Thank you both
since there's not some independent monkey mind function that always runs in the background.
What makes you say this? Why isn't this possible?
I suppose it could be
My experience of meditation though is like the sutta quote says, that stuff comes up in the mind simply because our innate ability to be aware of things, well, is being aware of things! What I mean is there isn't something like "monkey mind" which exists as an experience outside of currently experiencing it, like materialists might say. Instead, awareness shines on whatever conditions are currently playing out, but then because I don't realize how I respond with attachment and aversion, my own conditioning interprets a lot of things as unpleasant monkey mind to be crushed in the context of "now I'm meditating, go away!"
I think my issue for the longest time was thinking somehow that the appearance of thoughts and such, and my reaction of restlessness was the same thing. I'm starting to suspect there's a lot more choice going on here than I thought, but it's extremely subtle. Hence my kind of abstract pondering about "ignorant awareness" and why the mind would choose or be habituated to lean that way in the first place.
I hope that makes sense. Please correct me if I'm way off base.
I'm baffled as to why the mind shifts from a calmer, steadier object to a proliferation of chaotic, tiring monkey mind, or how to weaken this habit
Maybe by practising more shamatha meditation you can reach a deeper calmer state of awareness.
Keep returning your attention to the breath.
Be aware of the rising thoughts, let them arise and then dissolve. When you know you are aware and what you are aware of this is good. Perhaps one step further is to ask "who" is aware and "what" is this that is observed. Know that these 'things' are inherently empty and are temporary and aggregate in nature. Observe the space within and let go of the discursive cognition.
Yes, this is excellent advice. The only sticky point is what I may consider "letting them arise and then dissolving" may not actually be that, like the angry person who thinks something falling over is in itself the most annoying shit ever. It's hard while experiencing monkey mind to truly get to the root of it when by the very nature of the experience, you feel like you're being blown around in a strong wind. Believe me, I've caught myself being discursive about catching myself being discursive! Kind of a discursive sentence in itself
I'm hoping to understand the mechanics of this "attentive awareness" versus "inattentive/ignorant awareness"
learning from direct experience is good. Also non clinging and nonconceptual awareness is important too. For example let say you go from one state to the other, watch it happen and let it come and go. Lets say you slip into "inattentive awareness" for a moment, as soon as you return to awareness you return your attention to the breath and being aware.
The reason this feels urgent to me is that there doesn't seem to be any less crazy daydreaming sex fantasy whatever than when I started meditating. Clinging to results is one thing. Losing confidence because a basic aspect of Buddhism, taming the mind, seems totally unattainable is quite another.
I wrote down a list of sutras that talk about the jhana's. I can add this if you want.
I have to be careful with reading about the jhanas. They're like advanced piano concertos to someone who feels they can't even play with both hands yet
Thank you also for that link on the hindrances. I will give it a careful read
It sounds like you are talking about the empty nature of objects of thought; endlessly cycling and interconnected, one image always suggests another, in other words, dependent origination.
One good thing to come out of all of this frustration: an appreciation for the dukkha of restlessness, the impermanence of those brief moments of concentration, and a (at this point) growing fear that there is no self that can take charge of this crazy mind and make it satisfying.
The second part is since I recall the contents of distracting thoughts, I'm clearly experiencing some kind of awareness while distracted.
But the quality is so different...
A common metaphor is the idea of clouds in the sky. Some days there is a clear sky, but maybe a single cloud wafts across and it attracts our attention. It's easier to focus on the cloud as an object rather than the sky itself, which is more like the frame or horizon within which the objects appear. If we remain aware of the sky, the object floats across in the foreground and we still notice it, but without chasing it. Some days there is nothing but clouds, but we don't need to keep focusing on them in order to confirm the sky is still there.
edit: I guess what I am saying is that there will almost always be some movement in the foreground - the trick is to look past that movement and not follow it with your gaze.
This is so helpful, thank you. It describes my experience well. I wrote in a journal that it feels like awareness is a beam of light. It illuminates whatever comes before it, in its various qualities. The breath is neutral, so it's like shining through a clear piece of glass. Distractions with their stories and vivaciousness are like a stained glass window, full of alluring colors and shapes. The awareness is merely aware, the distractions merely have their qualities... suffering takes root elsewhere, doesn't it?
I'll try cultivating more equanimity in the face of these things. I think a new kind of response is in order since the distracting thoughts and memories seem to come up whether I want them to or not.