But when we steadily observe the flow and the feeling of each thought, the space between thoughts gets longer until mind stops by itself, for periods of time.
Attention and intention are the two fundamental functions of all sentient beings ("somas"). Everything more is varied instrumentality for those two ends: Sense organs (organs of attention) and organs of intention (musculo-skeletology -- hands, feet, mouth, paws, trunk, claws, tail, etc., then speech and then tools and technology that externalize somatic functions). Sensation and movement. Emotion (feelings) and motivation (actions). Imagination and preparation. Perception (incoming) and conception (outgoing).
While the language may indicate that attention and intention -- and their organs -- are separate from each other, they are altogether intertwined, as I describe, as follows.
The most primal intention is the movement of attention, experienced as the impulse to be, which is actually the experience of movement. Movements maintain the sense of being, even movements as subtle as the movements of breathing and the internal pulsing of heartbeat; without movement, the body-sense fades out, insensate, even as hair and nails lack sensation.
The movements of mind are subject to attention: movements of thought, the movements of reverie, all of which bear the force of intention to some degree; to discover what the intention of mind at any moment, pay attention. Here's a funny thing:
Anyone who has ever practiced a meditation or attention discipline has noticed the incessant arising of thoughts and reveries. The funny thing is, these thoughts and reveries arise before we know them, fading or congealing into existence -- and doing so always, to some unknown degree, before we know it.
Intention is force ("wattage") -- or in the language of physics, "tendency". Tendency is the movement of things happening and things changing into something else.
Objects of attention and new intentions are arising in us, ongoingly, as our swooning reveries of thought and daydream-streams.
Now, spiritual fascists -- I being a recovering one -- may have the idea that meditation is about quieting the mind. Well, that may be an effect, but it isn't the intention, per se, and to attempt to do so by an act of will is less than fruitless; it is counterproductive, reinforcing the mind in this novel, almost-all-encompassing intention:
QUIET THE MIND !!!!!
We can't quiet the mind by an act of will because thoughts and reveries are always already in existence by the time that we notice them to quieten them. More than that, and in addition to the swooning reverie of thought, the effort to quiet the swooning reverie of thought is just another thought-intention added to all the rest.
There is a loophole, however. To say it explictly . . . . .
Thinking and reverie
are kinds of stress
which can be felt if we pay attention.
Every thought is evidenced by a feeling --
otherwise, how do you know when you're thinking?
-- never mind, what.
Thinking is an ever-shifting play of feeling
and if a person is imagining (reverie),
there may be imagined sounds, sights, and smells.
These are things upon which we may place our attention.
After all, they are already part of our experience,
so no need to go looking.
We notice that, if we place our attention on a thought
we have caught ourselves having,
and if we feel the "thought stress",
we notice that the thought dissipates in time, often fairly quickly,
leading attention straight into the "space between thoughts" --
that fabled Bramanic zone of conscious awareness . . . . .
until the next thought reverie captures you
as it rises as a momentary preoccupation
Then, you notice it
and dive your attention down upon it,
like a duck on a bug
and follow it through its development.
Feeling the thought-stress
rather than concerning yourself with the content,
the mind dissipates,
dropping you into the Thoughtless Unknown between thoughts.
Then you have an interval of ordinary
thoughtless abiding . . . . .
no mind, though you are present
no thoughts, though you are intelligently present
no special effort
either of action or of rest.
Until the next one arises! like gas! effervescence! The Universal Alka-Seltzer Fizz! Fizz Mind.
Anyhow, some things dissipate much faster than others,
so take that into account.
Also, some thought-reveries, instead of dissipating under attention
seduce you into their fascinating content
congeal, develop, and become more solid.
They become tangible creations and interactions
with life and duration enough to affect us.
They run their course as life-experience
and then dissipate into the Silent Drop-Off.
It all goes on.
The mind goes off on a tangent.
Then it goes off.
If ever you want to know the way out,
the way "out" is "in-and-through".