A typical meditation session looks something like the following.
You set out to meditate, and you begin by putting your attention on your focus (breath in my case, for some it’s a mantra, or the body, or something else).
Very soon, a distraction appears. This might be something coming from within you, for example a thought (“I’ll do this after I am done”, “Why did I say something so stupid?”, “What am I going to do about that?”), a feeling (tiredness, sadness, anger, disappointment, hunger, thirst), a sensation (“My back hurts”, “My foot is sore”, “The cat is on my lap”, “The sun is warm today”). Or something that comes from the outside world, for example your phone ringing, somebody suddenly switching the light on, your kids shouting your name as the episode of their favorite cartoon series has ended and the new one does not start automatically.
Some distractions are stronger, some are weaker. Some are longer, some are shorter. Eventually, what you are supposed to do is to gently acknowledge the distraction, letting it go, and go back to the source of attention, your focus.
If you think about it, this is something that happens everytime we set out to do anything. Even if we are very careful managing our attention (for example by sitting without our phone in view, or by chosing to work from a library), distractions will happen. All the time. The quality of what you do and the amount of time you spend doing it depends on how good you will become at acknowledging the distraction, letting it go and going back. And meditation is an excellent exercise.
In meditation and in our daily lives there are three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out. We already possess these, but they can be ripened: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go.