The “demon” of distraction and the gift of Presence

Glass of distraction

Let’s face it–what often threatens our connection to the Holy Heart? What keeps us tethered to our endless thoughts, whirlwinds of emotions, windmills of human drama?

What causes us to check our phones, computers, devices with compulsive wondering: who’s liked, commented, texted, messaged, waved hello, posted scuttlebutt, shared gossip and happenings?

Our busy minds often like attention and distraction. We might not know what to do next but our little fingers keep checking, checking, checking.

Or maybe we’re lured to the kitchen for tortilla chips, cookies, donuts. A glass of wine anyone?

Or into the television world to gobble up endless news stories or sitcoms or documentaries.

Maybe we retreat into books for hours upon hours. Or titillating podcasts. Or even coronavirus stats (for some of us stats nerds these days). Perhaps even travel.

Travel distraction

There is nothing wrong with checking our devices, munching in the kitchen, watching TV, reading books, listening to podcasts, checking stats, travel. All legitimate and wonderful activities.

However, watch for the catch. See what’s driving the car of this behavior. Notice if the entire day passes in a continual hum of distracted doing that clouds over the sense of peace and deep relaxation that signals an awareness of the Holy.

I sometimes notice a low-level (or sometimes amped-up) feeling of nervousness or ill ease or anxiety just before the hand reaches for my device. A semi-conscious sense that I don’t know what to do next. That something is rising in the psyche to be acknowledged and met with compassion–but another inner voice says “no. I don’t want to feel that. I think I’ll pour another cup of coffee and maybe eat that slice of pumpkin pie and see if anyone commented on my blog post.”

It’s been called the demon of distraction. It often feels like a roaring demon to me. I have struggled with this fella for a long, long time.

Perhaps many of us do.

Presence

Years ago I discovered the gift of Presence. Of dropping below the motor of thoughts and just sitting in silence. Finding an inner still point. Seeing thoughts arise but feeling them in a pool of calm waters. Watching feelings appear while simultaneously aware of spaciousness.

Presence, to me, feels like the Holy Heart. The peace that passeth all understanding. The body breathes itself with such aliveness, with such peace. The nervous system unwinds and relaxes. It feels like existing in the center. Everything is allowed to arise but it’s all appearing against a background of deep YES.

It’s been a godsend (literally, ha ha!) to discover Presence. But there are other forces in the psyche that do not like it. Not one little bit. Old-time religious folks might label these forces as demons. I call them our inner little ones. Unconscious or semi-conscious forces often from early childhood which rise from Pandora’s box to be met with attention and compassion.

The spiritual journey, fortunately or unfortunately, often becomes a meeting of all that is unresolved in our human psyche. And our human psyche is huge–and often contains even the unsettled or unsolved traumas of our ancestral line or planet.

We lean into Presence and Presence says, “Here is the next unresolved contraction, my dear. Can you sit with a little while today?”

Little one

How we may want to say yes! But the inner little ones often prefer distraction–anything–rather than feeling uncomfortable feelings. Do they not? (And sometimes distraction can be a gifted balm, a wise way the body diverts from the siren call of too much, too much…)

In recent days I have fallen out of the heaven of Presence and into the bardo of distraction. My gentle goal for at least today is to return to the silence again and again. Will check email or texts or comments after fully meeting the Holy in her robes of Presence.

Anyone else struggle with distraction? Want to return to the sweet silence of the Holy? For me this means sitting on the couch until the body relaxes and everything sighs ahhhhh. Usually fifteen or twenty minutes. The after effects often last hours. When I notice I’m reaching compulsively to check a device or the refrigerator–it’s time to reconnect to Spirit.

And when the hush of Presence pours through body and soul–it’s possible to check devices, read books, watch movies, travel to cool places, delight in a cookie, cruise around Facebook. Presence transforms and informs everything, turning activities from distractions to expressions of love.

Please share any of your thoughts about how distraction helps or hurts you in your quest for peace.

Day 26 of a seventy-five day journey to connect more deeply with God, Spirit, Holy, Love…to explore “What the Heart Knows” during the waning days of 2020.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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53 Responses to The “demon” of distraction and the gift of Presence

  1. Robin says:

    I always delight in how in sync we often become. I’ve been writing my own post about distractions (and writing it is a distraction… isn’t that funny?). I struggle with distraction. Then one day, I don’t. Back and forth. I noticed something interesting yesterday. Sometimes my resistance to things is yet another form of distraction. Or the other way around.

    Thank you for another thought- and heart-provoking post. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      We do often do that “in sync” thing, Robin, don’t we? Will look forward to reading your piece of distraction, too. And such a good point about resistance being another form of distraction. So many ways to attempt to distract ourselves! I am glad you liked these thoughts.

      • Robin says:

        I got distracted when I was writing my post about distraction. It’s hilarious. I started, saw another shiny object, and off I went. I think, too, that I decided I was distracting myself with distraction (is it just me or does life something feel like a set of those Russian dolls that nest within each other?).

  2. The other day, when you posted about our names for God the only thing I could think of was Presence. But I couldn’t elaborate and felt foolish to give a one word answer so I didn’t leave a comment. And now you post about Presence! I stay connected to Presence one breath at a time, no matter what mundane thing I’m in the middle of. Reading Joan Tollifson’s books led me to a place where I could accept my imperfect self as part of the whole flow of the universe.

    The threat of COVID, however, and not being able to breathe haunts me, no matter how much I try to stay in the present. Lately when I meditate I feel like I’m breathing healing energy to all who are struggling to breathe right now. I guess fear is natural, though, part of what is. Not sure where I’m going with this but that’s where I’m at this morning… 💙

    • Kathy says:

      I love that you use the word Presence for God, Barbara. And it does feel sometimes like it’s a silly answer, but it has become the base for me, too, over the years. Accepting our imperfect selves is so key–especially when things are challenging, like now. Thank you for meditating/breathing for all the people struggling right now.

  3. Susan D. Durham says:

    From the first paragraph to the last, I resonated with this. Probably the first time I wasn’t distracted in a week .. I mean, able to read with Presence and not be distracted. So, thank you, my friend!

    Struggling this week as I wait to hear important news. This is Day 6, and I’m not pleased with how I’ve spent the hours and days. Not sleeping, unable to focus, praying until the prayers run into 18 million other thoughts, feelings, avenues. Worrying, fretting, feeling alone and isolated. Ah, Poor Me. Goodness!

    I think of all the obstacles and challenges I’ve dealt with over these 70 years .. overcoming many with grace, humor, and patience, and I wonder what happened to that woman? Ha! She’s on a sabbatical or some damn thing.

    I can’t seem to do the sit-on-the-couch and relax and meditate sane thing. All the little ones inside are rebelling and find pacing and cleaning far more rewarding. Not all bad, but bad when it’s all.

    Momentary glimpses of peace and letting go shine through every several hours or so. Working on it, working on it. Or maybe, I should just stop working on it, and fall into radical acceptance, hey?

    THANK YOU FOR THIS!

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, I’m sure most of us would be sitting on the edge of our couches distracting and pacing and rebelling like you have this past week–if we were awaiting similar news. I’m not sure about cleaning, though, lol! Teacher Jeannie used to say that we keep working on it AND we radically accept. As usual a both/and situation. I am so very glad you liked this! And that maybe it distracted you a bit this morning. xoxo

  4. Barb says:

    I love all the photos you’ve included – they illustrate your post so well. That Ibis with the pink “skirt” is wonderful. Presence is a perfect word to express something I’m trying to do lately. Whenever someone speaks to me, I’m trying to be fully present and not thinking of what to say next or my to-do list. I try to have this sense of presence even when I’m not face to face with a person such as when I’m talking to a friend on the phone. It’s sometimes tempting to interrupt a speaker and interject, but I’m trying to just focus and listen carefully. I don’t do any other physical or mental task except listen. I’m doing this with Bob, and we’re having some great discussions (an achievement after 54 years of marriage)! It’s a small start to lessen distractions, but I think it’s yielding benefits both for myself and others. Listening can be a holy practice I believe.

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, I am smiling to hear you are practicing presence, too. Just being with whoever is with us and not lost in thoughts or what we’re going to say next. You have given me a good idea–to practice Presence and more careful listening with Barry. Sometimes it feels like that’s happening, but now always. I love how you’re engaging with listening in such a deep holy way.

    • debyemm says:

      Barb,
      I have also been practicing listening more in my marriage and it does do wonders. I talk a lot and my husband really has a need to be listened to and gets aggravated if he is interrupted. At some point, I realized the practice I most needed to improve was listening more and talking less. LOL There is no danger I’ll ever not talk at all. I’m a believer. It is a gift to another person to feel fully heard.

      • Barb says:

        Deb, I love that you’re also practicing presence by listening carefully. I really think people are starved to have someone listen to their thoughts and ideas. Sometimes I do reflective listening and repeat some of what a person says as a way to connect and show that I’m focused on him/her, and that I’m understanding what is said. I think back when my kids were little, it was called “active listening” (a half century ago!). Unlike you, I’m normally quiet, but some of my best friends have the gift of gab. Good luck with our experiment. I bet our husbands will be wondering what’s up with us! Stay safe and well.

  5. leelah saachi says:

    While i was reading a bit in The Way of the Heart, Jeshua/Jesus told us that we are “like a shimmering awareness,” That added so much joy to me

    • Sarah Davis says:

      Leelah, “like shimmering awareness” just lit me up. These words are almost verbatim to something I just read about the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. I want to know more. What is Way of the Heart? Can you share more of the text so I have context? WOW. I love serendipity.

    • Kathy says:

      Leelah, that is beautiful! *like a shimmering awareness* YESSSS!

  6. Sarah Davis says:

    YES! Sometimes when I catch myself scrolling, or angry, or fearful or reaching for more sugar I ask, “Is this purpose or ego?” The honest answer always me course correct in the moment. I also have daily practices to keep me grounded and connected to spirit.

    • leelah saachi says:

      Kathy – please let me know if you don’t want this here in your blog. I can easily post it just to Sarah I think.
      Sarah, I found this under the book: “‘The Way of the Heart’ is a collection of Jeshua’s teachings, faithfully transcribed from the original channeled audio recordings. It forms the third volume of the five essential ‘Way of Mastery’ texts. Jeshua shares: “The Way of the Heart. . . is that pathway that begins with a commitment to healing and awakening, and is founded on the premise that you are perfectly free at all times. And everything that is experienced has been by your choice. And at no time has there been any other cause.” His invitation to us is to wake up from every illusion that we have ever been separate from God, and to remember the deepest Truth of who we are: Christ. This is the only authorized version, precisely it was first given and including the original question and answer sections. Nothing has been added in the transition from audio to text: no chapter titles appear, nor themes given to sub-sections – for He gave none. Read the first chapter in the book preview and experience the energy of these exquisite teachings for yourself!

    • Kathy says:

      Sarah, that is a very good question to ask. I haven’t thought about asking if it’s “purpose” before. Usually I ask if it’s the will of the Holy or ego. But sometimes the answer is “ego” and I go ahead and do it anyway. Go figure?!! Would love to learn more about your daily practices.

  7. Debbie says:

    I think we’re all struggling with distractions these days, Kathy. And for me, running away from them is definitely NOT the thing to do! I love your idea of sitting on a sofa and breathing until we’re enveloped by a sense of Ahhh. Too often, we race from one activity to another, from one device to another — all in an effort to bring us calm. What we need, more often than not, is to find our center, to find that holy person within, to rest in sheltering wings of Love. Thank you for provoking our thoughts today and urging us to dial it down a bit in the busyness of life!

    • Kathy says:

      I think you’re right, Debbie. In fact, I can’t even elaborate anymore–you’ve said it all so succinctly. Thank you and me we all have more moments of stillness and Ahhhh in our days.

  8. Ally Bean says:

    In recent days I have fallen out of the heaven of Presence and into the bardo of distraction.

    I love every word of this post. I especially like the sentence above. I agree that it’s easy to allow yourself to become distracted by gadgets and food and books, when what you really need is stillness and faith in the divine. I admit that this month I’ve been more distracted than usual and I accept that in myself. In fact, without living in the bardo for a while how would I know that I’d reached heaven again? That’s how I frame the issue.

    • Kathy says:

      Ally Bean, I love that you love every word of this post! *big smile from ear to shining ear”. Don’t you think we would know we’ve reached heaven again because our body would relax and go ahhhhhh? It has been a rough time in the bardo for many of us. I did really great with Presence all morning until maybe 2 p.m. The rest of the day back to the distractions world off and on.

  9. Jodi Christiansen says:

    Currently searching for benevolent distraction to help with fright that is overwhelming when left in the mind untended. This baby-mind got so used to running the show, it can be tough to calm down even with extensive meeting, loving and allowing. Some of this stuff is older than dinosaurs and it is mine to tend.♥️

    Lovely piece of writing and inquiry, Kathy

    • Kathy says:

      Jodi, once again–so happy that you wandered over to the blog and read it and shared your thoughts. Yes, the baby-mind, we know it well. And these distractions/graspings can be harder than nails to meet at times. Older than dinosaurs, for sure. Love you!

  10. Val Boyko says:

    Distraction is escape … and sometimes we need this before we step away with awareness and regroup. Presence is always there … whenever we are ready to pay attention and embrace what is unfolding around us, rather than becoming involved in what is entertaining us.

    • Kathy says:

      Val, I so agree with you. We often do need distraction. It can be like a pressure valve where we let off stream from our upset nervous systems. And it is wonderful that Presence really never goes away no matter what we’re distracting ourselves with. Always here, always eternal, always, always. Thank you!

  11. Truly speaking It is “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks. “Indeed an Escape ….

    • Kathy says:

      Harding, that is an interesting quote, have never heard it before. That’s what distraction can be–throwing stones at barking dogs. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Reggie says:

    I love this blogpost, Kathy. During the early weeks and months of our national Lockdown, which confined us to our homes (except for emergencies and essential grocery shopping), we made a point of pausing several times a day, stepping away from our respective computers, making a cup of coffee or tea, sitting outside in the fresh air, and reconnecting with our natural surroundings, and with each other. It established a new habit that helped us to keep grounded and not get caught up in all the drama of rising numbers of infections and political upheavals in the news. Even though our Lockdown restrictions have now eased, we have continued with these pauses during the day. I often sit quietly and listen to Eckhart Tolle and Mooji and Rupert Spira and others on YouTube… to attune to the state of Presence… that quiet peaceful open place where thinking subsides gently on its own… Over the months, it has gradually become a more familiar state of being. Meet you there! 😀

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, I love that both of you are doing this together–pausing, walking away, sitting together, reconnecting. That feels so healthy and energizing. I love listening to the same folks on YouTube because they can be direct channels into the Presence. Ahhhh….back to the silence, back to “THIS”. Smiling–of course will meet you there!

  13. aFrankAngle says:

    As I was reading about Presence, a thought about distraction kept taking over my thoughts. You mentioned how we are glued to our phones, but phones are my example of Now – our immediate need. Voice mail comes along to let us receive messages we missed. I imagine most of us checked messages when we got home – a sense of excitement and got-to-have-it-now when we saw the blinking red light on our answering machine.

    Then along came call waiting – another got to have it now – so we had to learn to deal with “I got to go – another call.” Then cell phones and call forwarding … and to the age of cell phones being pocket computers. Now, now, now … all that taking away from Presence and the many aspects of Presence.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh those crazy beeping dinging distracting phones! *smiling with you, Frank*. I think part of the reason we get so distracted is we’re afraid we’ll miss some of the latest excitement when our phone dings. So we, as a society, stay chained to our daily hits of–what would it be?–serotonin? Dopamine? On the surface this looks and feels more exciting to our egos than the quiet of Presence or a sacred walk on the beach.

  14. debyemm says:

    I know this demon intimately !! LOL

    Had to pull myself back just this week from being a bit too lax on the dietary issues, some stress eating was going on and I’ve had to convince myself I don’t really need to do that.

    I’ve also been known to eat out of restless boredom too.

    I’ll admit, I check the COVID stats for Missouri daily. My husband’s cousin in NC and I share them daily, comparing our state’s responses, in Messenger. I can go back and see where the previous day was that way.

    I’m happy I take a short meditative tea break every day looking out over the field to the forest beyond. There is always nothing but peace and ease sitting there and I’m certain it is restorative.

    The low-level nervousness and ill ease and anxiety – they continue to simmer in the background, sometimes moving more obviously into the foreground. I notice it, allow it – these are difficult times.

    And I am acquainted intimately as well with “The peace that passeth all understanding.” Sometimes it feels quite remarkable that I am able to definitely feel and notice that it remains constant.

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, thank you as always, for sharing from your heart about what is happening in your being. It sounds like we can get distracted by similar things. And yet those meditative tea breaks can be so revitalizing. It just seems important to acknowledge the whole of it. Our humanity and our divinity. Our nervousness and peace. The whole basket of it. Love to you this day.

  15. Stacy says:

    Distractions take me away from Presence, for sure. When I am pulled too far, and I get super stressed, I stop, breathe, and consciously seek the Holy. This happens a million times a day! But it keeps my stress level down, even if for a moment. (And I keep my phone in the kitchen. I don’t carry it around with me.) XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      That is such a good call to not carry your phone around with you. And to strengthen that muscle of pausing, breathing, turning back to the Holy. Much love!

  16. Tilly travel says:

    I could do with practicing a little Presence at the moment

  17. Presence is weird. Or maybe I’m not doing it right. (Imagine that.) I’ve always considered presence-good and distraction-bad. This year’s challenges have changed that notion for me. After caregiving for a loved one enduring cancer and its treatment for the last nine months (not to mention the pandemic and being dubbed “unessential,” I find there’s only so much presence I can take and remain calm and collected. Does that make any sense? Maybe it’s a similar situation to staring into the sun for too long and going blind.

    • Kathy says:

      Lunar, this makes perfect sense to me. You know what this is reminding me about? When I am present with physical reality too long it can start to feel *too much*. But when I connect to silence and breathing–and it takes about 20 minutes to calm the nervous system–then Presence becomes a backdrop of peace. If I am just in the “now” with physical reality without dropping into silence/breathing/awareness it feels like something is off. So maybe that’s the difference. It’s like there are the two components. Being here now AND connecting to silence. (Not sure if you can make any sense of this, but am trying to put words around my own experience of it.)

  18. ^ All that to say, I relish sinking into a mindless comedy on Netflix at the end of the day — it’s a welcome distraction. Presence can be the hardest work and it’s not always pretty or particularly peaceful.

    • Kathy says:

      We are watching the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix now. Have you seen it? It’s about chess and so much more. A very dark side to it as well with substance abuse and mental illness. But for some reason we enjoy it every afternoon!

  19. How timely, I needed to hear this today!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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