On Distractions

In a society that thrives on electronic devices and multi-tasking, distractions are everywhere and unavoidable. You go to send an important email and you get distracted by an email in your inbox with news of a sale at your favorite store. Before you know it, you’ve forgotten all about the important email you meant to send, but you’ll have an awesome new pair of boots on your doorstep in a few days. Even now, as I write, I remember that I opened my laptop to pay a bill, got distracted by the last thing that was up on my screen, and half an hour later, the bill remains unpaid.

Hold on a minute.

Okay, bill paid.

I actually just took action this morning to reduce distractions in my inbox using a service called “unroll me.” Sometimes taking small, incremental steps toward a goal pays dividends in the long run. The Japanese practice a philosophy called “kaizen” that focuses on continual improvement through small, daily changes that result in major improvement over time. Kaizen is usually associated with business practices, but can be applied to any aspect of life.

We use a kaizen approach in yoga too. When we first start to practice, we might see a lot of improvement in a short period of time, but after that short period of time, we focus on small improvements that happen on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Maybe we’re able to hold a pose a little longer or maybe we’re able to take a different variation of a pose, and then little by little, we work our way into totally new poses. The new poses are exciting and re-energize our practice, but they wouldn’t have been possible had we not practiced kaizen and put in the time on those small, daily practices.

It’s easy to get distracted from our small, daily yoga and meditation practices, or even from our weekly or semi-weekly practices at the studio. Ironically, time spent practicing yoga and meditation help teach us to avoid the distractions that sometimes take us away from our practice. In yoga and meditation, we learn to listen to the needs of our body, to become aware of distractions in the mind, and to honor our emotions. We know how good we feel when we’re practicing consistently, yet we sometimes get distracted and drift away. And that’s okay . . . as long as we come back.

If you’ve been to a few of my classes, you’ve probably heard me say during opening or closing meditation that the mind will wander off while we’re supposed to be paying attention to our breath. It’s natural for the mind to do that. Our goal is to recognize the distraction and bring our attention back to our breath. It’s also natural that as seasons and schedules change, we drift away from our yoga practice. The important thing is that we come back to it. By making your practice a priority, you are making yourself a priority. You deserve to feel good. And you deserve to realize your own potential. But that’s probably a blog for another day.

See you in the studio!