“There is a simple exercise: Stop reading for five minutes and do nothing but notice when you inhale and exhale. That is all. Do not think about anything. Don’t count on your fingers, don’t use a pad of paper. Simply close your eyes and be aware of your breathing. How long can you maintain this awareness without thinking?
Thinking means shifting attention to anything that arises that is not simply the experience of the here and now. A sound is simply a vibration; if we identify it in any way, knowing it is a bird, airplane, or whatever, that is a thought. If we ruminate about something that happened, or plan for something about to happen, that is a thought. If we find ourselves wanting more of something, or wishing something would go away, that is a thought. Are you able to notice your breaths for five minutes without having a single thought?
Most people discover that they cannot stop thinking for even one minute at a time. We are not the rulers of our own minds! This is a depressing experience for some people. Thoughts come and go on their own, and there seems to be nothing we can do about it.
This being the case, the mind takes us to places throughout the day which may not be related in any way to where we are standing or what we are doing.