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Losing focus – over and over again

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“If your mind wanders a hundred times, simply bring it back a hundred times.”

-Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn

During a meditation practice you might find yourself worrying, daydreaming, bored and sleepy, or a number of other experiences. This does not mean you have failed to do the practices properly; in fact, the aim of these practices is not to prevent mind wandering but to become more familiar with its patterns. When you notice that your attention is no longer on the body or the breath, you are instructed to notice where your attention has gone and then simply return your attention, over and over again, to the body and/or the breath and to the present moment. This is what the practice is all about. The task is to accept those times when your mind has wandered and gently reconnect with the body and/or the breath.

In short, your mind will:

  1. Focus
  2. Lose Focus
  3. Re-focus

Before starting back at 1.

Meditators often mistakenly view losing focus as failure – this is certainly not the case. Losing focus on the object of meditation gives you a chance to become more aware of the contents of your thoughts and therefore more familiar with the patterns of your mind.

This approach is not about trying to suppress or control thoughts. If you try and control them or push them away, they will only bounce back more strongly. The practices involve developing a gentle, skillful way of simply becoming aware, of being able to recognise that ‘this is thinking,’ and as best you can, letting go of the thinking and focusing back on the body and/or breath. During these practices, you learn to relate to your thoughts as ‘mental events’ in awareness rather than something that needs to be pushed away or removed.

Through the meditation practices, you might begin to notice that the way you see things, or don’t see them, will determine how you will respond to them. It is not the events themselves but rather how you handle them that influences your mind and body.

You cannot control what comes into the mind but what you can control is what you do next, the next step.

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course delivered in Preston teaches you how to move to a place of awareness from which you can choose what the next step is, rather than unconsciously maintaining old habits of mind.  Learn more and register here.

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