This is another of those topics that seem so simple and childish on the surface, but goes to the core of our life and who or what we take ourselves to be. (I seem to specialize in those…!)
Any story is a tool. One that helps our human self orient and function in the world, or as a guide to awakening. And as any other tool, it has no value beyond the practical.
It is easy to see when we look at physical tools, like a hammer, or nails. We see that they have a purely practical function. They help us in daily life. And they have no value beyond that. If they didn’t help us, we wouldn’t use them or even bring attention to them.
We can see this so easily with physical tools, because we are (in most cases) not identified with them. Our identity is not wrapped up in them, and we certainly do not take ourselves to be the tool.
It is not always that straight forward with thoughts. Although they are only tools, just like the physical ones, we can easily get our identity wrapped up in them. We may even, temporarily, take ourselves as the thought, and defend it as if it was a matter of life and death.
When we notice that happening, we can ask ourselves, how would this be if I saw this thought as a tool, with no value beyond the practical? It may loosen our identification with it some, allowing us to hold it a little more lightly.
The typical symptoms are stress, discomfort, tension, sense of separation, sense of having something to defend, and so on.
The thoughts may be stories, models, assumptions, values, theories, identities, and so on. Anything thought-made.
And the question above may work a little better when we have some experience with identifying and questioning beliefs, for instance through The Work, and also in seeing thoughts as thoughts, for instance through exploring the sense fields.
Seeing thoughts as tools allows us to discuss them on a practical level, and from kindness. How does this thought help us? When is it useful? When is it not so useful?
It takes some of the drama out of it. (All of the drama, if we see it clearly.)
And if we take it far enough, it also helps us notice what we already are, that which all stories, and anything else, happens within, to and as. This happens when we directly see all thoughts as thoughts, as tools only, including the thought of a separate I, and I with an Other, which is placed on this human self.
We can explore some common thoughts in this way. What function do they have?
- The story of stories being true: Creates drama. The drama of being a separate I and all the dramas that come out of that. Its juicy. And it has the practical function of helping us to see/feel/live the effects of taking stories as true (!).
- The story of a separate I: Functional for our human self in the world, whether taken as relative or absolute truth + drama when taken as absolute truth.
- Awakening is better: Encourage exploration + drama.
- Avoid suffering: Survival + exploration of life + awakening + drama.