This past weekend I went to a group meditation practice with a friend because I was in the mood for companionable silence. I am not formally trained in “mindfulness meditation,” but I attend group practices occasionally and have read a number of books and incorporated aspects of the practice into my own over the years, so I expected to be comfortable attending.
Because I was new to the group, the leader asked me questions about what I experienced after most of the segments of the practice.
After the “meditation” segment, the leader asked me whether I’d had any thoughts. Of course I had thoughts. If not, as I think of thought, I would be brain dead.
For me the question is not whether I had thoughts (I include meditative awareness as thought), but whether I got stuck in dwelling on something from the past or some kind of planning or problem-solving. My training would have me let go of attention on such thoughts to refocus on the chosen focus for my meditation, i.e., the breath or a mantra, but for me, that is not the absence of thought.
Some of the quibble might be semantics. Part may be an underpinning philosophy to a practice that categorizes an ideal of pure awareness/consciousness as something higher or better than human thought.
If you practice or teach meditation, feel free to weigh in.