Clear Awareness and Mental Abstraction

Don’t try to understand! It’s enough if you do not misunderstand. ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Mental abstraction is a phenomenological process that creates a conceptual understanding of experience. Abstract concepts certainly serve humanity, but conceptual understanding is limited of our three dimensional field of perception. We are multidimensional beings in a multidimensional universe. We can operate with greater clarity when we open up to levels of awareness beyond our perception and cognition.

Many people have trained their mind to work in a completely abstracted world. This is especially true for technical engineers. I have spent 14 years as a software developer. I had the belief that my mind had to engage in very abstract conceptual processing in order to solve a problem. My mind had such a habit of abstract processing that I would wake up at night with a completely contracted mind that was trying to solve a dreamed up problem. Intellectual effort is certainly required to understand a complex process, but the best solution to improve a process comes when we open up to simplicity.

Language is an abstraction of what is. Descriptions of deep levels of awareness are only pointers for developing an intuition of what the descriptions are pointing to. Stepping back from our effort to grasp everything conceptually and allowing this mental process to relax opens the door to deeper levels of awareness and clarity.

In the context of the early Buddhist suttas, the process of mental abstraction is described as part of the process of dependent arising. This is a cyclic process that is continually arising, and it is further triggered by contact of our mind and senses with mental and sensual objects. With calm mindfulness, one can can actually observe on an experiential level how a cycle of this process starts. One can then tranquilize this process before it snowballs.

When I would be given a meditation object to focus on, I would have the tendency to turn that meditation object into an abstract concept. I had to completely relax that tendency in order to make any progress in meditation. Eventually, with good guidance, I have been able to step back and relax enough to enter into deep states of awareness through meditation.


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