Rom's backyard at Bae

One of the creepiest things I realized during my first ever meditation experience around 2015 to 2016 was being aware, for the first time, of the involuntary influx of thoughts in my mind.

With nothing to do but sit still with closed eyes, counting my breath one after the other, it became almost instantly obvious that focusing on this task was impossible.

I think this realization was what hooked me to meditation. I have been counting my breath for about six years since, doing so almost every day, in the morning and the evening.

It is this same realization that draws other people to meditation. It is what wakes most of us from the slumber of mindlessness. It is the first blow to the illusion that we are in full control of our thoughts and our life in general.

A single minute of meditation is enough to make us see through this illusion. Meditating shows us the fact that the majority of our thoughts are automatic. They come from an indecipherable source and arrive when we least expect them. They even come when we don’t want them to come. Creatives notice this a lot and many of us find it so difficult to take ownership of our own ideas and thoughts.

Meditation makes this clear: We do not control the influx of thoughts in our mind.

But does this mean that we are forever at the mercy of our minds? Or is there something within our mental space that gives us a sense of control?

While I realized that I do not control the influx of thoughts in my mind, I notice that I can actually control whether to pay attention to some thoughts or not. This is possible because there seems to be another persona within my mental space that simply watches the involuntary influx of thoughts. This persona is able to distance and even detach himself from the thoughts.

This persona that watches does not necessarily produces thoughts. I am not yet sure of that. But I am sure that he is good at one thing: paying attention. I am tempted to say that this persona is the real me. I am not my thoughts, I am that which watches my thoughts.

This persona that watches is the seat of control and free will. I think what is most important to realize from all these is this:

The only real thing we can control is our attention.

What happens outside our minds—even our physical bodies—is ultimately outside of our control. What we have ultimate control of is there within our minds. But we can’t control the influx of thoughts in our mind. That leaves us with the watcher—it is the only thing we can truly control. Attention is our truest domain of freedom.

Attention is therefore our ultimate battleground. If it is the only true domain of free will, the more important question to ask is:

Are we protecting our attention from everything that could rob us of it?