Meditation And Distraction

I’ve been meditating for ten to fifteen minutes every day for the past two months. I have not missed a day since I started. I find it to be a wonderful practice which I enjoy and look forward to very much every day.

I am experiencing a number of benefits but the one I am most cognizant of is an increased ability to avoid distraction in a conversation or some other situation where I need to be focused.

I’ve always been good at being focused, sometimes to a fault. But I also find my mind wandering in situations where I am losing interest and that’s obviously very bad.

At the core of my meditation practice, as it was taught to me, is bringing my mind back in focus and back to the breathing. It is that thing “snapping back into focus” that I do regularly in my meditation practice that has helped me so much with staying present throughout the day.

Meditation is like repetitive exercise of the focus muscle in the brain.

So if you are having trouble being present in situations you want to be but can’t, I would strongly recommend trying meditation. It’s helped me with this and I imagine it will help you too.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Was just thinking about this.I am on day 107 of meditating. (Just noticed the count this morning.)More formal than yours with 15 minutes every day using Headspace.Game changer for me.Learning to navigate my personal space, noting and compartmentalizing thoughts has for me like you it seems transferred over to a poise of focus during the day.This like exercise, has become one of the stair steps of my diurnal routine.

  2. Daniel Clough

    Fred, would you mind briefly describing the process you use during those 15 mins?

    1. fredwilson

      I do it first thing in the morning when nobody else is up. I sit on the couch in the family room, spine erect, hands on my thighs, close my eyes, and breathe deeply and regularly in rhythm through my nose.That’s itI sometimes count my breaths if I feel like I don’t know how long I’ve been at itI find 10 breath counts is about a minute for me. 120 is twelve minutes which is my target timeI often go over. It’s a wonderful feeling and sometimes I don’t want to end it so quickly

      1. Daniel Clough

        Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate that. Very helpful. I tried to get into it with headspace a while back but it didn’t stick. Going to try again, without technology and for shorter sessions.

        1. fredwilson

          one more tip. find a noise somewhere that you can tap into and listen to. i use the car noise on the highway near my apartment

      2. ShanaC

        You sound like you are getting good at the basics. I’d suggest downloading a meditation timer with a bell and learning to let go of the counting completely – since technically speaking, the counting is just a method to get your mind to quiet down.Note: This advice is coming from someone who one day went a zen temple, had instruction to count, and found the count distracting because I had been meditating for a while with an app. I kept focusing on the sound of my own internal voice and getting the count “right.” Turned out the extra experience was detrimentally helpful, and I was told to let go. I have heard of people in your situation looking to deepen the experience also told to let go, as the counting technically is a form of limited distraction from being in the moment

      3. Raj

        How long did it take for you to enjoy it? Also once a day?

  3. Raphael Rottgen

    So fully agree. I find it most useful right after waking up, without looking at anything, especially not my cell phone — I have had a few sudden insights/intuitions like that. Re distraction, I also highly recommend reading “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.

    1. bsoist

      I enjoyed that book. I took copious notes and find myself reviewing them all the time.I listened to the audiobook while watching tv and tweeting. Not really. Audiobook, yes, but not while distracted. 🙂

  4. opoeian

    Thank you for the reminder Fred…

  5. LIAD

    I’m pushing 10 months since starting and without missing a day. – feels like i was blindly stumbling in the dark re: emotions, thinking, mindlessness before i started. you don’t even know what you don’t know!I don’t like planning things too far in advance. I like flexibility in my daily routine, however when I put my mind to doing something every day. I can do it without problem.Once you commit to doing it every day without fail, preferably at a set stage in your morning routine. You grow to savour the time and look forward to it. The occasions you don’t manage to do it till later in the day – you miss it.Not turning this too esoteric, and usually I find these kind of spiritual overlords charlatans, but i’ve enjoyed watching SadhGhuru on Youtube. Perfect english, great sense of humour, well produced videos, powerful content.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      Thanks for sharing. I knew about him (and think he is the real deal, as you say, and as I said here earlier, there are a lot of charlatans in this area) but did not know about this video. Will check it out.Slight spelling correction: It is SadhGuru – no Gh, just G.His life story is interesting:

      1. cavepainting

        I believe Sadhguru has been one of the most profound spiritual teachers of this generation with significant impact on millions of people in North America and India. His teachings are not religious, not based on any dogma or beliefs, and really shifts the onus to the individual to seek to understand experientially by turning inward during meditative practices.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          [This comment contained my email address and has now self-destructed.]

          1. cavepainting

            Donna, Thank you! Watch out for an email from me! Sorry for the delay.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          This is helpful. Thanks.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Thank you for the tips and insight.”You don’t even know what you don’t know.” is a selling point for me. Have not formally meditated because I meditate somewhat naturally and while this is different from meditation, I have cultivated becoming more contemplative — the two seem to go hand in hand.So will give the more formal approach a try to see if I have been missing something. Definitely need more focus!

  6. jason wright

    When in your day is this ten to fifteen minutes of meditation?n.b. I think watching television has a lot to do with mental distraction.

    1. fredwilson

      First thing

  7. Mike Chan

    During what part of the day do you meditate?Most people seem to do it in the morning so they can clear their mind for the day ahead. Makes sense, but I tend to prefer jumping into work as soon as possible. I’ve tried meditating at night before I go to sleep, which seemed to help.I’d love to hear what the community does.

    1. Doug

      I try to do 10 mins first thing once I get to the office / prior to diving in and then try to do another 10 minutes mid-day in the afternoon if I have the time.I used to do it at the end of the day, but once I changed to the morning and realized the benefits I never went back to night.

      1. Mike Chan

        Thanks Doug! What were the primary benefits you realized? And was the difference day and night? Ba-dum-ching. 🙂

        1. Doug

          Welcome!Benefits for me is that it slows me down and I am much more present in my thinking, decision making and conversations. I tend to be “scatter brained” at times and all over the place at times and meditation has helped me slow that down and be much involved in the thinking process (e.g.System 2 type thinking from Kahneman) and also when I am speaking with / working with others.For me the benefits are near immediate, but can wear off quickly. That is why I try to hit it a couple times a day. I need to get better at building a “streak” to build more strength and get my brain stronger at beingt conscious and present in all moments.I also use a variety of tools. I pay for Headpsace, but not sure I will renew. I also use the free app Oak and have been dabbling in the free stuff on 10% happier.Hope that helps.

          1. Mike Chan

            The immediacy of benefits is impressive, so it makes sense that meditating during the day works better for you. It’s not as evident to me, so I’ll keep experimenting to find out what works best.I use Headspace too, but I don’t pay for it. Will check out Oak and 10% Happier.

          2. bsoist

            experimentingThat is one of only two ways real progress is made. The other is by accident, but you can’t bank on that. 🙂

          3. Vasudev Ram

            The third is by practice, or maybe it is the first 🙂 /cc @falicon

          4. bsoist

            I wasn’t thinking of progress in that sense (getting something done) but more like learning or change (e.g. scientific progress).To make the kind of progress intentionally via practice, I think you have to experiment/iterate.

          5. Vasudev Ram

            Got it, I misunderstood what you meant, earlier.

          6. bsoist

            I found the same thing re: night vs. daySetting the tone for the day really helps.We added the afternoon session together two years ago when my wife’s class was a more challenging bunch. She used it as a way to clear out the stress and she enjoyed it so much that we kept it up – even though her group this year is so great she sometimes uses them as the escape from real life. :)We don’t do that afternoon session every day, but I have noticed it’s nice to have another reset midday. cc @mikewchan:disqus

    2. fredwilson

      I do it first thing. Right after I wake up

      1. Mike Chan

        That seems to be the consensus. I’ve been experimenting with doing it right before I start work vs. right before I go to sleep, and have preferred the night time routine. But I’ll try doing it right when I when up. Thanks Fred!

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          I have been doing it in the evening for over 20 years (not every day. usually about 4-5 days a week.) I do not find it helpful in the morning. Like you, I get up and immerse myself in my work right away. I also do not get up early. I typically get up between eight and nine am.

      2. Krista Bradford

        Before or after morning coffee, if you drink it? If not, why? The one thing that I relish doing first is having that cup of ‘jo. In reprogramming habits, I’ve read one should use a regularly occurring trigger such as getting up each day, rewrite the old habit to include the new behavior, and then reward the new behavior. Given my attachment to coffee, that’s the perfect reward only so far I haven’t been willing to delay the latte. Hmmm, maybe the trigger should be doing it before I head downstairs . . .

        1. fredwilson

          i don’t generally have a cup of coffee until 8am most mornings. i allow myself only one and it has to be a good one. always espresso based, usually a flat white but sometimes a cortado.i usually wake up between 5am and 6am and meditate right after i get up

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Krista, good to “see” you here.

    3. Jaikant Kumaran

      Morning is the best, first thing after waking. Before going to bed is second best. Depending on the particular practice. Because some practices could make you energetic and hence sleep may take a while to come.

      1. Mike Chan

        Ha! I tend to fall asleep when I meditate, so it definitely does not make me more energetic.

        1. ShanaC

          maybe try a walking meditation, like kinhin? It is hard to fall asleep while walking…

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            I can’t believe we ended up at meditation after Buddhism. Just delightful!

          2. ShanaC

            it happens. I’ve been lax in my practice recently. On my new years list.

          3. Mike Chan

            If anyone can do it, it’s me. 🙂

          4. ShanaC

            I’d suggest trying it. It’s in some ways very different than other forms of mediation because it requires you to focus on moving and the experience of moving – I actually find it more difficult than a sitting or lying down meditation because I always end up focusing on how small my feet are so I don’t fall over….

          5. Susan Rubinsky

            I slack off too at times. I’m more regimented in the Winter. Though I spend so much time walking at the beach at other times of year that I count that as meditative. I think that’s where I first learned meditation as a kid.

    4. bsoist

      I wake up, fill the kettle, put it on the stove, then meditate until it whistles. I make my tea and sit down to write. Only after that do I peek online. I check for text or Slack messages first. Then, if it’s the weekend, I’ll read the NY Times. On weekdays, I start at AVC. Terri likes breakfast ready by 6:10 so if Fred hasn’t posted early enough for me, I’ll just get to work for a bit before I start to cook.

    5. Susan Rubinsky

      I meditate in the evening after I do yoga. I suspect it relates to if you are a morning person or a night owl.

      1. ShanaC

        @mikewchan:disqus what she says. What happens in meditation can be greatly affected by your personal biological clock. I always found evening meditation more relaxing, but it doesn’t always give me the same sense of depth morning does (though that depth can go sideways)

  8. DouglassOS

    At the age of 5 I began a meditative practice. My family spun into poverty 6 years later, the meditation practice helped me to get through each day, support my family, and experience the understanding that I was not alone in the struggle.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. that’s a powerful story

  9. pointsnfigures

    interesting given the way technology distracts us

  10. bsoist

    I wake up, fill the kettle with water, put it on the stove, and then meditate until it whistles – 9-11 minutes. Terri and I do another 15 minutes most afternoons after she gets home from her second graders.Makes a big difference in my day.Focus is something I am naturally fairly good at, but unfortunately what I focus on can pivot drastically and unexpectedly. To some, that may not sound like focus at all, but when I change course, I am focused all over again – just on something else. Anyone who suffers from the same thing probably understands what I mean. :)A couple of months ago, I went through the Focus pack in Headspace and that seemed to help a bit.

    1. awaldstein

      I’ve moved to the the ‘advanced’ packs as they have less guidance. Basically a starter and then at the end like a timer. Jump to 15 minutes was tough and sometimes I struggle.When home I do it first thing in my writing chair with samthecat on my lap. When on the road before I check in with anything or call home.

  11. Erin

    I just do it as I go. I very much need a sit-down practice, though, thanks for the reminder.

  12. Krista Bradford

    I am on day 4 on Headspace meditation as part of my New Year’s plan. That means I’m up to just a couple of minutes a day. Still, I am already finding my thinking so much clearer. Thr answers to business and life’s challenges seem clearer and come much more easily. I feel more upbeat. And I’m getting more stuff done. When I review the results, it makes me happy. Perhaps that is coincidental, but I’m think this meditation thing is pure gold.

    1. awaldstein

      was for me. took about a month to get to 10 minute cycles on headspace. around 3-4 months in started to want less guidance as the cycles and tools became more clear and internalized.thoughts after 22 days using the app

  13. falicon

    Interesting to see so many others have it as a part of their daily lives as well.I’ve said it before many times, but the power of “daily” and “dedicated” is really transformative.Doesn’t matter if it’s exercise, writing, photography, coding, or whatever. Do it daily & with dedicated effort & you will be awed at what you accomplish over time.Side note and shameless plug: Another great thing to improve your daily life would be to become a backer of my recently launched drip campaign -> 🙂

    1. bsoist

      I agree – on all counts.In my experience, doing something positive consistently and regularly over a long period of time has had many benefits. There are built-in rewards – the accomplishment itself, the work product produced by it – but there are usually also benefits one might not have been able to predict. Those “side” benefits are often similar to those gained by meditation. The practice itself helps with mindfulness.When I first started the habit of intentionally meditating, I was surprised by how easy I found it to be. I heard stories from others about how difficult it was for them and I couldn’t relate. I realized after some time that I had reaped the benefits of praying[1] and writing[2] for so many years.That said, I do think developing some practice of meditation for meditation’s sake is one step better. Though, your practice need not be “just sitting there.”[1] something I did almost every day for 30ish years but do very seldom now[2] started using a journal almost daily in 1981 and have stuck to it fairly regularly since then

    2. Donna Brewington White

      I think it was a comment from @jamesHRH:disqus or @JLM:disqus (or both) in the “Reference” post that referred to “consistency” as a hallmark of greatness and I really believe there is something to this even though it is hard for me. Some of us like to mix it up to keep things interesting but this doesn’t necessarily promote advancement.Life is not a source of entertainment.I am always struck by how many successful people such as @fredwilson:disqus place emphasis on routine and ritual. I am not much for new year’s resolutions, but this is something that I think I need to conquer in this new year.

      1. falicon

        I think routine and ritual are important and can be calming, but it doesn’t mean it has to be boring or repetitive. In fact, I think the key to “doing it right” is in finding ways to stretch yourself and keep learning/growing within the routine and ritual.For example, I write code every day, but I’m always looking for ways to write it a little different, improve my approach, work in a new language or technology, or apply it to a new idea…so there is a lot of variation (and chaos) in my daily ‘routine and ritual’…and that’s part of why I still love doing it and continue to do it evry single day.Just find the passion and the challenge in the things you want to make part of your routine and I think you’ll ne amazed at how easy and exciting it is to make it a habit.

  14. JamesHRH

    Meditation is part of the mainstream ADHD tool kit now.It clearly helps manage big brains.

  15. sigmaalgebra

    Yes, some people do meditation and hope the beneficial effects last for a full day.What about the guy who did meditation once and found that the beneficial effects have already lasted over 10 years!!!!

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      Same guy who’s heart beat once in the morning and it lasted all day ;-)I think I probably missed your point ?

      1. sigmaalgebra

        The point was the hint that for some people on meditation once is enough for life!

    2. ShanaC

      how does that work? Unless your name is Siddhartha Gautama….

  16. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Some Contributors have been incorporating mediation (New Word that replaces prayer) all their adult lives.What gets us is that it required Fred to get many there as adults.PS: After meditation who is attending CES in Vegas?Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

    1. ShanaC

      I don’t see mediation as replacing prayer at all. I’ve experienced deep prayer experiences and deep meditation experiences. They’re totally unlike each other.One was very beautifully heavy, but had 0 implications in my day to day life. I was saying the Barech Aleinu blessing of the Shmona Esrei (which is specific about praying for rain/dew and crops growing) while being between either hitchhiking or getting a bus in Israel at the foot of Mount Gilboa by a sunflower field (place where Saul dies) as the sun was rising. It hit me that the prayer is said for the sunflowers and whatever else that grows for roughly the past 2000 years, and that was weirdly amazing and wonderful. It had 0 impact on who I was as a person. It sort of felt like how other people describe speaking in tongues after leaving christianity – amazing at the moment, but totally devoid of daily how it affects your life.Meanwhile, going into a zen temple, I had walked in 2 minutes late to zazen, and I was taking off my shoes and being prepared to be seated, I was looking at a japanese ink painting of either cherry or plum flowers – except the flowers were done in very pale ink, and were not viewable in the dim light. This suddenly became a stroke of 20 minutes of clarity about the nature of death and change, and why we must experience pain. It’s been a huge boost to my approach to negative situation and change, because it made me realize all things are ending and beginning constantly. The second 20 minute period wasn’t nearly as intense, but it gave me closure about what happened during the first period.

  17. bfeld

    Welcome to the magic. Another wonderful thing that Jerry Colonna has given me …

    1. bsoist

      It was you and Jerry both that finally convinced me to take it seriously.My daughter, on the other hand, still doesn’t even like to hear us talk about it. California hasn’t seemed to change her mind yet. :)She left for her second quarter yesterday. Sticking with her math major for now.

      1. ShanaC

        Why would california change her mind?

        1. bsoist

          You got me. It’s a stereotype. She thinks meditating is nonsense. California is where people are open minded.But I wasn’t totally joking, either. I am sure some of her college friends must meditate and maybe she will decide on her own to try it.

          1. ShanaC

            She might be more likely to do so if you are detached from the idea that she should.

          2. bsoist

            Agreed. We rarely tell our children what they “should” do. I think I’ve only recommended it once to her.She just sort of pokes fun at us for doing it. 🙂

        2. Donna Brewington White

          Very fitting that Headspace is based here.

    2. fredwilson

      we owe him a lot Brad

      1. bfeld

        Truth that.

  18. Semil Shah

    For a second I thought this post was gonna be about distraction related to watching a crypto portfolio.

    1. fredwilson

      i can’t write about crypto every day!

      1. bsoist

        eh, I don’t know – there is a much to discuss 🙂 cc @semil_shah:disqus

      2. ShanaC

        thank god for that. Meh to crypto. Onto data science driven biotech (because its interesting…)

  19. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:The eight most mentioned health benefits of mediation are:1. Stress reduction2. Increases better moods (Happy)3. Increases self awareness4. Improves concentration5. Slow aging (Don’t know about that based upon any Science without selective picking)6. Benefits cardiovascular and immune health7. Helps with acceptance or empathy8. Helps practice of healthy lifestyle (Don’t know about that one either) There is no one in this world that mediates but smokes or drinks? Yeah right)Usually the introduction of mediation is a way for people to introduce Buddhism.Mediation has been practiced since antiquity. It only requires someone people follow, respect and admire to discover something that has already been here for hundreds of years. The smart Contributors on this blog who mentioned they have just begun mediating, it is hard to believe with the education provided no one here ever mediated before Fred mentioned it.Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  20. goldwerger

    Check out this short video on recapturing meditation benefit anytime during the day for any short length of time:

  21. Lawrence Brass

    I’ve found that AVC is terribly distracting. 🙂

  22. Jason

    I evolved my practice from a bound 15 minutes to unbound 20 minutes and began incorporating Wim Hof Method in the beginning of each session several months ago and can report a dramatic improvement since… Been practicing TM daily since 2012.

  23. JAJones

    Just finished Why Buddhism is True after hearing Robert Wright interviewed on Fresh Air. Fascinating book that explains Buddhist philosophy using evolutionary psychology and neuroscience.

  24. WA

    Another of the master threads, too often overlooked, by so many in the “fabric of reality” …

  25. Lawrence Wang

    Nice! Keep at it! Sneak preview: working out the focus muscle is just the first stage. It brings its own benefits, for sure, but the real fun is in using that improved capacity for focus to explore aspects of your experience that are too subtle to notice without it.

  26. Yacine Ghalim

    Great habit 🙂 If you want to dig deeper into that and haven’t heard about Vipassana (the practice that inspired all forms of mindfulness based meditations, including the one it sounds like you are practicing), I have just shared my experience at my first retreat.

  27. Steve G

    Fred, just begun to meditate, wondering what your morning schedule is if you meditate for 15 minutes between 5 and 6 am and yet don’t drink a cup of espresso until 8 am.

  28. Soups

    I get distracted easily so I should probably do some meditation