Today I sat down to meditate and…
The dog next door started howling.
Someone turned on a very loud vacuum.
Two of neighbors started screaming at each other.
My initial reaction to these distractions was frustration: How dare these neighbors interrupt my meditation practice with their bickering (at 7 in the morning, no less). Doesn’t that dog know I’m trying to find enlightenment? And really, who the hell vacuums this early????
Before getting caught up in the current of these disgruntled thoughts, I stopped and asked myself what I was trying to get out of this morning’s meditation. Was it inner peace? Self-realization? The opportunity to brag about how “zen” I am? Everything that came to mind didn’t align with what I know meditation is truly about: simply being in the present moment, regardless of what it holds.
So I reminded myself to just “be,” not judging the noises coming through my window, or seeking a specific feeling. I allowed the howling to wash over me. I breathed deeply into the hum of the vacuum. I listened to my arguing neighbors as though hearing a foreign language, not trying to interpret their words but noticing the ups and downs in each person’s tone.
It wasn’t perfect. Over and over I felt the frustration rise inside me. Over and over I brought my attention back to the source. Eventually, all of the noises stopped, and I was left with the peace and quiet I originally desired.
When my timer went off I felt rejuvenated. Like alchemy, my frustration had been transformed into peace, and I realized those distractions were just lessons in disguise.