!

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Maria Kuzmiak

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