During any form of meditation, it can be interesting to see where attention goes when it wanders.
This may happen during a training of more stable attention (keeping attention on something, for instance the sensations of the breath at the nostrils), natural rest (noticing and allowing), a heart centered practice (ho’o, tonglen), a body centered practice (noticing sensations, yoga, tai chi, breema etc.), or something else.
When attention gets distracted, it gets distracted by stories that has a charge to them. And these stories have a charge because they are associated with certain sensations. (Sensations lends a sense of reality, solidity and charge to the imagination. And imagination lends meaning to the sensations.) Instead of charge, we can say identification (identification with the viewpoint of the stories), beliefs (at least a part of us taking stories as real and true), or velcro (sensations and imagination associated with each other).
And when I say “distracted by” that can happen in at least two different ways, and there is often a combination of the two.
One is the stories that attention goes to. These may have a charge to them, as described above. And this charge makes them seem important. The charge may be interpreted as a like or dislike. We like or dislike the stories and/or what they are about.
Another is what attention seeks to avoid, which is also a story with a charge to it. When we look, we may first notice the sensation aspect of it (uncomfortable sensations) or the imagination aspect of it (uncomfortable stories). And it appears uncomfortable because a certain story is associated with sensations that makes it appear real, true, and solid.
Explaining it in this way, it may seem complicated, but it can be quite simple in practice.
(a) Keep attention somewhere, for instance in one of the ways mentioned above.
(b) Notice when attention wanders. (This noticing may happen during or after the fact.)
(c) Notice where attention goes. Notice the story or stories it goes to.
(d) Does that story have a charge? Where do you feel it in the body? What are the associated images and words?
(e) What among the sensations in my body did (or do) I not want to feel right now? What did attention want to escape? Find it in the body. Take some time to feel the physical sensations. Notice associated images and words.
This is a simple way to explore it. We can also use inquiry to take it further and explore it more in depth. In most cases, there is a lot of different sensations and imaginations (images and words) connected to what attention went to and tried to avoid.
In the beginning, can be easier to explore it in this setting. It provides a supportive container for the exploration. And really, it can be done in any situation in daily life. Whenever attention gets drawn into a story, I can explore the charge in the story it goes to and also what attention was trying to avoid.
- notice push/pull of distractions
- training stable attention on breath OR natural rest, noticing + allowing
- notice when attention gets drawn into a story
- notice the push and pull
- push – want to avoid certain sensations + associated imagination
- pull – drawn into a particular story with a charge, also notice sensations + associated imaginations