Well, I don’t know. But I do have an explanation of the processes involved in paying attention to the moments we experience.
Lets say you are reading a book and suddenly notice that you have passed by some paragraphs, or in my case pages, and don’t remember anything in the content. As soon as you notice this there is a feeling of being present and re-engaged with the book. I notice a clarity and a refocusing on the exact location I am in and how I am responding to the environment.
For me, the application of Zen and Tao means to be present enough to notice that drift as early as possible. And return to paying attention or perhaps refocusing attention on something else. Perhaps I was reading longer than I needed or was just plain tired and needed a break.
This didn’t seem important until I realized how much of my life I was missing by drifting in the thought stream and not in attendance to my own existence. It’s why I can drive for miles drifting in and out and often am in wonderment that I arrive safe and sound. I don’t remember the journey. (Don’t tell anyone but that drift happens sometimes when I’m talking to someone. Ouch. That’s just mean to both of us!)
Bottom line is Zen and Tao training often address this issue of drifting through meditation. While meditating I can practice experiencing the drift and the conscious return. It’s important to realize that training doesn’t mean that drifting doesn’t still occur, but the noticing is more likely to happen faster along with the return.
And, in my view, there’s nothing right or wrong about the drifting, I have no idea of what might be going on in those periods. I know we are devolved to scan our environment and our own thought processes. So perhaps it’s needed. But I suspect much of it’s just mental masturbation that serves no useful purpose.
I increasingly enjoy paying attention and being present in these moments I am living. It means I can engage with what’s in front of me fully, another person, book, movie, my cat, or the outdoors. Even the dreaded housework seems more interesting when I’m engaged. Washing a dish takes on a whole new meaning when I am actually there for the washing and not drifting in some scenario about something that happened 20 years ago or may happen tomorrow.
That’s it, my interpretation of Zen and Tao process. Of course there’s a million books on theories, hypotheticals, and righteous positions on the different types and schools. All of that’s good but has nothing to do with paying attention to where and how I exist in these moments.
Laugh today, remembering that nothing matters and yet we care deeply about everything.