It is great that we do have a “mindfulness” movement happening and it is great that meditation has become a common place term and a practice of at least for a moment (even if with the help of an app) to sit quietly and attempt to disconnect from the overwhelming amount of input from the world.
However, when you read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is quite clear that what most of us “do” in our meditation techniques is actually more in the realm of Dharana – “Fixing the consciousness on one point or region” (Sutra III.1). Or, in other words, we are just trying our best to find some peace of mind by concentrating on a sound (mantra), an image (like a religious icon or a steady point of anything), or the breath. If we are lucky, we might slow some of the chatter down, but in reality there are still some interruptions.
Dhyana, “A steady, continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region” (Sutra III.2), brings in the element of time and is the translated Sanskrit term for meditation. “The characteristic feature of meditation is the maintenance of an uninterrupted flow of attention on a fixed point or region, without intervention or interruption. In dhyana, psychological and chronological time come to a standstill as the mind observes its own behavior…meditation takes place” (BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pg 169). Meditation is a purely internal experience of timelessness for the practitioner, but there is still the separation of “I am experiencing no time”.
Samadhi is the last “limb” of yoga that is the result of the previous two – “When the object of meditation engulfs the meditator, appearing as the subject, self-awareness is lost. This is samadhi” (Sutra III.3) – or what we call enlightenment in our common terminology. In this experience there in no longer space, time, or “I”, so from this experience there would be no “I felt this…”, “I did that…”, it is just BEING in its purity.
For yoga, the perfect thing to meditate upon is your own true self, purusa, since when you have concentrated on that truth, meditated on that truth, and then are ultimately engulfed by it, there is nothing left but the being in your own true nature. (Sutra I.3)
Definitely take the time to concentrate in quiet….that will keep you and everyone around you more sane. However, don’t let that be the “goal” or the end…know that as you keep up the trying, even the factor of time will disappear and ultimately, even for a moment, you might experience that pure state of being.