I’ve traveled a lot this year. Since January, I’ve been to over 30 cities in six states (not including the stopover/layover cities), covering approximately 15,000 travel miles totaling 82 days. Next year, I imagine I’ll be traveling just as much if not more. I love road trips with my family, flying across the country to visit family and friends, and I even love traveling for work. Granted, I schedule my own out of town/state work trips which is such a blessing. I also take work-related vacations in the form of sabbaticals. This summer, I spent a week at an AirBnB in Denton, TX. Other than my husband, no one else knew where I was because I wanted to take that time to rest and focus on my writing my book. I needed to get away from my day-to-day living (aka distractions) in order to accomplish my goals.
Distractions are inevitable.
For a couple of months during the fall, a gardener would come by with his leaf blower to clear out all the leaves… right in front of the glass windows of the studio that I teach yoga classes at. It never failed that he would come while we were in the middle of a class. At first, I thought to myself, “Why can’t he come by AFTER my class ends? Why does he always have to cause so much ruckus when we’re trying to practice yoga?” And then I stopped and laughed at the irony of my thoughts. Being that one of my goals as a Yoga Teacher is to help my students take the lessons they learn on the mat (in my classes), off the mat (into their lives), I told my students, “Do you see that man with the leaf blower? Do you notice the distraction? I invite you to acknowledge that this is happening at this present moment… and now, let it go. Let go of the distractions and become present.”
It’s amazing how the brain is able to drown out distractions that we choose not to pay attention to. Both my husband and daughter have the ability to study and work in the middle of a busy Starbucks and other places where there’s lots of noise. I, on the other hand, prefer silence (or at least my earplugs) in order to focus; but there have been many occasions where I’ve engaged in deep conversations in the middle of a public space with many potential distractions.
According to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience (cited in Scientific American), the brain will intentionally weaken its response to things that seem less important so that it can become more sensitive in reaction to what you choose as the focus. This is great news! Since we now know this fact, all we have to prioritize and figure out what is truly important to us. Once we establish our priorities and make conscious efforts to make those things important, the brain will do what the brain does by drowning out the distractions.
Just as I do in my yoga classes, I invite you to take a moment to drown out the distractions by sitting still, focus on your breaths by becoming aware of the rise and fall of your belly as you inhale and exhale. Continue to observe the breath as you close your eyes for several breaths. Once you open your eyes, continue to sit still and make note of how you feel. Notice the beauty of living in this moment.