I recently visited a renowned meditation centre in Northern India and was a little surprised to find a lot of practitioners talking about reaching a stage of non-thinking. They stated that they had manage to stop their thoughts from arising. It seems they believed this to be the main purpose of meditation.
I would say two things about this. Firstly, I do not believe it is possible to totally stop your thoughts, and secondly, it certainly isn’t what meditation is about. In fact, it is actually a hindrance to your meditation practice.
Meditation is about being aware of the present moment. It is not about stopping or controlling your thoughts. I believe the state they were talking about is similar to the semi-conscious state you reach just before you fall asleep. It is a zombie type state that is the complete opposite to awareness, and definitely not a state we are trying to reach in meditation.
Awareness means being fully in-tune with the present moment. It is about watching your thoughts, feelings and emotions arise and fade away. We do not need to engage or control them, just look at them in a non-judgement and impartial way. Usually we believe, control, follow and get attached to our thoughts. However, in meditation we strive to become an observer and not a controller.
If, during your meditation practice, you start to slip into this zombie state it means you have lost your focus of meditation. So just gently bring your focus back to whatever you are meditating on. This will ensure you are back observing the present moment and not trying to control it.
So briefly, meditation is about being aware of the thoughts that arise and not detached from them. It is about observing what arises and not trying to stop, control or change your thoughts.
I suspect this critic does not know very much about meditation practise. Light stages of silencing the mind are within reach for all and meditiation is about being awake, not half asleep. It is a common prejudice that we must think intensely all the time. Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls described our common intellectualism syndrome vividly in a sentence like “think, think, jabber, jabber, 24 hours a day” – he recommended more awareness of here and now. Inspired from classic meditation practise.
Thank you for your comment. I agree that silencing the mind is within reach when we meditate, but I was not talking about that. I was talking about trying to stop our thoughts altogether. This is not what we should be aiming at in meditation. It is possible to reduce our thoughts. It is also possible to just watch them come and go, but we cannot stop them. If we try to stop them that would be control, and we are trying to move away from control in meditation.
You mentioned that you suspect I do not know about meditation, well I am a meditation teacher and so am talking from experience and not from what I have read in a book. However, this is my experience and yours may be different.
Thank you once again for your comment.
I think that you’re not being very open minded about what meditation is. People who practice meditation a lot can reach stages where virtually no thoughts, e.g. judgments, projections arise during the practice. The distractions that most of us face while meditating can be tamed; this is essentially the third noble truth. This silencing of extraneous thoughts is essentially mindfulness refined. Assuming that this state is a product of meditation and not fatigue, it is a good thing. As long as the attention is focused on the environment in a non-judgmental fashion, while being aware of the breath and posture and eye position and simply living through them, this state is desirable. Isn’t Meditation about maintaining a true sense of the Dharma, which has has a core of experience? Do you think that the Buddha had a maelstrom of thoughts going through his head after his enlightenment? No, he had clear, perfect sight. Is that no what we are trying to accomplish, or at least strive for? To me at least, there’s nothing clearer than a state where no distracting thoughts are present.
Thanks for your comments. I think you confirmed what I was saying when you wrote, ‘People who practice meditation a lot can reach stages where virtually no thoughts.’ The key word here is virtually. I did not say that we cannot reduce our level of thoughts, because we can. What I said was we cannot, and should not try to, stop our thoughts. If we control our thoughts we are not meditating.
I agree with the rest of your comments and I thank you for taking the time to post them.
When one is “surprised” it is because he had an attachment to an expectation that was not met. You “expected” the Indian practitioners to fit into a predetermined mold, and they did not fit that mold.
There are many things in this journey that are not “possible”, yet we see the impossible becoming manifested to possible everywhere we look. A monk once left his handprint embedded in the wall of a cave. It was not possible. Yet he did it.
You say it is impossible to not think. For you that is your truth, and you are correct…for you it is impossible to not think. For the one who can not think, it is not impossible.