Practicing When Distracted

“If you can practice when distracted, you are well trained.”

Slogan 22 of the Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind compiled by Chekawa Yeshi Dorje.

This is one of the major teaching in Buddhism: continuing to practice skillfully in the midst of difficulties. Of course, we cannot expect ourselves to immediately be able to practice when we are beset with distracting worries and troubles. In order to do that we must make effort continuously with small problems and worries. This builds our practice muscles which in turn enables up to pick up the heavy load of major difficulties.

When we work very diligently with problems that are within our current abilities we can feel satisfaction and encouragement over our successes. We are also able to better discern what is actually happening in our life as we work with the issues that are directly in front of us. What this means, for example,  is that we work on becoming a patient and compassionate driver of our car. Or we focus on becoming better listeners. We practice our skillful means with strangers as well as our family and friends.

Practicing with family and friends can sometimes feel more difficult because we are deeply invested in the outcome of our actions and theirs. So, this can be harder than practicing in public arenas. On the other hand, it is sometimes easier to be selfish when we think we don’t know anyone and there will be no repercussion for our misdeeds. Either way we have to make our  best effort.

We are now experiencing social and political upheaval that is quite distracting and difficult. We may be afraid or angry about our current circumstances. Or we might be happy and disconcerted by the reaction of people around us. In either case, we have to double down and practice even harder. Start small, keep at it, be curious, rejoice when you are successful, and atone when you fail.


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