Of these difficulties I could overcome the first two fairly quickly; but mind wandering has always been a challenge. In residential courses this challenge is some what manageable because the silence in the environment facilitates the quietening of the mind. Once back into the outside world, with all its hustle and bustle and noise, quietening the mind becomes quite a task. What I noticed after some courses of meditation, was that the practice seemed to resemble a well-learned skill.
The moment I sat on my cushion, I would start observing my breath and then my sensations and somewhere in this process, a part of my mind would roll off into thoughts, events and sometimes into sleep, and yet there was another part of my mind that seemed to be meditating---going through the body, observing sensations.
This part of my mind rolling off into other thoughts was similar to the experience of driving. In the initial stages of learning to drive I was totally focused on the road, traffic and changing gears, accelerating, braking etc. When the learning was over, and I started mastering the skill of driving, I would frequently find myself thinking of other things apart from driving. I would return to the road and my driving once in a way.
It took me quite a while to understand I was doing the same thing with meditation. A part of my mind was meditating and another part thinking of other things. Gradually and patiently I worked towards getting the entire mind on track--on meditation-and it is an ongoing process.
This is the fascinating part of meditation...it helps one to become aware of what the mind is up to all the time and guides, corrects and regulates itself. Its like the mind mending itself! or better still, the mind minding the mind.
Minding the mind helps you increase your self-awareness---what am I doing right now? what did I set out to do and am I still on-task or off task? If off-task--how can I get back on task? If I am on task--how long can I keep it on-task?
This increase in self-awareness increases the ability to regulate one's behaviour--mental and physical. One becomes more in control of what is happening in the mind and on the body. This awareness slowly permeates your being, and becomes more and more effortless.