Some of the ways we relate to thoughts…
Believing in or not
In general, we can believe in them or not.
As long as there is a belief in any thought, there is a belief in the basic thought of “I” and a corresponding identity. We believe in some thoughts and not others, and with different degrees of attachment.
This creates a sense of I and other, an identity that defines who I am and am not, a discrepancy between beliefs and the inner and outer world as it arises, and a sense of struggle and drama.
When there is realized selflessness, beliefs in thoughts fall away as well. Or we can say that when the belief in “I” as a segment of what is falls away, so does beliefs in other thoughts as well. Without a sense of I, no attachment to thoughts.
(I have to say that in some cases of alleged realized selflessness, it certainly appears – when looking at words and actions – that there is still a belief in certain thoughts. What the human self does seems remarkably limited and frozen if all beliefs indeed had dropped away.)
Awakening to thoughts as related to stress
We can awaken, in different ways, to thoughts as related to stress.
We notice that being absorbed in thoughts, or attaching to thoughts, or trying to push thoughts away, brings disassociation or stress.
And although this is true for all thoughts (at least all the ones I have explored so far), it may appear as if it is true for only some of them.
And although it is the belief in thoughts that brings stress, it may appear as if thoughts themselves are a problem.
:: See thoughts themselves as the source
If we see thoughts themselves as a problem, we set ourselves up for failure.
We may engage in strategies to pacify or remove thoughts, such as drugs, sleep, entertainment or other forms of distractions. If we are a little more sophisticated, we may engage in practices that manipulate attention (visualizations, “good thoughts”). Although these strategies may give short term relief, it is ultimately a recipe for failure as thoughts come and go on their own and live their own life.
:: See beliefs as the source
We can recognize beliefs as the source, and inquire into the beliefs – allowing the attachment to the thought to erode and eventually fall away.
:: See the sense of I as the source
We can recognize the belief in the thought “I” as the source, as that which all other beliefs hinges on.
So we may engage in practices that temporarily shift attention away from the sense of I, giving a taste of how it is to be free from the story of I and everything that comes with it. These practices include, again, drugs, sex and entertainment. And also being in nature, prayer, meditation, and Breema.
We can inquire into any stressful belief that comes up, allowing one thread of the tapestry of beliefs to unravel at a time, until it all falls away taking the belief in the idea of “I” with it.
Or we can go directly for the belief in the idea of I through other forms of inquiry, mainly various forms of Atma Vichara such as the Big Mind process, labeling, and noticing the seen and the seeing as inherently absent of I. (And allowing what is seen to seep through our whole being, allowing it all to reorganize around it, be affected by it.)