[The following is in response to comments by several people about being disturbed by people coming in to sittings late at a meditation group. There was a discussion about how to work with disturbance.]
A good question might be “what is it that was disturbed?” Looking at this for myself, I would say that there is usually some state of mind/body that is being held onto, maybe a state of quietness or relaxation. And there is a resistance against that state being changed by “external” noises or events. I find myself thinking “why did that person have to do that. How can I keep that from happening in the future.” But I notice too that that very thinking also includes the body tensing against the change that’s trying to happen.
I wonder if there is a deep assumption that a quiet state of mind is the goal of meditation. For myself, I often feel the need to be able to enter into deep quiet and that is something that I’d say I do really need, just like getting deep sleep. But I wouldn’t say that meditative presence, open awareness, has anything to do with a state of mind. Maybe that seems strange to say. I remember that I used to feel very much that this work was somehow about finding the right state of mind, which was a never-ending struggle. Then one day it was very clear that this living world from which we are not separate has nothing to do with states of mind. Simple presence just reveals the states of body/mind just as it reveals the sounds of the fan and the sunlight in the air.
This being distracted, disturbed, interrupted is something that has been very painful for me. Certain actions by people seem to trigger what must be a deep trauma of some kind, something that is very seriously and mortally afraid to be touched. But in some ways it becomes clear that the only way for that to open – when some sound or voice has triggered it – is to start to be familiar with the reactions that move away from it (for me this is “trying to do something about it” either by thinking of how to avoid it or by actually getting up doing something) and to be familiar with what brings more in-touchness with it right now in this immediate moment, not later through some strategy.
Sometimes in this situation I do feel truly helpless. Sometimes I feel like something terrible really is going to happen to me. This is the voice, heart and soul of the trauma expressing itself fully through this body/mind!! It so much needs to be heard and felt, even though it seems like that is exactly what the nervous system has tried desperately to prevent happening all these years. How strange.