Mahasi Sayadaw advises against conceptualising during the practice. For example:
You must seize the first critical moment when sense-door consciousness first arises. If you fail to do so, you will be deluded by conceptual knowledge. If you fail to note seeing as it happens, you are dwelling in the conceptual realm.
However, a meditator does not conceptualise about what is seen, so there is no chance for desire or craving to arise, for the meditator is always mindful of dissolution.
As an object makes a sound, the ear just hears it. If you note this with mindfulness, without going beyond the hearing, you call a halt to the process of hearing. The stream of consciousness stops flowing there and then. However, if you are unmindful, mental formations and activities will be brought into play. You may remember the sound that you hear and think over it. That means that the stream of mind-consciousness has taken over. Even then, the process of mind-consciousness is only aware of the sound, and concept has not yet been formed. If you can note this with mindfulness, apperception ends here, stopping at the stage of the abstract idea of the sound. If you fail to interrupt further mental activities, the next process of mind-consciousness will interpret the concept of the individual making the sound, and the next process will distinguish the sex of the individual. This will be followed by the development of affinity or repulsion. This is how the thought process stirs up defilements. So it is imperative to meditate on hearing just as you hear. I have summarised these statements as follows:
1. If you fail to note the phenomenon with mindfulness, you end up with conceptual knowledge.
2. To obtain knowledge of the ultimate realities, the following should be borne in mind.
3. Note with mindfulness the instant that you hear. (Note as soon as the process of ear-consciousness occurs or, failing that, note as soon as the process of mind-consciousness occurs).
4. Interrupt the flow of the process of thought at hearing. (If you can do this, the second process of mind-consciousness cannot arise). This is in accordance with the saying, “Sute sutamattaṃ bhavissati.”
5. Then you can distinguish mind from matter. (What you hear is matter at work. When you are noting, mind is at work. Mind and matter are thus distinguished. Both the hearing and the noting appear only to disappear at the next instant.)
6. Finally, you will recognise the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.
Yet the istructions for practice are for example:
Make a mental note of the specific sensation as it occurs, such as painful, aching, pressing, piercing, tired, giddy.
When the mind wanders from the object of meditation which is the rising and falling of the abdomen, mentally note, wandering. Should you imagine you are going to a certain place, note going. When you arrive, arriving. When, in your thoughts, you meet a person, note meeting. Should you speak to him or her, speaking. If you imaginarily argue with that person, note arguing.
Isn't all the words in bold conceps and wouldn't it be better to just note as hearing..hearing, thinking..thinking, sensations..sensations etc..?