Thinking with mental images and other imagined senses

 

We humans think with imagined versions of our senses. We think we mental images, imagined sounds, imagined smell and taste, imagined touch. Even words are imagined sounds and images (of the letters), often combined with mental images of what the words refer to.

I imagine that most animals do the same. They think with imagined senses, with mental images and imagined sounds, smell, taste, touch and more. Whatever senses they have, they may think with imagined versions of these senses. I assume mammals and probably birds and reptiles do that each in their own way. Insects may also do it, although, although more rudimentary.

And if there are beings in other places of the universe, it’s possible they do the same. They may think with imagined versions of their own senses, whatever those senses happen to be.

Some form of feelings or emotions may also be included for many beings. For us, sensations give a sense of solidity and reality to some imaginations, and they also give them a charge. And that serves a survival function.

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Mixed emotions

 

When I check in, I sometimes notice a whole universe of different feelings and emotions. Right now, there is a mix of elation, contentment, fear and more.

When that happens, I can isolate one feeling or emotion at a time, and then notice images and words associated with it.

Isolate the feelings and emotions. Notice images and words associated with it. Isolate sensations, images, and words.

That in itself can be interesting and very helpful.

If I want to, I can continue exploring. I can do some mining and see what more is there. I can ask some simple inquiry questions to clarify what’s already there.

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Fill vs feel

 

When we feel empty or lacking, we feel empty and lacking.

It’s a sensation which thought gives meaning to, and that meaning is that we are empty or lacking.

The common response is to try to fill up with something outside of me: someone’s love or company, buying things, entertainment, eating, drugs, or just about anything else. Here, we react to the feeling – to the sensations and associated stories, and we react by trying to fill up and/or distract ourselves from or full the feeling.

Another response is to feel, to feel the sensations. Instead of reacting to them, feel them. Also, notice the stories giving these sensations meaning. Notice the images and words associated with the sensations. Identify them as images and words. Look at them. Ask simple questions about them to get a clearer sense of what’s there. When you can’t find more stories, feel sensations as sensations again. Identify them as sensations. This helps unglue the images and words from the sensations.

So when we feel empty and lacking, we can try to fill up or numb out, or we can feel the sensations and investigate the images and words associated with them. The first is what most of us have been trained to do by society. The second is a 180 degree turn, and it requires some combination of trust, desperation, and skill (either your own or from a facilitator).

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A feeling of numbness, a feeling of nothing 

 

When we say there is a feeling of numbness or a feeling of nothing, it’s often because there is a feeling there.

There are sensations with images and words associated with it, and these together creates the experience of numbness and nothingness.

Numbness is often alive with sensations, images, and words. And the same goes for an experience of nothingness.

Whenever I work with a client (myself or someone else), and the client says there is a feeling of X it’s usually because there literally is a feeling there, a sensation combined with some images and words. And that’s often helpful to explore.

Quote: Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge

 

Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.

– attributed to CG Jung on the internet

This may or may not be an actual quote from Jung. My guess is that it isn’t a quote by him since it doesn’t quite sound like something he would say. It sounds too judgmental!

I would rather say that familiarity is what dissolved judgment. When I understand and am familiar with another person’s history and situation, it’s difficult to judge. For instance, after working with several people with trauma and addictions, judgment doesn’t really come up. It just seems very understandable why they are struggling the way they do. And the same for me, with the ways I struggle. And the same for other people I know. We are all in the same boat here.

At another level, I would say that feeling is difficult, that’s why we judge. When I want to escape an uncomfortable feeling, one of the ways I do that is by judging myself, others, and life. And when I notice, meet, and feel that feeling, and open to it, the need to escape it tends to soften and dissolve, as does the impulse to judge.

Why is it difficult to feel certain feelings? It’s not due to the feeling itself. That’s just a sensation. It’s because of the images and words the mind associated with these feelings, and the mind taking these are scary and real. That’s what makes a sensation or feeling scary, and something we want to avoid at almost any cost. And one of the ways we avoid feeling is by going into thought, and sometimes into judgment of ourselves, others, or the world.

Whole body sensations, and sensations vs emotions

 

I had a client yesterday who was unclear on the difference between sensations and emotions, and who was unable to locate certain sensations.

I thought I would mention a couple of things about it here:

Sensations vs emotions

For me, sensations are bodily sensations, whether they seem associated to images and words or not. I feel a sensation in my heart area. 

Emotions are sensations combined with images and words which gives them a name and often a rich set of associations. I feel sad. I feel it in my throat and heart. It’s because I am alone. Nobody loves me. I was often alone as a kid. I see myself as sad. I see the sadness as a dark lump in my throat. I see images of me being alone as a kid. (etc.)

There is also a middle zone here, where we may have sensations and use images and words to describe or visualize these, and even have associations combined with them.

Difficult to localize sensations / emotions

If a client (which could be me!) describes a vague or all-encompassing feeling or emotion, and they have difficulty localizing it, I often ask if it’s a whole body feeling or sensation. The answer is often yes.

It seems that these whole body sensations often go with an all encompassing feeling or emotion, which can either be quite strong and clear (clear anxiety, depression) or can be more subtle and perhaps more vague.

It also seems that it can be difficult to localize these all encompassing feelings, at least at first. The mind may expect to find a more localized sensation, so overlooks that it’s all over the body.

The awakening feeling

 

When there is an opening or awakening, it often comes with a feeling.

That feeling may then become associated with the opening or awakening, or certain realizations and insights that came from that opening or awakening. Even if the feeling is really created by our mind’s reaction to the awakening.

So we may seek that feeling again, try to recreate it, because we think it somehow is connected with the opening or awakening, or the realizations or insights that happened within that opening or awakening. And that doesn’t really work.

Eventually, we may see that feeling as a sensation with certain stories attached to it. And we may see that what we are can recognize itself independent of particular feelings or experiences. After all, what we are is that which already is allowing any feeling or experience. It’s not dependent on any of these to recognize itself.

I went through this. There was a certain feeling associated with the initial opening and awakening, and the realizations and insights that came with it. I chased this feeling for a while. It didn’t work. Life went against it. (It’s too kind to allow it to work.) And there is an invitation for a deepening recognition of what I am independent of feelings or experiences.

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It feels like….. literally 

 

When we say it feels like…., it’s because it’s usually literally felt.

We feel that something is a certain way. And we do so for two reasons. First, because of the sensation, and then because these sensations are associated with certain images and words. The images and words give the sensations a meaning, and the sensations give the images and words a charge, and sense of solidity and reality. And this happens because the images and words are associated with – or “stuck to” – the sensations.

It’s seems almost ridiculously simple, and it is, in a way. It can be embarrassingly simple, when we see it. And along with that comes a realization that what seemed so real and true, may not be. After all, it was a sensation that made it seem so, and a sensation is…. a sensation. It’s not something that can really tell us how something is.

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Uncomfortable feelings

 

Why are some feelings uncomfortable?

It can seem that it’s because the feeling is inherently uncomfortable.

But if we take a closer look, we may find that if we feel the sensations as sensations, they are not inherently uncomfortable, or perhaps even very strong.

So why do they seem uncomfortable?

It’s because of the stories attached to them. The stories telling us what they mean, and that they mean something scary and uncomfortable.

It’s because the sensation apparently has images and words “stuck” onto it.

There are several ways to explore this.

Feel the sensation as a sensation. See how it is to be curious about it. Allow it. This may reveal that the sensation in itself is not scary, and perhaps that it doesn’t inherently mean anything.

Feel the sensation. Notice any images or words that come up. Look at these, one at a time. Ask simple questions about each. (Is it X? A threat? A particular deficient self? A command?) This tends to soften or release the connection between the sensation and these associated images and words, making it easier to recognize the sensation as a sensation, and feel it, resting with it.

To notice these images and words, we can ask simple questions, such as: What does the sensation mean? If it could speak, what would it say? What would it say to you? What does it want from you? What would make it satisfied forever?

We can also identify the stories about the sensation, and take these to an inquiry such as The Work. Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the turnarounds?

What’s the outcome of this? Why would we want to do this?

Because feeling sensations as they are, as sensations, can be a huge relief. It feels like coming home.

And the alternative is to continue to avoid certain feelings, and avoid looking at the images and words connected to them. This is tiring, stressful, and uncomfortable. And it’s also behind any number of things that make our lives rocky, including reactivity, reactive emotions and behaviors, getting caught in stories, overthinking, compulsions, addictions, and more. It’s how hangups, wounds, and trauma stay unhealed. It’s how parts of us and our experience stay unloved, unquestioned, and unhealed.

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Why do I feel the way I do?

 

A friend of mine asked in a Facebook update why do I feel the way I do? 

That’s probably a question many of us have.

I’ll say a few words about it through the lens of Living Inquiries, since that’s what I am exploring most these days.

Through looking at the images and words connected with the sensations, and feeling the sensations, we get to see how the mind creates the experience of whatever we are feeling. We get to see and recognize the components, and how it makes up a certain experience. That’s one answer to why we are feeling the way we do.

As part of it, we get to see the many associations to the feeling, including perhaps fears or hopes about the future, and painful or joyful images about the past. We may even get some hints about how this identification (velcro) was created way back in time, perhaps even early childhood. (That’s not so important in itself, but the images, words, and sensations making up those early stories are.) That’s another answer.

Using another approach, I can see this part of my experience as a being, and have a dialog with it, or hold satsang with it. I can ask it who it is. What it’s doing here. How it sees me. How it would like me to relate to it. What would satisfy it forever. And more.

We can also answer the question other ways. For instance, whatever I am feeling is an invitation to rest with it, find love for it, and ask some simple questions about it to see what’s really there. (Especially if the experience is uncomfortable, but even when it’s not.) It’s an invitation to recognize it as an individual expression of a more universal pattern, something shared by most or (almost) all human beings, and perhaps also other beings. It’s an invitation to be more honest with myself, and perhaps others, about what’s really here. It’s an invitation to meet it with kindness in myself, and even others when I (imagine I) see it there. It’s an invitation to heal and mature.

And, it’s an expression of life. It’s life – the Universe, Existence – expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself. It’s the play of life.

Inquiry, feeling, and rewiring

 

When I do inquiry these days, I notice how I am drawn to feeling what surfaces. Taking time to feel the yes or no to the two first questions, the specifics of how I live my life when I believe the thoughts, how I would be and live my life without the thoughts, and the truth in the turnarounds. Taking time to let it sink in, work on me, allowing this body-mind to reorganize and realign. Allowing time for this brain and nervous system to rewire.

I do this during inquiry, and sometimes afterwards – revisiting the questions and what surfaces, staying with it.

And I do it when I notice a shift into loving what is, or noticing what is as love, or being what is. When I notice this and remember, I take time to feel it, let it sink in, allowing it to work on and realign this body-mind.