Wandering Mind / Sounds
When the mind is thinking or wandering, when a sound keeps catching your attention, just be aware of it. Thinking is a natural activity of the mind. It is natural that, if you have good hearing, you will hear sounds. You are doing well if you are aware that the mind is thinking or hearing. But if you feel disturbed by thoughts or sounds, or if you have a reaction or judgment to them, there is a problem with your attitude. The wandering mind and sounds are not the problem; your attitude that ‘they should not be around’ is the problem. So understand that you have just become aware of some functions of the mind. These too are just objects for your attention.
Thinking is a mental activity. When you are new to this practice you should not try to watch thinking continuously. Neither should you try to avoid observing thoughts by immediately going to your primary meditation object. When you realize that you are thinking, always pay attention to the thought first and then remind yourself that a thought is just a thought. Do not think of it as ‘my thought’. Now you can return to your primary meditation object.
When you feel disturbed by the thinking mind, remind yourself that you are not practising to prevent thinking, but rather to recognize and acknowledge thinking whenever it arises. If you are not aware, you cannot know that you are thinking. The fact that you recognize that you are thinking means that you are aware. Remember that it does not matter how many times the mind thinks, wanders off, or gets annoyed about something – as long as you become aware of it.
It does not matter whether thinking stops or not. It is more important that you understand whether your thoughts are skilful, unskilful, appropriate, inappropriate, necessary or unnecessary. This is why it is essential to learn to watch thinking without getting involved. When a thought keeps growing no matter how much effort you put into trying to simply observe it, you are probably somehow involved in the thought. When this happens, when thinking becomes so incessant that you can no longer observe it, stop looking at the thoughts and try to watch the underlying feelings or bodily sensations instead.
No matter whether you are sitting, walking, or going about your daily activities, ask yourself now and again: What is the mind doing? Thinking? Thinking about what? Being aware? Being aware of what?