Obviously, a person in his normal state barely has any control over the energy of his attention. Despite the fact that, during school education, students are prompted to focus their attention on the subject being studied, the effect quite often comes out as the opposite of what was intended. Rather than getting the hang of how to be in control of their attention, children often develop the habit of persistent reluctance toward studying and resist making any efforts by themselves. Sometimes it seems to me that many of the present-day young adults have developed an aversion to reading books just because they have spent so many years in school.
Normally, human attention is ruled by desires and fears as well as the stimuli that incessantly fire through the body in the form of sensations or brief thoughts in the mind, and so forth. People have limited control over this process (and are governed by desires or fears in any case), yet they remain under the illusion that they are in control and take an active role in the attention-shifting process.
Here is a simple experiment to demonstrate that we are not in control of our attention. Let’s close our eyes and try to observe our breath. We can follow how the air touches our nostrils when inhaling, fills our chests, and goes out when exhaling. Our full attention should stay focused on breathing and not get distracted. The task is to stick with the observation of breath and not let ourselves get carried away with the flowing of thoughts. Unless a person has a prior experience in practicing this exercise, I believe he will last less than a minute and forget about his decision to observe the inhale-exhale process. This experiment perfectly illustrates how things stand with our capacity for attention control and ability to manage our inner world.