"[Some Friends] are troubled by all kinds of distractions that intrude into the silence. Some of these distractions are physical ones: noise of all kinds in this restless world we live in, a body that they find cannot still, or the entrance into meeting of some latecomer. These can often be dealt with by lifting the noises into an inward prayer: "O God, may I enter into Your Presence with all the swift movement that is in that airplane that I hear flying overhead" or "O God, I thank you that our friend who has come late has come at all, and may he be especially blessed.
"Others may suffer from far more difficult distractions: the internal ones that come from our own mental grappling with unsettled issues, with difficult decisions, with all kinds of irrelevant thoughts that tumble in. They learn in time how to deal with these by acknowledging them as parts of their own uncollected lives that of course float up to the surface of consciousness in such a moment of freedom and that demand their attention. The Jews have a suggestive hint about dealing with mental distractions by describing them as a part of ourselves that sense a blessing is about to come and appear because they want to be sure to be hallowed by it! In either of these types of distractions, Friends learn not to try to suppress them but to acknowledge their presence and abandon themselves to being open to the inward Christ, the Guide, the Renewer, even if the distractions continue to be there without."
This past week at my Meeting, an elderly woman named Dora was having trouble with her oxygen tank and the hissing sound made it difficult to focus or to hear another Friend's message.
It was an awkward moment, and it was tempting to become annoyed. Instead, I focused on my breath, and on cultivating compassion. I thought of how my mother suffered from emphysema and how painful it was for her to breathe and how I learned to feel empathy for her during this trying period. (My mother was a smoker who refused to give up cigarettes, and I had to learn how to let go of my judgmentalism and love my mother as she was, quirks and all.) Soon loving feelings arose in my heart, and I sent them in Dora's direction. Two Friends who were next to Dora began attending to the problem by calming her down and adjusting her oxygen tanks. I felt grateful for them and for another Friend's message acknowledging her appreciation of their solicitude.
As I centered down, reflecting on what had happened, and focusing on my breathing, as I often do, I began to realize in a visceral way the importance of the breath, how crucial it is for life---we can live for a month or more without food, a week without water, but only a few minutes without oxygen--so it is with the divine Spirit that the Hindus call prana, and the Hebrews called Ruah, the sacred breath of God, our true Life. We cannot live even for a second without the Divine Spirit sustaining us.
By means of these reflections, partly cultivated, partly inspired, a "distraction" became a blessing--a way to appreciate how the Divine works in every moment and in every situation, and through every person, if only we are willing to let go of our egos and be open to what our Inward Light reveals.