Breaking Free from Abstractions with Meditation

TQ - mindOne of the more interesting things about meditation is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. That is to say, you can practice it by following a specific exercise, but you can also make up your own exercises as long as the end result is pretty much the same. One of the purposes of mindfulness is to let go of our judgments — judgments about others, about ourselves, and about the world in general. Shaking a judgment is basically the same as letting go of an opinion, so this can be an incredibly hard thing to do.

We make sense of the world by abstracting it in our minds, but this is really just an illusion. For example, the borders that divide countries can be very useful but they’re completely imaginary. We’re the only things that can see these lines because they only exist in our minds and they only matter to us. In reality, there is no divider between North America and South America, etc…

Imaginary borders are just one example of an abstraction we all adhere to, but most of the things we perceive are nothing more than abstractions, such as math, language, art, music, and so on… Have you ever noticed how your dog or cat doesn’t seem to care very much about what’s on TV or the radio? To them it’s just a noisy mishmash of sights and sounds that have no intelligible meaning. You, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to see a TV program or hear a song, and not see pictures or hear music. Similarly, if you speak English and someone is writing or talking to you in English, you can’t help but see and hear words.

Obviously, once an abstraction has been programmed in our minds, it’s nearly impossible to let go of any meanings associated with it. So, how do we break free from the illusions around us so that we can be fully present? Allow me to share with you some tricks that can help you get started, and then see if you can come up with some more on your own.

This technique is simple, as in it does not involve lots of steps or preparation, but it is really intended for advanced meditators. If you still have not gotten the hang of basic exercises, like focused breathing and being mindful of sounds, environment, etc… you will probably find these frustrating, at best. However, I still encourage you to review the website for further tips on meditation.


Try to look at an image without seeing the “picture,” if you will. If I show you a picture of a tree, again, all you’re really seeing is a bunch of lines and colors, but your brain is screaming, “TREE.” I think one of the best ways to approach this is by starting with a picture you don’t care for, or maybe even one that is somewhat disturbing to you, and pull it up on your computer screen. Then, as you’re looking at it, keep reminding yourself that it’s just pixels, just a sequence of colored squares on a 2D surface, and nothing more.



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