A Month of Less Distraction – Day 1
yogaḥ citta vṛtti nirodhaḥ
The ancient text, the Yoga Sutras, or threads about yoga, says that yoga is the restraint of the modifications of the mindstuff. For the sake of some simplicity, let’s say that yoga is lessening the effect of distractions. That’s one of the most basic things you can say about the practice of yoga. Yoga is linking the breath with movement, linking the mind and the body, focusing the attention on something as simple as breathing in and breathing out. Training the mind to focus on an object of choice and not on whatever thoughts come into it. The thoughts come anyway, but choosing not to follow them is part of the training.
Back in June I decided to experiment with intentionally trying to reduce the clutter that goes into my mind so that the task of training my mind to focus on something like breathing, or on trying to eat more healthily, or on trying to be a better friend, or on trying to drive without shouting at the drivers in front of me, would become a bit easier. I decided that during the entire month of July I would see how many distractions I could reduce.
Today is July 2, 2014. Yesterday I decided to try to enjoy my job more. I tried to find the many things about my job that I enjoy, and focus on them, and enjoy them for the great things that they are. I played and sang at the 8:30 AM mass, which is part of my job. I love singing and playing. I tried to play as well and as thoughtfully as I could. I tried to breathe well and sing with feeling and the best sound that I could make. I chant the Psalms from the front of church as a part of the readings. I love doing that. Sometimes the words are awkward, or difficult to convey. So I tried to get into the text and sing it in a way that made sense. I went back to my office feeling good and ready to tackle whatever tasks I encountered.
At my desk I often use my phone to check email fairly often. I decided that email could wait, and I focused on the task I was working on until it was finished. Surprisingly I finished several more tasks than I had planned to do that day. I decided to go to the main office for no reason other than to say hello to the other staff working that day. I didn’t stay long, but it was nice talking to people at work when there was no work to talk about.
I went home for lunch. Most of the time I would get something to eat, then turn on the TV to watch reruns of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Can one ever get enough of Christopher Meloni?) or the news. I decided that during July I would try to eliminate TV. Talk about clutter. Back in about 2004 I decided to stop watching the news in the mornings because during the day I was thinking about all of the murders and political woes that I had heard about in the morning. Let’s see if I succeed in not watching TV for a month, and let’s also see if it can reduce the distractions in my mind.
Later that day as I was preparing to teach a yoga class I sat on the floor in front of the TV and found it very easy not to turn it on. I finished my planning rather quickly, and without a Christopher Meloni Marathon to distract me, I had plenty of time to play my bass guitar. I even had some time to read a couple of chapters in a book I had sitting on the nightstand waiting to be read.
After my yoga class, at about 9 PM, I came into the family room to find my husband watching “Bewitched.” Ok, I gave in. I watched the remaining 15 minutes of the episode because it was nice sitting there petting the dogs and watching with him. Ok, I also watched an episode of “All in the Family.” What can I say? But at 10 PM I asked my husband to play some Beatles songs with me on guitar. It wasn’t easy for him to say no. At 11 PM I went to bed, but I read one more chapter.
I felt good about my decisions. I had the option of sticking to my plan of no TV, but I opted to watch because my husband was watching. It was weird not eating while the TV was on. But I was happy with my choices. Let’s see what today brings.