Once upon a time you were rowing your boat down a slowly moving stream. You found that even without rowing, your boat was advancing along the stream as if it were moving by itself. At times when you were deeply absorbed in thought it appeared for a moment here and there that your boat was remaining still and the banks of the stream along with the trees and sky were moving by. But this pleasant wonderland of altered background vanished too swiftly.
For the most part things were peaceful as you and the objects of your senses filtered through and arrived in your conscious awareness. Until something; one thought, image, sound, memory or desire was sticky. It grabbed at your attention and pulled you away from the free flowing stream. You became hooked or caught in what buddhist psychology calls shenpa. As if your boat bumped against a log jam on the stream that stopped your gentle motion. Being stopped you started to recall other times of disturbance and as one thought led to another and another you were caught in a whirlwind that might have ended up anywhere. This discursive mind journey seemed to progress on its own without awareness until at one point you were back and your awareness bursts upon the scene. If driving you may have missed your exit or if reading you may have realized you had finished the page but could not remember one word of what you had just read. This aimless wandering mind that seemed like a pin ball bouncing from one bell to another is called papanca.
The good news is that your body can apply the rudder or even a brake for wandering mind. Each thought has a corresponding felt body sensation. Many times these sensations pass by unfelt. However, with practice they can become easily upgraded into awareness. As your thoughts traverse their meandering journey a particular level of tension can wake you up and bring your awareness back to the present moment. The body’s sensation is a sense of uncomfortable before it rises to soreness or pain. The awareness of the sensation breaks the chain of discursive thought and you arrive at a fork on the road of choice.
Depending upon your commitment to growth and awakening versus the slippery sloped road to suffering you can use your awareness of attachment to the object of shenpa to either grow or suffer. You have the ability of free will to decide. You might begin where you are with meditation and mindfulness to enhance and sharpen your sensitivity to the river of tension within your body.
More on sensations Meditation Prism Into Happiness 9-24-21