To our conscious mind, it’s obvious. It’s not a pipe. It’s a painting of a pipe. We know that an image of something is not the thing itself.
And yet, at some level, we often don’t understand this. Somewhere in us, we tend to hold certain mental images and thoughts as not only telling us something true about reality, but what they tell us as reality itself.
We are confused. We may not even notice what’s happening. And we create a lot of stress and suffering for ourselves that way.
What’s the solution? The first may be to be aware of what’s happening. Identify stressful thoughts. Notice they are thoughts and not reality. Investigate the thoughts.
How do we investigate thoughts? It may be easiest to start with a slightly structured process, for instance The Work of Byron Katie or Living Inquiries.
The Work helps us see what happens when we hold a thought as true, how it would be to not, and to find the validity in the reversals of the thought.
Living Inquires helps us see how our mind combined thoughts with sensations. Sensations lend a sense of substance, truth, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. Through this examination the “glue” holding thoughts and sensations together softens and there is more space to notice what’s going on.
If we want to go one step further, identify and investigate your most basic assumptions about yourself, others, and the world. Question what seems the most true and obvious. What do you find?
Questioning our most basic assumptions may seem like a luxury or something we do mostly out of curiosity. But we may find it’s surprisingly liberating.