When you chase your mind during meditation, it is mentation, not meditation. Have you ever become aware of the gap between your two thoughts? A gap always exists between two thoughts. This gap is called the Self (atman in Sanskrit), Spirit, Consciousness, or I-awareness.
If you can settle with full awareness into this gap, you are in meditation on your innermost Self, the state of perfect stillness of the mind. You are supposed to get to the awareness of this innermost Self. To experience your own Self is the goal of meditation.
Even if thoughts arise and subside during meditation, it is fine – just keep watching your thoughts. Watch attentively to catch a glimpse of the gap between thoughts. Please understand this fact: the Self (‘I’) is completely separate from thought (mind), as separate as the coat you wear. Remember, whatsoever can be watched is completely separate from you. Therefore, you can watch your thoughts.
Ask: Am I the Mind? The mind, called Antahkarana in Sanskrit, is comprised of four psychic faculties – manas (conscious mind), chitta (unconscious mind), buddhi (intellect), and ahankara (ego that identifies with body, mind, and senses). Just as a microphone is an instrument, the mind is an inner instrument that you use. Truly, the mind is yours, you are not the mind.
When you speak of “my mind,” you are really referring to your mind as an internal instrument that exists apart from the “I-awareness.” For example, a man who is operated under anesthesia experiences no pain even when his stomach is cut open by a knife. In spite of the patient’s mind becoming unconscious during the surgery, the innermost Self continues to keep his physical body alive. From this, it logically follows that the “I-awareness” exists independently of the mind.
Beyond the waking, dreaming, and sleeping states of your mind is the fourth state called turiya in Sanskrit. This turiya state is the core of your being and is, therefore, called the true state of meditation.
Do not confuse the mind with the brain. They are different. The brain is a part of the body. Everyone is born with a new brain, but not with a new mind. When an individual dies, the brain dies but the mind does not die. It continues to remain with the eternal I-awareness (chetna in Sanskrit). From birth to birth, the mind is carried forward. This is the reason why you can remember your past lives. Actually, the death of the mind is called enlightenment.
Your mind is completely independent of your physical brain. This mind survives the death of the physical body, thus accompanying the soul on its onward journey.
If you get identified with your thought, you will miss the innermost being. The expression, “I AM that I AM,” denotes the Self. This Self is an immortal core of every human being.
Your mind is not something substantial inside your head. Mind means thinking, an activity, just like walking is an activity. If you stop walking, there is no longer any walking. Similarly, if you stop thinking, there is no longer any thinking. The definition of meditation given by sage Kapil in his Sankhya Darshan is: Dhyanam nirwishyam manah (Meditation is a thoughtless state). Meditation called Dhyana in Sanskrit means going beyond the mind. Simply speaking, when you do not think anything at all, that is meditation – complete stillness.
When all thoughts (like clouds) are gone, your innermost Self (like the sky) is uncovered. Your innermost Self always exists — only covered with thoughts (clouds). You can reach your own innermost Self only through meditation. Meditation is your own experience, not belief.
The breath and mind are connected. A change in your breathing induces a change in your mind. Only when there is no thinking is the state of meditation experienced. How to achieve such a thoughtless state? It can be achieved by listening to the sound of your in-breath and out-breath; it is called the Hamsa technique of meditation. The esoteric verse 24 of Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, an ancient treatise considered the supreme authority on Self-realization techniques, reveals the Hamsa technique as follows:
Ordhve prano hy adho jivo, visargatma paroccaret
Utpattidvitayasthane, bharanad bharita sthitih // 24 //
Radiant One, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out)—the beneﬁcence.” (Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps)
For understanding the above-mentioned verse 24 of Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, you may refer to my book, Building a Noble World. (Chapter 3, Yoga: The Highest of All Unions). In this book, you will find my own experience of Kundalini awakening: transcending the physical body and mind and experiencing absolute reality. I also answer questions about body, mind, and Spirit as well as the fundamental truth we all share.
May you experience meditation while listening to the sound of your breath!