I repeatedly come up against a problem with distractions during meditation. My understanding is that I am to observe the distraction in regard to its quality and strength, how it arises and how it decays and disappears. At that point I am to return to my breath. I can understand this if the distraction is, say, a bird twittering or a car horn which literally do decay and disappear. But what if the distraction is ongoing (e.g., sound of rain or people walking around in the room above my head), or is an image or thought. If I am attending to this sort of ongoing distraction--observing it mindfully--why would it decay and disappear at all unless: 1) another distraction takes its place; or 2) I intentionally return to the breath. While I am attending to distractions such as ongoing sounds or mental images/thoughts, they seem to remain there. So what I generally do is simply notice the distraction and intentionally return to the breath. But I feel I am missing something essential here. Yet I cannot see how the distraction decays and disappears unless another takes its place or I willfully return to the breath. If I let another distraction take its place, and then attend to that, I am then just perpetually changing horses in mid-stream and never get back to my breath.
I have no teacher--and don't know who to go to for help with this (and a number of similar issues, such as lower back pain that simply increases in intensity throughout the meditation period and does not fade away).