Big Mind, what can you say about taking thoughts as true?
It’s what creates your world.
As soon as a thought is taken as true, there is identification with the viewpoint of that story. The mind makes it appear true through filtering and interpreting perception, and adding on more stories.
I recently had a clearer experience of how thoughts create the experience of hunger and tiredness.
I went without food a few days, and the two times I thought I would eat soon I got very hungry. The rest of the time, not knowing when I would eat again, I felt fine. There were certain sensations in the body and stomach area, but it was not hunger.
At another time, I had the thoughts “I won’t get enough sleep” and “I need to be alert & rested”, and felt fatigued and tired. As soon as those thoughts went away, I felt fine.
With tiredness, I can see that the mind is a faithful servant to beliefs. There is the belief that I need to be rested, and may not get enough sleep, so I feel tired – which is how the mind supports me in finding rest and sleep.
As soon as there is identification with a view, there is identification as a separate I. And with this comes the appearance of being an object in a world of objects, all appearing quite solid and real.
With this identification as something within content of experience, what this experience happens within and as goes into the background. It’s notices less or not much at all, and if it’s noticed then it may appear as an “other”. And what experience happen within and as is awareness, and capacity for awareness and it’s play as appearances. It’s what shows that appearances are not solid and real.
My birthday is coming up (again!) later this month, and I get curious about my age again.
I first notice that here and now, in immediacy, there is timelessness. Whatever happens in the sense fields happen within timelessness, and that includes any thoughts about past, future and present. Those are all labels. Interpretations. Ways to organize and make sense of what’s happening in the sense fields.
Among those stories of time, I find the most basic one is the story of time itself. A story saying there is a time line with past, future and present. This one helps place events where they seem to belong, and this helps me – as a human being in the world – to function and operate. It is not a flawless system (I edit and even make up memories of the past, and sometimes actually believe my own stories about time and what happened, happens, and will happen), but it generally works pretty well. It’s functional.
One of these stories of time says I was born so and so many years ago. It’s the story that’s reflected in my passport and birth certificate, and what most people in my culture use for themselves and when they think about how old I am.
Another of these stories is the deep time story. This universe was “born” about 13.7 billion years ago, and that’s how old I am. Again, in our culture, this doesn’t quite make sense. I am a human being, not the universe. But it actually makes a great deal of sense from another perspective. Everything I am, as this human being, is quite literally 13.7 billion years old. It is the product of the 13.7 billion year old evolution of this universe.
I notice I find it equally helpful to explore time and space.
In both cases, I see and feel it is all happening here, in my own world of images.
I am caught up in stories about the world. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of space, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined space. It is all happening here.
I am caught up in stories about the past or future. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of time, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined time line. It is all happening here.
The most effective way to explore time I have found so far is exploring it through the sense fields.
How does time appear in each sense field, and in the combination of the sense fields?
How does time appear in sound, sensation, taste, smell, sight, thoughts/images? How does change appear? Do I find past or future there?
When I explore time this way, I find that the only place I find a sense of time is in the mental field. Any sense of time appears through an overlay of images and thoughts. An overlay of images of what has happened, what may happen, and what is happening “now”.
The most obvious is that projections allows us to orient and navigate in the world. Our world of images create a sense of space and time, places whatever happens in the sense fields in space. connects images of past, present, and future events, places boundaries to create the appearance of objects, filters, interprets, and makes sense of it all. This can most easily be noticed through simple sense field explorations. Without our world of images, we wouldn’t function.
This world of images also creates an infinitely rich world. We can place boundaries anywhere. Find connections anywhere. Look at any (imagined) object from any number of perspectives. Create any number of contexts which dramatically changes how we see something. We quite literally create our own worlds through the images we place on top of the sense fields.
It is always interesting to notice how different practices work together and how they may mutually support each other.
For instance, The Work and exploring sense-fields have a great deal of similarities, and there is also some cross-fertilization there.
In The Work, I explore the effects of taking a story as true, and find what is more honest for me than the initial belief.
And through exploring the sense-fields, I notice gestalts made up of image overlays on sense fields, what happens when gestalts are taken as real and substantial, and what happens when the images are recognized as a simple overlay of images.
The questions and sub-questions of The Work guide my exploration of the sense -fields. The sense-field exploration helps me notice the mechanisms here now, and in more detail. And through The Work, I get to see how beliefs play themselves out in my life in more detail.
Again, very simple, and perhaps obvious both in a psychological and spiritual context. But also something I find helpful and fascinating just about every day. I often do this before falling asleep and after waking up, and also at times throughout the day.
I can explore what is here in sensation, either as an open exploration of the sense field.
Or if a specific symptom, emotion, mood, or anything else draws my attention, I can explore that.
What do I find when I bring attention to sensations? How does it show up in sensation? What is its sensation facet?
What is here as images overlaid on those sensations?
How do they combine? How do I experience the combination of the two?
Before falling asleep in the evening, and after waking up in the morning, I like to take some time to explore the sense fields. And as I often write about here, one of the things I explore is the three times. How does the past, future, and present appear in the sense fields?
I may begin with bringing attention to each sense field – sensations, sight, sound, smell, taste, and thoughts/images – one at a time, and notice what is there.
Then, I close my eyes if they are not already closed, and notice how I have an image of my body laying there in the bed, in a room, in a building, at the outskirts of a small town, next to a forest, in a country, on the Earth. All of that happens in my own world of images. It is the movie I play for myself about the world. I recognize it all as images.
From lead to gold. It’s a familiar analogy, but still useful. And it is a slight variation of a familiar theme of this blog, but I’ll still mention it.
When I resist emotions, they become lead. And when I allow them with kindness, they are gold. Resisting emotions, or any experience – such as sensations or images or gestalts such as pain – there is a battle. There is an image of an “I” opposed to the experience as an “it”, and there is a sense of the battle dragging me down. It becomes a weight on me. When I allow experience as is, with kindness, it is revealed as experience. Ephemeral. Insubstantial. I may even notice the quiet joy in experience itself. And there is also a sense of fullness, of coming home.
When I believe a story, it is lead. When I inquire into and clarify it, it is gold. Taking a story as true, it is inevitably at odds with (my stories about) reality, and there is stress, tension, a sense of having to defend the viewpoint of the story, a sense of being right, and all of that is tiring and a weight on me. Inquiring into the belief and finding what is more honest for me, there is relief, receptivity, kindness, perhaps even a measure of wisdom. What appeared as a problem – whether it was the topic of the belief, or the belief itself, is now revealed as a guide and support.
When I take the mental field as substantial and real, it is lead. When I recognize it as what it is, it is revealed as gold. Taking my own world of images as real and substantial, there is stress. I create an imagined world as overlay of the sense fields – sensations, sights, sounds, smell, taste – forget it is imaginary, and get weighed down by it. The images of I, the wider world, and their relationships, appear as real and substantial, and I experience those relationships as precarious, slightly uneasy, and at times tense. When recognized as my own world of images as it happens, the edge goes out of it. Now, it is all recognized as images, interpretations, questions about the world. Innocent. Insubstantial. Ephemeral. They are still very useful for orienting and navigating in the world, but I don’t need to scare myself by them. The images of I, me, the wider world, relationships, and a world beyond these images, are all images. Helpful, and an overlay of images.
I went into a bookstore a couple of days ago and found copies of Sarah Palin’s autobiography prominently displayed in the fiction section. It may have been a staff person who deliberately placed them there, or a customer with a sense of humor. For a book with so many obvious distortions and factual errors, it is perhaps a good placement.
But all biographies and autobiographies are in a very real sense fictional. They are heavily filtered through interpretations and whatever information is available – itself just a selection and heavily interpreted.
During the nights now, there is a sense of all drifting. Of all being in flow. It pulls any sense of having a sense of solid ground to stand on with it, which makes it difficult to hold onto a sense of a separate “I” – a center located in space and anchored on particular sensations.
It may be because I still have a very low grade flu.
In any case, it is an invitation to notice that ground – or those anchor points – for a sense of a separate I. To explore the dynamics around it, and notice what happens when it – the image of a doer/observer and the sensations it is anchored on – is noticed as content of experience just like any other content of experience.
I also notice the slight fear that comes up , and how comfortable that sense of a center seems. It is familiar. Has been around for a long time. (With some vacations.) And there are stories saying that something terrible will happen if identification is released out of it, if I find myself as the mystery all content of experience is the play of.
I don’t notice it much during the day since attention then has many places to go. But during the night, the flow of content goes into the foreground, pulling – almost – anchors, ground and “I” out to sea with it.
When I resist, it is uncomfortable. When I find curiosity and allow it as it is, it is quite different.
And when attention goes to the murmurs of fear, allowing it as it is with kindness, the sense of the flow and pull as “other” softens and falls away.
I notice tiredness of body and/or mind in the conventional sense.
When I look a little closer, I find that the tiredness appears quite differently through each sense field. As pure sensation, it is just a sensation. When it is combined with a label (“tiredness”) the sensation/story gestalt of tiredness appears. And when that one is taken as real, the tiredness gestalt appears as real, solid and substantial. It becomes an object in my life.
And when stories about that tiredness are taken as true, there is a holding onto or (more often) pushing away of this sense of tiredness. I wrestle with tiredness.
Things and experiences may appear a certain way, as a glass, cat, music, pain, emotions, an object, an experiencer, a sense of self.
But what do I find when I investigate them here and now? What do I find when I explore those that seem the most clearly defined, easily labeled, real, solid and stable?
Right now, there is an experience of a slight, dull pain at the base of the scull on the right side, and a slightly sharper pain at the left temple.
When I actively resist the experience, I find that the pain appears more solid, real, stable and easily labeled. There is also more of a sense of separation to it, and of a doer and observer that is separate from it. (Or trying to separate itself from it.)
Breath practice can also have an element of inquiry, either as a natural side-effect or as a result of more intentional focus.
Using the breath as an object of attention, attention is invited to calm down and stabilize.
In the process, I may quietly and wordlessly notice some of the dynamics around it
I usually bring attention to the sensations at the tip of the nose, but it could also be on the expansion of the belly front-and-back, the expansion of the chest, or the sensation of the cool air flowing through the nose and into the lungs.
My experience since the initial awakening is that “everything” is insubstantial and awareness itself. Whatever I see is God.
But this “everything” is only a rough everything. It leaves something out: smaller islands of density.
These function as anchors for a sense of I located in space, on sensations, and created through an overlay of images. There is a sense of a doer and observer located in and around the head area, located on sensations there (in my case and right now, created through a slight muscle tension in the upper neck and through the tongue slightly pressing against the back and upper part of my mouth), with an overlay of images of a doer and observer, images displacing some of those sensations so the sense of an observer is more around and outside of the head, and – crucially – images and stories telling me that is what I am.
All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
– Susan Sontag
I came across this quote earlier today at a exhibit of Binh Danh‘s beautiful photos.
A photography is always about the past, something that is already gone. It is a reminder of the ephemeral nature of any situation, experience and life. This situation, experience and life will be gone too, and so will eventually all of humanity.
In the same way, I find that thoughts are always about the past. They are either obviously about the past, apparently about the present – yet really about something that is already gone, or apparently about the future – but always projections based on the past. All thoughts are memento mori as well.
I can explore this through stories, reflect on how ephemeral my experiences and life is, find a new sense of urgency and appreciation that way, and a help in reorganizing my priorities in life.
And I can explore the ephemeral nature of everything in immediacy, as it happens here now. I can expore it through the sense fields, one field at a time. When I bring attention to the sounds, what do I find? Do any sound hang around? If a sound seems to last for a while, does it really? Can I notice how stories about past, current and possible future sounds create a sense of continuity? Can I find continuity outside of those stories? Can I notice how a story tells me a sound is similar to or the same as a previous sound? Is it really the same?
As soon as I take myself as the image of a separate I, it is not recognized as an image.
It is one of the many tricks of the mind.
The separate self gestalt takes different forms, such as a doer and an observer, always made up of sensations and images and other sense fields as appropriate. As any other gestalt it happens as content of experience, living its own life. It is not more what I am than any other content of experience.
Yet, as soon as this gestalt is taken as what I am, it becomes invisible as gestalt and content of experience. It becomes the eyeball that cannot see itself.
Even when attention is brought to it, it may shift to another location in space so it can take a look at where it used to be, continuining to be the eyeball that cannot see itself.
(There is a lot going on here: A story of a separate I located in particular area of space, usually in/around the head. A story of something observed. A story saying the separate I is observing. A story bringing attention to it. A story making it appear in a slightly different location in space.)
A simple way to explore this is through the headless experiments, as that which all experience – including the separate I gestalt – happens within.
Another is to explore the separate I gestalt – the doer, observer and so on – through the sense fields. How does it appear in each sense field? What are the sensation components? What is the image? Where is it in space? Is it content of experience? Does it come and go? Is it different from any other content of experience? Is it what I really am?