Meditating: abstract versus finite, complex versus simplicity



When I started meditating, everything seemed complex and sort of mystical. We practiced at the Zen center, confused but hopeful, not having a clue what was happening.

Neuroscience, using functional MRIs, had not explored or unraveled what really happens during this focus exercise. Trying to explain meditation to someone sounded like Voodoo.

At the Zen center, enlightenment, being awakened, was a goal at least two decades plus in the future, an adventure with thousands of hours of practice in between.

None of us had any clue what this abstract idea, enlightenment looked like or felt like. None of us would ever approach this lofty goal, either.

Now we know it takes a minimal of 20,000 to 50,000 hours of practic to have a chance at enlightenment. This assumes we reach a no thought stage for extended periods of absorption during those hours.

I never considered enlightenment as a goal, if it happened it would be an enormous benefit. I wanted to heal from PTSD, period.

Meditating five hours a day for five years allowed me to customize my practice towards my goal. Looking back, this was only a little over 9,000 hours of practice and my skill level was average at best.

Then, I got rid of the complexity and the abstract parts of meditating.

In its place, simplicity took over. Next eliminating the abstract while sitting, lead me to create a breathing model, a finite object to focus my mind on my breath.

If you are a visual learning like me, breaking the breath down to four parts, inhale, pause, exhale, pause, simplified things for me.

I knew exactly what to do when I closed my eyes now.

Repetition and simplicity is all it takes. This is why so few take up a serious practice over an extended period.

I had a strong purpose, healing, so repetition came easy for me.

Without a purpose meditation is tedious, mundane and damn boring.

You will never persevere without a good purpose and a dedicated work ethic.

Results are slow at first or non existent. Many succumb during this initial period of sitting.

15 minutes a day changes the way the mind is wired.

As Rick Hanson has detailed, the building block of neuroscience is, what fires together wires together.

Where we withhold attention, withers and dies.

Where we place our attention grows and prospers.

Thoughts and attachments can be placed in proper perspective with practice.




5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on April 16, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    I’m somewhat ashamed (but bolstered by anonymity) to admit yet again that I’m requesting you to clarify Mindfulness and emptying the mind of thought and feeling. If I’m supposed to meditate and empty my head and at other times stay only in the moment does that mean I should avoid fondly recalling warm moments. For example while I was walking, I recalled a happy time spent with my favorite dog that died this past December. If all experience is ephemeral, how do we move through COVID19 lockdown without distractions sometimes of easier days or visions of a better tomorrow? Most of my life has been spent living in a state of high reactivity. Am I now working towards living in a zombie, empty state?

  2. Good question

    When we meditate yes we want to build focus and let thought go

    In daily life thoughts are fine

    No way we are going to be empty maybe brief moments

    Enjoy your walk and memory of find moments

    Absorb the good

    The issue comes when we try to prolong the good to long

    Our mindfulness gives us a choice when we grasp negative thoughts and emotion for too long

    As you say your life has been spent in a state of high reactivity

    This happens because we see danger everywhere

    That is the thought we want to limit and the negative emotion connected to it.

    Our empty state is not zombie like it is free and expansive with joyful feelings and emotions abounding

    With that warm feeling with your favorite dog can morph into seeing perfection in the tree or flower or squirrel or nature itself.

    Forget thinking and enter nature as pure observer

    Then thought and life will bring us back to this rat race

  3. Posted by Michelle Denness on April 16, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    For me, meditating in simple terms is letting go of the trying and breathing into wholeness. Quietening down the busy mind. There’s no wrong or right way of doing it-it just is what it is 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing
    Different ways to get the benefits

  5. Michelle your absolutely correct

    When we try to change or project or have influence our ego is participating

    The simplicity is to breathe and observe what pops up

    Very insightful


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