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January 09, 2008

Coping With Distractions

When I think about what kind of world we live in today, I have to laugh to myself. The sheer amount of distractions and obstacles that each of us has to deal with in trying to live a spiritual life is truly ridiculous. Every way that you turn, we are confronted by thousands of sights and sounds, whose only purpose is to pull our attention outside of ourselves.

Naturally, the very essence of living a truly spiritual life is to increasingly direct our attention, our energy, our focus internally, so all these multitudes of distractions are only pulling us away from this directive.

It is bad enough that when we are outside of our homes, there are such a crazy number of billboards and images shouting out at us from every direction. Now, with the plethora of electronic devices all around us, there is nearly no escape from these divisive messages flying at us.

If you are like me, you are a great lover and utilizer of the internet and the amazing iPod. I marvel at the advances that have occurred on the worldwide web over the past few decades. Now, there is literally no piece of information that one cannot have access to. Not only that, but there is nothing that one cannot take along with oneself. In my iPod, I have beautiful recorded versions of timeless yogic texts, countless mantras and strotras, lectures by senior teachers of yoga and other branches of theology, podcasts about Vedic ritual, as well as, my favorite movies and television shows. Given that I travel so frequently, this is truly a godsend.

In this way, the new technology is a gateway both for the deepening of one's spiritual life, as well as, a seductive temptation to distraction away from one's spiritual focus. How to cope with this particular temptation? A very good question indeed! It is a question that is not easily answered. To build strength and steadiness in this particular area of concern surely will take most people time and much practice, which inevitably will mean multiple failures in keeping one's focus. I can assure you that I am still struggling with this particular issue.

A good starting point is to realize that to navigate through and around these modern (and not so modern) distractions and obstacles, one must realize that success depends on making this process a very conscious and intentional one.

What does that mean?

It means that you must first recognize your own personal strengths and weaknesses and then use whatever method that is needed to keep those strengths and weaknesses clearly in front of you. If you do not, you are going to be ambushed by your own tendencies at every turn. These things cannot be left to chance

One of the best strategies that works for me is to write everything down. I like to sit down and take stock of myself. I ask myself, what are your strengths and weaknesses? I also regularly review what my dreams and visions are for myself and for my life. So much of yoga practice is about self examination and self reflection. To do this in the form of a writing practice is something that I am always underestimating. When I do not have a strong writing and reflecting practice, I find that I am much more easily distracted and drawn this way and that by the multitudes of obstacles that occur each and every day.

At the start of the week, it is a good idea to sit down and write down what your goals and objectives are, including very specific conditions for the completion of those objectives. At the end of each day, sit down and write a review of how the day went, including ideas on how to make superior progress the following day.

Do not underestimate the power of your own clarity about your purpose in your life. Especially since we live in a time of unprecedented distractions and obstacles to living a spiritual life, it is more important than ever to maintain a strategy for keeping and refining one's clarity about purpose and objective.

This human life we have been given is more precious, fragile and brief than most of ever realize. If there is not a fierce determination to live a truly conscious life, a life filled with clarity and passion for truth and for purity, then we are too easily pulled outside of ourself like some random piece of litter blown this way and that by the wind. Before you know it, months and years have passed by without ever knowing exactly what we did with our time.

This human life affords us the possibility for creating timeless and breathtaking beauty and meaning in all aspects of our lives. We all have the opportunity to live in such a way as to not only live a rich and full life ourselves, but to uplift and bring light into the lives of countless others. And yet so many people just pass through life in an unconscious and mediocre fashion. It is not that they were trying to live this way, it is just that they did not have the wherewithal to cultivate their deeper and more powerful creative tendencies.

The surprising thing is, is that there is not that big a difference between living with clarity and purpose and living aimlessly. Mostly, the difference lies in some relative discipline and discrimination.

So, why is it that so few bring themselves to build these simple disciplines and habits? That surely is a question for the ages. The truth is, is that only you can answer that question for yourself in a meaningful way. No one person can live the life of another. This is a fundamental truth that will never change.

OM Namah Shivaya...!!

Govinda Kai

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