When you’re focusing on your meditation object like repeating your favourite mantra or focusing on deep, rhythmic breathing – all the while, letting go – you want to not get distracted and get pulled out into the external world. As such, you need to let go of the external world, not follow it and create your own little bit of space for yourself to enter into – your own place of peace and quiet where you can rest and renew, and recharge your batteries.
Now we say “create” a space for yourself because it’s a useful way to think about it and approach it – but that’s just a figure of speech – because nothing is actually created. This space is already there, ever present. It’s always there, but we don’t notice it because our habits are such that we are used to noticing “objects” which appear WITHIN the space because objects have tangible characteristics that we can latch on to (called lakshana in Sanskrit language or lakkhana in the Pali language) – but we tend not to notice the space itself.
This is like only noticing the reflections within the mirror but not the mirror itself. And yet the mirror itself hosts all the reflections. The reflections are illusory – they are not real but they look real – and so, we can easily mistake that reflection to be real.
Further, if we look into the mirror and see our own reflection – is that reflection us? A wise person understands that reflections are just reflections and are not self. So you can point to the mirror and say, “Hey, that’s me!” But in reality that’s just a reflection of your face and is not your real face. It’s not the real you.
Similarly, what you observe with your eyes and hear with your ears and taste with your tongue and feel with your body and smell with your nose and even the thoughts you observe (your 6 sensory realms) – are external sensory phenomena – they are external to you and part of the external world exterior to your senses – exterior to you. They are all perceptions OF your senses but not the perceiver. They are all objects of your senses but is not the subject doing the observing.
Now your body is also a perception of your senses too, isn’t it? Therefore, your body is also part of the external world too, is there it? Your body is also exterior to you, isn’t it? Because it is also a perception – the perceiver (I.e., you – the real you, the Buddho, the Knower) – is the one doing the observing. Therefore your body is not self – it is not your real self – it’s just a temporary housing that you perceive out of into the external sensory world – but is not the real you – it’s not who you really are.
But I digress. Back to the main point – you need to create a space for yourself whenever you are meditating to insulate you from the distractions of the outside world – otherwise, it will be difficult to achieve progress in your meditation because your attention will be constantly pulled outwards into experience cool the sights and sounds of the external world of the senses – and all the worries that want your attention there.
So let them all go – don’t let your attention wander outwards – don’t let your attention wander outside your senses. Instead, the journey should be not outwards, but inwards. As you repeat your meditation object over and over again, try to go deeper and deeper inwards and notice the space opening up and appearing within your own mind – a space, a stillness that’s already there – that’s always been there – but has been left unattended to for the longest time. But now we’re learning how to turn towards it, tune into it and access it, learning how to tap into this still point, this stillness of the mind, this silent witness, this unmoving, unchanging observer, this Citta of ours, our very own Buddho, our knowing nature, our eternally still awareness itself.
So the key is to let go of the external world, focus on your meditation object and go inwards – go deeper and deeper inwards. The journey is not outwards as we’re habitually predisposed to do – but inwards, all the while letting go. So don’t try to control anything in your meditation – just do your meditation object (e.g., just keep reciting your mantra) and whatever thoughts appear and arise, you let them go.
How do you handle things that arise? You place your attention on them – put your awareness on them – and you observe that even as you are observing them – they are constantly in flux, ever changing, not even stable – so you notice their insubstantialness – they’re not even permanent objects – and so, they will disappear by themselves and so you allow them to be and allow them to pass away of their own accord. In short, place your attention on them, and then let them go and patiently return to your meditation object over and over again whenever your mind wanders – be very gentle and very patient with yourself as if you were caring for and teaching a small child.