The Depth of Abstraction

During an orientation I attended for one of my significant promotions at work, someone kept repeating a phrase “Get comfortable with uncomfortable” like a mantra. Every now and then throughout the day it would be thrown in for good measure. I tend to forget most of the stuff I hear in these kinds of sessions, but this is one of the few that stuck.

This isn't a concrete advice with specifics; rather it sets the tone and has applicability everywhere.

The reason this remained stuck is because it internally spawned in me a chain of thoughts and for the first time I fully realized the wisdom of abstract advises. I have often considered them useless in past as being too generic to be useful, something said because of lack of thought into putting it in more concrete terms, in short - bullshit

Recently I was trying to advice someone on similar lines and reached a point where I mentioned to him that you don’t need advice on specifics, you need a generic meta-advice. An example of one such advice would be a case where I offer 10 things as suggestions on various aspects you can improve and the 11th advice I give you is “act on advice received”J. So effectively the 11th advice is sort of meta-advice but holds real value especially if you aren't really acting on advises.

Another example once came to my mind was giving someone advice on how to keep himself healthy. The advice can be broken down to granular on keeping your heart healthy, limbs healthy, liver healthy, digestion healthy and so on. If that someone happens to be someone who falls sick very often, I think a meta/abstract advice would be to try and work on his immune system. If you can make that strong the other parts will be taken care of. So, you have set the tone and direction of what you are trying to do and then you still do what you have to do to keep your body parts healthy but then you always have the context in your head.

This advice held the same potential for me and I realized the power of having such mental frameworks to ease your life especially with all the cut-throat-ness in this world thrown into the mix for good measure. This simple advice can be applied whenever you are feeling bad and just by observing and knowing that you are in this specific situation that you are supposed to learn from, changes the scenario from victim-hood to one of coping and learning from it. The more practice you get the better you get at it. So every time you are in deep shit, rather than feeling you are in deep shit, you can visualize yourself as being in intense practice J This may sound like bullshit, but think about it – when you are working out you are putting yourself through intense pain, much harder than a moderate slap on your face during a fight. Which one would hurt more? The pain inflicted by a slap will be much harder to bear than the pain of your workout, despite the huge difference in the actual pain element associated with the two. So, what is different, the way you perceive the pain – one is an insult, the other is your own pursuit. Now, the basic point of the lengthy explanation is that your suffering isn't determined by the magnitude of pain, but the context and your perception of that pain. If you could change that you can free yourself from it! You can extend this to any situation and hence we are back to the point of discomfort. If you can find a way to handle discomfort (generated by job, spouse, kids, parents, friends, traffic) and be OK with it, you have found your way to nirvana!

So, think about some abstract/meta advises you would like to apply in your life and then apply. Few basic tenets you should keep in mind – Our bodies and brains are infinitely elastic and respond to challenges and practice, they have the power to become better and the second one - whatever you need in life to be at peace is present within you (no matter who you are!). So with these two basic tenets and a video about hope below from an upcoming start up, find out your own set of rules and start a new life full of hope, happiness and most importantly inner peace!