Here are some great insights from Thai Forest teacher Ajahn Chah about how to deal skillfully with distractions in our meditation and in our lives.
“In our practice, we think that noises, cars, voices, sights are distractions that come and bother us when we want to be quiet. But who is bothering whom? Actually, we are the ones who go and bother them. The car, the sound, is just following its own nature. We bother things through some false idea that they are outside us and cling to the ideal of remaining quiet, undisturbed.
Learn to see that it is not things that bother us, that we go out and bother them. See the world as a mirror. It is all a reflection of mind. When you know this, you can grow in every moment, and every experience reveals truth and brings understanding.
Normally, the untrained mind is full of worries and anxieties, so when a bit of tranquility arises from practicing meditation, you easily become attached to it, mistaking states of tranquility for the end of meditation. Sometimes you may even think you have put an end to lust or greed or hatred, only to be overwhelmed by them later on. Actually, it is worse to be caught in calmness than to be stuck in agitation, because at least you will want to escape from agitation, whereas you are content to remain in calmness and not go any further.
When extraordinarily blissful, clear states arise from insight meditation, do not cling to them. Although this tranquility has a sweet taste, it too must be seen as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and empty. Absorption is not what the Buddha found essential in meditation. Practice without thought of attaining absorption or any special state. Just know whether the mind is calm or not, and if so, whether a little or a lot. In this way it will develop on its own.
Nevertheless, concentration must be firmly established for wisdom to arise. To concentrate the mind is like turning on the switch, and wisdom is the resulting light. Without the switch, there is no light, but we should not waste our time playing with the switch. Likewise, concentration is the empty bowl and wisdom is the food that fills it and makes the meal.”
excerpted from A Still Forest Pool: The Insight Meditation of Achaan Chah