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.