I'm new to this forum and would really appreciate your learned opinions on something that has really, really confused me about meditation.
Simply put, is meditation about emptying the mind, or not?
I thought this was a simple question, but apparently not. Google "meditation empty mind" or some variant thereof and you find a bewildering array of articles confirming both sides of the question. You have the Mahabharata defining the meditator as one who "does not think." You have Lao Tze saying "empty your mind of all thoughts." And Buddhist Jhana meditation is supposed to lead to states where discursive thought ceases.
Then there are numerous articles that declare quite emphatically that meditation is "not about emptying the mind" and which seek to "bust the myth that meditation is about emptying the mind." Instead, they declare, meditation is just about "watching thoughts come and go." It's not just a few articles, either- in fact it seems to be the universal consensus among mindfulness advocates.
Personally, I am skeptical of the idea that it is possible to truly empty the mind of all thoughts. However, I took meditation to be essentially about grounding yourself in the present moment and emptying the mind of all OTHER thought. And it really worked. I felt degrees of worry, stress, fear, insecurity, anger, envy, ego etc. that I wasn't even aware of before just melt away. My mind felt like the sages described it should feel: vast, expansive, the "mirror of heaven and earth" that just non-judgmentally reflects the world rather than filtering it through the veil of conceptual thought. I was so content in the present moment that I truly felt like I didn't need anything more- the idea of needing to achieve worldly status, wealth etc. seemed pointless, even comical. Even the need for vacation or travel seemed almost superfluous, as I already had the state of mind that I would otherwise be seeking through such external conditions.
But according to many, many meditation teachers, this is all wrong... so here I am, asking what you fine people think about it. What am I missing?