Up to now, we have been making a deliberate effort to return to the breath again and again in our sitting practice. This strong effort is necessary to overcome our equally strong habit of becoming easily distracted and lost in thoughts.
However, if we have been able to remain calm and focused on the breath, we can see what happens if we let go of making any effort to direct our attention anywhere.
~ Instead of choosing to return to the breath, we can let our awareness be "choice-less." We can let whatever is predominant in our experience come and go while we simply stay aware of it.
~ Our attention might remain on the breath. Or it might go from one thing to another: first the breath, then a sound, another sensation, a thought, back to the breath, and so on, in succession.
~ As long as we remain undistracted, we will be vividly aware of each of these changing experiences.
We may then get the sense that they are happening all by themselves. This is a powerful insight that can free us from the habit of trying to control things. It can help us drop the fear and insecurity that make us feel separate from life and allow us to experience instead a profound connection with all things. We can come to see life as a kind of magical unfolding of experiences.
If you find that you are becoming distracted or "spaced-out" during this exercise, or if your thoughts are creating a story about the experience, simply return to being focused and alert by coming back to the breath or body sensations.