Regarding your instructions on bringing the mind back to the present when you notice it is wandering – who is noticing, and who is bringing it back? This is related to the idea of non-self. Is it not the self that notices and brings back the wandering mind, and if not what is it?
When the mind was wondering, if awareness (citta) was not obscured, then it would have noticed it. Even if there were many thoughts there would be clarity. When avijja ‘this sense of self’ (delusion) is there, there is no clarity. It cannot see clearly. Like looking through smoke or a foggy window when you are driving. We may say we got ‘lost’ but as soon as wisdom arises again, it is noticed. Avijja falls away. The window is now clear. The fog has cleared. There is clarity. Avijja obscures awareness. Awareness is always here. It is either infused with Dhamma (wisdom) or avijja. As soon as there is noticing, there is awareness with wisdom. Avijja falls away. As long as there is resistance – avijja is still there. So awareness is always here. It doesn’t go anywhere. Avijja ‘sense of self’ just masks it.
So, infusing ‘right effort’ is important. At the beginning of our practice we would need to work with a lot of avijja ‘sense of self’ and little wisdom. So, we then have to put avijja into good use. Making the effort to reduce unwholesome desire and put forth effort to increase wholesome desire. So, we would need to put forth effort in ‘trying to be mindful’, ‘trying to bring the mind back’ as wholesome desires – along with the other factors of generosity, virtue, kindness, compassion which will help reduce this sense of self.
With time, as sense of self lessens, we notice this ‘trying’ becomes a problem. The wholesome desire needs to be let go of as well. So, we just put effort at being present -The sense of ‘me trying to calm the mind’ is let go of. Sustaining mindfulness without desire or an expectation of how ‘my meditation or practice’ should be. Avijja as we said is behind restlessness – it is a sense of discontent with the present moment. Then in the absence of a lot of resistance (avijja) the mind will settle in its own time.
Then there is just sustained awareness on the objects of mind and body without the sense of ‘me trying to understand’ or ‘doing anything’. Just being aware with curiosity. Then Dhamma or wisdom has space to operate. With Dhamma (wisdom) operating, awareness now notices whatever arises in the space. Mind objects or the body. So in this space now as wisdom (Dhamma) operates, the understanding of the true nature of phenomena takes place. Awareness begins to understand the body, the mind objects. Once the body and the mind objects have been fully understood for what they are – the power of avijja (sense of self) on these falls away. There is no further investigation required of it. The mind and body are freed from the clutches of avijja.
Then Dhamma continues its investigation looking at awareness itself. As this continues, Dhamma (wisdom) strengthens and avijja ‘sense of self’ begins to lose its power until there is enough Dhamma (wisdom or understanding) to completely see through avijja that lies behind awareness itself. At this point, avijja is destroyed. As a result, awareness frees it self from the clutches of avijja. Dhamma then operates through awareness freely with no resistance. So awareness is now not bounded by the concepts of avijja (a sense of self) but is governed by Dhamma, wisdom, nature – the way things are.
Then there is contentment, brightness and stillness. There is no further running away. There is no place to run away to. No need to bring anything back. Restlessness ends. Suffering ends.
Again do reflect and apply what you may find useful to your own practice – leaving the rest for a later time.