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Shambhala Sun | May 2014

EXCERPT / ON THE COVER

The Dharma of Distraction

It goes a lot deeper than how many times a day you check your phone. According to Buddhist teacher JUDY LIEF, distraction is the very foundation of ego, the way we protect ourselves against both the pain of life and the open space of awakened mind. You could even say that letting go of all distraction is the path to enlightenment.

Distractions are everywhere, all the time. Little screens, middling screens, gigantic screens. Instead of Plato’s cave, we each create our own little cave and live in a world of flickering images devoid of real substance. We literally screen off our actual world, with all its ruggedness and rawness, and fit whatever is happening into a virtual world of sound, pictures, and videos we carry in our pockets.

We are so easily distracted, we complain to ourselves. But what is really behind all this distractedness? It is easy to think the relentless external stimuli are the problem, but what we are surrounded by are just phenomena, nothing more. The objects of our world are just there, innocently, just being what they are. Noises are just noises, sights are just sights, objects are just objects, smartphones are just smartphones, computers are just computers, thoughts are just thoughts.

That is why the Buddhist teachings talk more in terms of wandering mind than distractions. When we think in terms of distractions, we look outward and blame external conditions for our jumpiness. When we think in terms of wandering mind, we look inward for the source of our problem. We take responsibility.



Excerpted from the May 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.

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