I- Definition: Distraction is the unwilling presence, during prayer, in our conscious mind/brain, of thoughts, feelings, memories, imaginations and temptations.
II- Causes of distraction
1- Human weakness
2- Memories (unwilled activity of the brain), body tiredness
3- Temptations coming from outside of us
4- Outside input coming through our senses (noise, …)
5- Sins: since they make us slaves to bad habits, leading us astray from God
III- Remedies for distractions
1- Accept our weakness.
2- To know (and reinforce this knowledge) that:
- prayer happens in our heart and not in our brain/mind
- distractions can be passive or active
- we will always have passive distractions
- “passive distractions” are not real acts, they are not sins
- the direct contact with God in prayer happens in our heart and not in our mind
- “passive distractions” can’t stop the direct contact with God in our heart
3- Discern what depends on us and what doesn’t depend on us. To reach a detached attitude, ignoring the presence of the distractions. (a barking wolf attached to a chain doesn’t harm)
4- During prayer, if we suddenly realise that we went to “active distraction” and left our heart and went back to our mind, we don’t have be upset with ourselves, we need to remain peaceful (accepting our weakness). A Peaceful reaction brings Peace (the Action of God). Then we repeat, peacefully, the act of offering of ourselves in order to be reintroduced in God again.
5- We take our Rosary in our hands, and repeat with each bead a short prayer that has the Names of Jesus and/or the name of Mary (it can be as well the “Hail Mary”), with the normal rhythm of our breathing. This repetition:
- has a routine form (we are not invited to think about what we say or meditate a mystery, we are in front of THE mystery: God in us, immersing us in Him)
- gives some “food” for our mind to make it gently busy while the heart is with God. It fools the mind.
- expresses and increases our desire to be “in God”. It is a real act to say: “pray for us sinners”.
- makes us last longer even if God doesn’t look at the length of the time spent in Him but at the quality of our trust when we resume the offering of ourselves to him.
- puts us willingly like a little child in the Hands of Mary, i.e. under the Full, Pure and Perfection Action of the Holy Spirit. In her the Holy Spirit forms us, Body of Jesus. Mary’s womb is a much protected place.
- calms and regulates our breathing, transforming it, slowly, into a act of Divine Love: spiration of the Holy Spirit.
6- Learn how to recollect our thoughts and senses to lessen their power over us:
- leading a healthy life (food, sleeping time, relaxing time, …).
- leading a holy live.
- learn the virtues of silence, order, discipline and ascesis.
- a very good practice of the Lectio Divina. Disciplines our thoughts, purify them, put order to them, lessen the influence of distractions over the heart….
- dimming the light to lower the visual input and increase the attention to the inner world.
- the body wisely relaxed: not in pain, but not in an excessively relaxed mode (horizontal position). Taking deep breaths.
- being like a child (surrendering our burdens to Him frees our heart to move toward him).
- knowing that God is in the Center of our being, learning how to find Him in our heart (not having to “shout” loudly to Him to make ourselves heard).
- to acquire the daily habit of turning our eyes to the Lord who is at our side, seeing how much He loves us. He never takes His eyes of us and adapts to us (sad or happy, Passion or Resurrection).
- in order to do so we Icons to collect our mind and put ourselves in His Presence, using this grace.
- using some reading that help us collect our mind and put us in front of Jesus: a passage from the Gospel.
(You may have a look at St. Theresa of Avila, "Way of Perfection", chapter 26, 28 and 29)