As we begin our practice, we use the breath as the focal point. This is because everyone has one, it is always here in the present moment, it happens on its own, and it is always in motion. We remind ourselves that the practice is not about keeping our attention on the breath, per se, but rather about returning our attention to the breath when the mind inevitably wanders, which is part of its nature.
We can celebrate this return to the breath each time it happens, because it is a moment of awareness, a moment of wakefulness.
The different states of mind and the content of the thoughts are not the initial focus in our formal practice. When our attention has developed some steadiness, we can then delve into those contents and notice the different thoughts and states of being. But in the beginning, we disregard the contents, because of their distracting nature, and only notice that the mind has wandered from the breath.
So, when the mind tells us, "I'm too busy to sit right now," we simply note that a thought has occurred and we bring our attention back to our commitment. When we notice there is a barrage of thoughts during our sitting, making it quite difficult to pay attention to our breath for any period of time, we can acknowledge the nature of the mind--to think--and we can create the space for that busy-ness and note, "Surf's Up!" Then we expand our field of awareness to notice all the thoughts arising as they arise and return our attention to the breath as best we can.
The big waves of thinking will come and go.
What is important is to sit for the committed time each time. Just like the curious inquiry with the breath--is it fast or slow; deep or shallow; texture thin or think; temperature cool or warm--we can take notice over time the thinking mind. Are the thoughts coming fast? Slow? What's the intensity of the attachment? Do the waves of thoughts subside then pick up? Do the huge waves stay steady throughout the whole period of time?
Over time, you'll notice that your practice periods will vary with the number and intensity of thoughts and the busy-ness or calmness just becomes one more thing to notice in the overall picture of your practice. Big waves, little waves, no waves, medium waves. We learn to notice what is occurring and adjust our field of awareness to include it all.
That benefit of the practice spills over into all of our life, creating more spaciousness, acceptance, inclusion, presence and choice of action.
By committing to sit whether we feel like it or not builds the mindfulness muscle slowly but steadily, and, in the beginning, is the most important part of our practice. But don't take my word for it--see for yourself--one breath at a time. One moment at a time. One sitting at a time.
And enjoy the celebration of the return of your awareness to the breath.