There is a style of meditation that has no focus. If thoughts arise, we are to let them go all the while maintaining a very specific posture. Depending on the posture we maintain it may be difficult to hold for any significant length of time due to the core strength and flexibility required. The thing is, the pain can lead to thoughts in of themselves which makes it harder and harder to let go. Thoughts just arise. “How long have I been sitting?” “When is the instructor going to call a change?” “Why is sitting still painful?” With perseverance and guidance here and there, one can learn an inner stillness that underlies the thoughts and sensations.
Experiencing this place of no place within, we may come to understand the stress we put ourselves under when we attempt to control our thoughts or when we let our thoughts run rampant. We may learn that our thoughts are the emergent byproducts of mostly unconscious elements, beliefs and genetic drives all mixed together in a pattern similar to the weather where the “seasons” are related to our social and cultural environment. Driven by our decisions, our mental weather adapts to our interactions with our external world.
Our thoughts are often out of our direct control. Some neuroscientists and modern philosophers say they are not at all in our control and our free will is an illusion. This is definitely something to contemplate. Sitting quietly, we can also observe a myriad of thoughts pass in front of the light of our awareness. Current cognitive science is showing what we know is only a small fraction of what is available to know through our senses. Our actual sensory bandwidth is low. This suggests that we are and will be mostly unconscious of the world available to us.
Our business depends on understanding our basic capacities. Recognizing that others have similar capabilities and limitations, we can allow for it and improve our interactions. To make the best of our business, it behooves us to own up to our personal patterns of thought, habits, sensory capabilities and limitations.