I just heard from a friend complaining that his mind keeps “running” back and forth into thinking though he tried his level best to be on the in-breath and out-breath meditation method as taught by his teacher. He finds himself fighting an unending battle of stationing himself. To him, the breath is more important than his discursive thinking. Of course, if a bodily discomfort was to appear, he would really have a hard time handling all these “distracting” stuffs that are seemingly pulling him away from the specialness of his breath focusing.
That brought me to the subject of the mind choosing its own object. The mind, as you would have noticed by now, choses its own object all the time. If you are not aware of this reality, do sit quietly for a moment and learn to “get yourself out of the way” – to mean ‘not involve’. You may catch a glimpse that the mind goes from one object to another all the time, on its own. Of course, the objects always revolve around the six senses all the time. Now, if you are able to be in that non-interference state for a longer period of time and just observe the mind in a nonchalant way, you will realise that the mind has a nature of its own happening in your field of experiences – whether you like it or not. There is nothing much you can do about this mind experience except, either to observe it, or to be involved in it. When you observe it with right attitude of non-interference, you will gain a certain insight that makes you realise that the mind is not you, or there is a no-you in it. Yet, when you are involved in it, the sense of ‘you’ in the experience will suddenly become seemingly real. Many a times most of us experience the latter and take for granted that all the mind activities are us.
Out of the above two, you can also use the mind to create another state of experience of calmness by choosing a specific object of focus, say, in-breath or out-breath as shared by my friend. By focusing and intermittently bringing the attention back to the breath when it gets distracted, you will upon time, experience a deep state of calmness which you may not have experienced before. It is a pretty pleasant experience to have and you may be enticed to meditate more and more by the hours to get the experience so as to feed your need to be calm and also to enjoy that extraordinary pleasant experience.
The mind is a playground of sorts – 1) observe, 2) immerse, or 3) create a new game out of it – all to your intent. Yet, whichever route you take, bear in mind that all has its own different consequences. If you observe it, you will realise a lot of stuff about this mind you have not known and probably gain much awakening, detachment and realisation out of it. If you immerse in it, you will have unending storylines which you are responsible for, irrelevant whether you like it or not. And for the third, you may create an addiction out of the experience and stay escaped out of the world that you have to sooner or later deal with – it may not be a practical solution unless you go to a remote and become a recluse.
You can’t have all three games played simultaneously. Also do remember that you can’t choose one and experience another consequence for they all have different routes. As a gentle reminder, if you are on the route of observing so as to gain insight into the nature of this mind, stop choosing your object of choice – a thought, in-breath, pain, anger, whatever – are all the same. They are all in seemingly varied degrees due to your likes and dislikes. If you force your attention to only one, unknowingly you have set yourself to the third route though you think you are on the first.