One typical experience for me in meditation is slowing down the thought process. I feel like I can see how thoughts are being generated and how one thought is related to another thought.
One most common relation between thoughts is reflection. I reflect on my sensations an it creates a thought. Then I reflect on my thoughts and I find a pattern, or an insight. I convince myself that this insight happened because of my reflection and thus the habit of reflection takes root.
Is there any end to this? When we reflect, do we just feed the outcome of one machine to another machine? If we keep on reflecting, will it end in an ultimate insight? Is reflection of reflection, and reflection of reflection of reflection still valuable?
There has to be a stop somewhere. Because as the insights get more distilled, more processed, they become more unstable. Because the thoughts on which they are based are probably no longer true.
A koan in Zen Buddhism is meant precisely to point this out. A koan makes it impossible to reflect, because in a typical thought chain, there is an entry point into and exit point from the thought. But in Koan, there is only entry point, no exit point. Or rather entry point is same as exit point, making the mechanism of reflection end up in a short circuit. Result? The experience of being zapped into awareness. The end of reflection, or abstraction.
There is a story of Buddha. He was found by some people walking in forest. He looked at peace and radiant.
“Who are you? Are you a saint? Are you a god?” They asked him.
“No.” He said. “I am awake.”