That Which Distracts Us


We are “talking” about enlightenment this morning. It is barely 10:00 a.m., and our talk evolves as pieces of thought shared in a comment field on her blog.

Are we, every one of us, capable of extraordinary beauty, and wisdom, and kindness—if only we realized it?” she asks. “Is that, perhaps, what enlightenment ultimately is—realization of the oneness and infiniteness of everything, including ourselves?”

“I believe we are,” I say, “but there are so many distractions between here and “realized.” I suspect enlightenment needs great expanses of quiet, reflection and disconnection in order to take root and flourish.”

Another friend, this morning, is talking about Thoreau and our important and necessary connection with nature as a source of joy.

But a cicada interrupts my thoughts as I read her words, and I glance up and notice how the morning sun dapples the grass outside the window. I suspect I have not looked up from this whirring machine since the yard was shadowed in last night’s dreams.

This is not the disconnection to which I was referring.

Twenty minutes later, I am in the woods, walking a path I have not explored since summer set upon us with its mid-July ferocity.

When I left the house, I imagined immediate connection here—to pick up where we left off in June, with quiet observation and reflection.

But there are bugs. Lots of bugs.

I have visited with the metaphor of these bugs before—as pesky as my thoughts, as persistent as my worries, as distracting as life’s picayune interruptions.

With the incessant buzzing about my head, how I am ever to find that cherished space and quiet I was seeking?

“Fine,” I say out loud, in surrender to the swarm of gnats. And pay attention, instead, to the rhythm of my swatting—two hands at first in a ballet above my head, then alternating them, left and right.

I walk this way for close to an hour—hands like a windmill through a pine forest into a warm sunny meadow and up to the clearing where the woodpecker sings. At the footbridge, I watch two dragonflies dance, then walk carefully up the rocky slope and down to where the stream crosses the path.

I walk fast, in that way we do when we have a goal to obtain. Oblivious, eye on the prize. All the while swatting with noble attempts to ignore and tune out the…damn…bugs?

Where are the bugs?

Suddenly, they are gone.

I stop and breathe deeply to slow my pace. My arms rest at my sides, and I can feel a hint of coolness about my body. The path is quiet—except for a faint call of a Warbler off in the distance.

Just then, a wide band of sunlight pushes its way though the treecover and lights up the forest around me, until it sparkles and I weep.

“I think perhaps rooting and flourishing happens in cherishing the significant flash,” my friend responds on her blog. “In short—once my long blindness lifts, SEEING simply follows.”

• • •

• Touch 2 Touch on Enlightenment: Buddhas and Ordinary People

• Random Acts of Writing on Distraction: A Mediation on Bugs

• Image: Gnat, from Kenbikyo Mushi No Zu (“Illustrations of Microscopic Insects”), a scroll published in 1860

8 thoughts on “That Which Distracts Us

Add yours

  1. what a wonderful thing to read this morning on my way to my own hopefully enlightened path today! nice observations – i appreciate you taking me along on that walk and sharing those myriad thoughts – as well as the image of the pesky gnat!

  2. What beautiful philosophical points.There are so many wonderful things around us if we are wise enough to see them. When I go for a walk this evening, I’ll see the bugs from an entirely new perspective. Thank you! :-)

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