Every breath you take is an exercise of choice and personal freedom. Each breath is a sort of mini-rebellion where you learn how to be here and get cozy with what is in front of you right now, no matter how it makes you feel. You learn that, whether you like a thing or not, it’s there. Saying hello to it and treating it like a guest is better than ignoring it and letting it push your buttons or pull your strings. As you become more skilled at sitting with whatever is here, you become more free from it’s influence. You learn to sense when your feelings are pressuring you one way or another and you learn to breathe and exercise your freedom to not comply with them. Sometimes, the source of the pressure is not obvious. With patience, it reveals itself.
The more you do it, the more confident you become. Bit by bit, you learn that it is ok to breathe and be here rather than comply. With that comes courage, humility, forgiveness, patience, generosity, love, and all of the other heroic qualities.
Confidence is not a belief that you will only have pleasant outcomes. Confidence is knowing that whatever the circumstances, you will endure and adapt and find a way through the best you can with your heroic qualities — your humanity — intact. No matter what, you are here, patient and loving. When you do this, it gives others the courage to do the same.
When you slip and mindlessly hurt others, as we all inevitably do, accidentally or not, what you learn in meditation practice is how to sit through the discomfort of knowing that you caused pain. You develop the courage to acknowledge your mistake and heal the wound in your relationship with the other. Sometimes, the other is yourself. This is how peace is built.
Distraction is nothing more than mindless compliance with your whims. Your mind drifts towards something pleasant or away from something unpleasant. You body follows. With that, your life. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “You are always running, but you never get there.” Meditation is the practice of recognizing when you’re distracted and making the choice to return to here. You arrive when you stop running.