Thoughts as guide

 

At some point, we realize that thoughts are…. thoughts. They contain no final or absolute truth. They are tools. They are here to help us orient and function in the world.

As we mature in that realization, we learn to function in the embrace of knowing that thoughts are thoughts while also using them as guides.

One way that works pretty well is to…..

Use consensus reality thoughts as general guide in everyday life, unless there are good reasons not to. This is especially helpful when we interact with people and in our work…!

Use maps that fit with our deeper experience of reality, perhaps similar to what is found in some spiritual traditions.

Use overarching maps of maps found in, for instance, integral models such as the AQAL model of Ken Wilber.

Use kindess as a guide. Use big picture views and long term perspectives as a guide.

Know that our experience, our choice of views, and the views themselves are inherently biased. They are the product of the whole history and evolution of the universe up to this point. They each have innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe.

Use the maps, views, and orientations with some fluidity, receptivity, and humility. Knowing that with more experience and maturity, we’ll find other ones that make more sense to us.

And there is always further to go. What I outlined here is pretty basic and a first step.

Senseless, sensible, coming to our senses

 

Senseless: Lacking common sense, wildly foolish.

Oxford Dictionary

Sensible: Done or chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence, likely to be of benefit.

Oxford Dictionary

Come to your senses: to start to understand that you have been behaving stupidly.

Cambridge Dictionary

There is often wisdom in traditional sayings and expressions and even embedded in everyday words.

What does it mean to come to our senses? In an everyday use, it means to perceive and act in a more grounded and sensible way. There is a literal truth in that expression. When we are caught in thoughts, we can get a bit loopy and insane. We live in abstractions. We take our own imaginations, our own mental images and words, as reality. We make ourselves crazy that way.

Coming to our senses means to bring attention to our senses, to sensations, sights, sounds, smell, and taste. And also to our imaginations as what they are, recognizing them as mental images and words (imagined sounds and mental images). When we bring attention to our senses, the mind is incapable of simultaneously be caught up in stories and content of thought. It’s either one or the other. (Unless we do both half way, in which case we are still caught in stories and imagination.)

The more we bring attention to our senses, the more we make it into a new habit, and the more we have an actual freedom in shifting attention between our senses and occasionally into stories. Now and then, we do need to bring attention into stories to function in the world. Using stories in this practical sense is natural and kind. And we can do it as needed and while recognizing these stories as imaginations.

There is some effort here in terms of intentionally bringing attention to our senses. And over time, it becomes more and more effortless. Even the recognition of imagination as imagined becomes more effortless more often.

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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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The mind trying to make sense of what’s happening

 

The mind is a sweetheart, as one of my teachers (Todd C.) likes to say.

It tries to make sense of what’s going on. It tries to help out the best it can.

This happens when an old trauma is triggered by a current situation.

An old trauma is triggered by the current situation. A strong emotion or reaction comes up, the mind thinks it must be about the current situation, and makes up a story that makes it seem as if the current situation justifies the situation. To others, it may seem that the reaction is way out of proportion to the situation, but to the mind it seems justified because of the story it made up. (Afterwards, we may recognize this and feel perplexed or even a bit ashamed Or we may take it as an opportunity to look at the trauma and the initial situation creating it.)

And we also see it just about all the time in everyday life. Something happens, and the mind tries to make sense of it. It interprets. Makes a story out of it. Tries to make it coherent as best as it can. It may make a story out of it that either deflates or enhances the imagined self, depending on its inclination.

The mind is a story maker and we need it to function. We do need basic stories to navigate and orient in the world. And yet, it’s really helpful when we can recognize this as it happens. Recognize the stories as stories. Recognize velcro as velcro. (The charge we experience when the mind associates sensations with the stories.)

Emotions and thoughts are not telling the truth

 

Emotions and their associated thoughts can be misleading in two ways.

(a) We think they are about the current situation.

We assume they reflect or are justified by or even created by the current situation. The reality is that almost always, these emotions and accompanying thoughts are old. They come from early in life. They may even be passed on through the generations. The current situation trigger these old patterns in us.

Emotions and their thoughts are often not about what they on the surface seem to be about. A friend or partner leaves me, I feel a sense of abandonment and that I am unlovable, and that’s not really about the current triggering situation. It’s about early childhood experiences, perhaps all the way back to infancy, where I felt like this and it was not resolved. (The only way to resolve these is to be present with and feel the sensations, and examine the imaginations connected with it.)

(b) We think they tell us the truth.

We think the emotions and the associated stories tell us the truth about whatever they seem to be about. And yet, that’s usually not the reality. They are from identifications, beliefs, wounds, and even trauma. They come from reactivity. At most, they have a very limited validity, as do a number of other stories (including their reversals). And even more so, the reality is that we don’t know.

Using the example above, I have stories about being abandoned and unlovable. On the surface, they may seem and feel true. But they are really just imaginations (mental images and words) associated with sensations in the body. When we identify these and feel the physical sensations and look at the images and words, the original experience doesn’t seem so real anymore. We recognize it as created by the mind through sensations associated with imagination.

When I say emotions and their associated thoughts, I mean thoughts that seem to give meaning to, elaborate on, and explain emotions. And also thoughts that trigger and create emotions.

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Coming to our senses

 

Coming to our senses.

That’s an expression that can be understood literally.

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

I am absorbed in these stories, because they feel real. And they feel real because these images and words are connected with sensations in the body, which gives them charge and lends them a sense of solidity and reality.

All of this can be useful in a practical sense. Imagination is vital for us to function in the world, to plan ahead, run through different scenarios, sift through and examine the past, and act on what we learn from this imagination. It’s vital for our survival.

At the same time, it can go a bit awry. We can get caught in stressful stories about the past or future, and these can even go in a loop. We stress ourselves out rather than use imagination as a simple and practical tool.

What’s the remedy? One is to examine these stories. (Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the reversals? (The Work.) What images and words are associated to the sensations? What do I find when I look at each one, and ask some simple questions to help me see what’s there? (Living Inquiries.))

Another is to, literally, come to my senses.

I can notice what’s here. Notice sensation. Sound. Thought. Shift from thinking to noticing thought. Allow. Notice it’s all already allowed. Notice the boundless space it’s all happening within.

I can feel the sensations. Feel the sensations I may have wanted to escape, by going into thought. Rest with it. Take time.

Both of these – noticing and feeling – helps me shift out of thought.

The noticing helps me notice thought as thought, notice imagination as imagination.

The feeling helps me meet, feel, and even befriend the sensations I initially tried to escape by going into thought. I may get to see that the sensations that initially seemed uncomfortable or scary, because of the stories attached to them, are not so scary. They are sensations. They don’t inherently mean anything. I can feel them, rest with them, even find kindness towards them. I get to see I don’t need to escape sensations by compulsively going into thought. (Getting here may require some inquiry.)

This is a retraining of the mind. A forming of a new habit of noticing and feeling, when I notice the compulsion to go into (obsessive, stressful) thought.

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Finding safety in understanding

 

There are many flavor to how our minds turns away from feeling what’s here.

One is to try to find refuge and safety in understanding.

If I think about my understanding, I don’t have to feel this.

I can explore this in several ways:

What would I have to feel now if I didn’t think about my understanding? Feel that.

What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t go into understanding? Look for the threat.

Can I find X? Understanding? Insight?

Can I find X? Someone who understands? Someone who gets it?

Can I find the command to understand? To get it?

Here are some of the ways I use understanding – thinking about understanding something – as a way to avoid feeling what’s here:

I get caught in figuring something out. Or rehearsing an understanding, or elaborating on it, or fine-tuning it. I distract myself from feeling.

I use it to avoid shifting from thinking to noticing thoughts, since this often will lead to noticing and feeling what’s here.

I use it to avoid doing what the understanding is about. I think about my understanding of something instead of actually doing it, including dealing with things in my life, natural rest and inquiry. This helps me avoid feeling what I would have to feel if I actually did it.

There is of course absolutely nothing wrong about understanding and insight. It’s essential and beautiful. It’s what allows us to function in the world. And it’s what allows us to evolve as a species and civilization. It’s one of the ways life explores and experiences itself through us.

Even compulsively going to understanding to escape feelings is OK. It’s innocent. It comes from deep caring. It’s what the mind does when it scares itself with its own stories. And it’s not satisfying in the long run, or even in the moment.

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More personal thoughts

 

It’s warm today. I have to call my parents. I will take a shower before going outside. I need a new pair of summer shorts.

Some thoughts seem less personal, like these. (At least to me, now.)

And some thoughts seem more personal.

I am not getting enough sleep. Why did they paint the house with high-VOC paint? Don’t they realize how toxic it is, and that there are good alternatives? Why is the air conditioning on at night, when it only makes the air stuffy and humid, while the outdoor air is fresh and cool? Where am I going to stay the next few days or weeks? Life is unfair. I don’t belong among Americans.

I should be over this. I am embarrassed I still have a charge around it. I am not looking at the situation as clearly as I can. I am afraid I’ll mess it up. That I’ll get caught in reactivity, and regret it later.

The difference is that the latter thoughts have a charge around them. There is (some) identification with their viewpoint. They feel more true. They feel more real. There is more “velcro” there. (Words and images seem stuck on sensations, and these sensations gives the words and images charge, and a sense of reality, and that that’s “my viewpoint”.)

That’s why they seem more personal. That’s why they seem more true.

That’s why it’s easier to get caught up in identifying with their viewpoint and stories, and not even notice what they are – words, images, sensations.

These are the ones that can go “under the radar”, at least for a time. Often, it’s easier to recognize what they are later. And sometimes even as there is identification and charge around it

Some call these “secondary thoughts” or “commenting thoughts” but that doesn’t seem accurate to me. All thoughts are commenting on something, and they are all – really – commenting other thoughts. Thoughts comment on each other. That’s why they are all also secondary thoughts. They come after and depend on prior thoughts.

The difference, to me, is that some thoughts have more identification and velcro and seem more true, and other thoughts have less or (apparently) none of this. The latter are easier to recognize as what they are. The former can be a little more difficult to recognize.

That’s why it’s good to slow it all down, through resting with it, and perhaps asking some simple questions to clarify what’s there.

Every story was made up by someone

 

This is very obvious. And it can also make a big difference if we ponder it and take it in.

Every story was made up by someone.

And then passed on by others, and changed.

Any story was created by someone. Stories saying that a word means a certain thing. Or that something is good and something else is bad. Or that this is anger, or sadness, or pain, or joy. Or that loss or heartache is terrible. Or that humans are separate from rest of nature. Or that something called God or Spirit exist.

Stories about these stories were also made up by someone. Stories saying that the initial story is true, or false, or comes from an authority (so you should perceive and live as if it’s true), and so on.

Each of these stories were made up by someone. They are all a thought. They are more or less useful as a pointer in daily life. Their content is really a question only, a question about the world.

 

What is a thought ?

 

Thoughts. They seem very real. What they refer to may not be real, or may not be as the thought says it is, but the thought itself must be real?

What do I find when I look at thoughts?

I find that a thought may be an image. Or it may be a sound (a word or words) with associated images, for instance one or more images that the sounds refer to, and perhaps an image of the letters making up the word or words.

These may appear connected with certain sensations. And these sensations may lend a sense of reality and solidity to the images and/or words. The stronger sensations, and the stronger the sensations seem connected with the images and words, the stronger the sense of charge associated with the thought. This charge may appear to mean that what the thought refers to – or the thought itself – is real, important, good, bad, that I like it, or dislike it.

It can be helpful to notice this. Look at the images and/or words. Listen to the sounds. Feel the sensations. Perhaps ask simple questions about each, to clarify what’s really there. (And what is not.)

Seeing what’s really there, and feeling what’s really there, can be very freeing. It gives more freedom around the thought. I can relate to it with a little more clarity and intention.

Also, can I find a thought outside of these images, words, sounds, and sensations? Can I find a real thing called a thought?

Taking this further, I can explore images, words, sounds and sensations. Can I really find each of these, as a solid and real object? As they initially appear to me?

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Save all sentient beings

 

Hearing Buddhists talk about the intention of saving all sentient beings, I hear it in a way that makes sense to me right now.

I hear it as referring primarily to the beings arising in me – wounds, emotions, thoughts, physical pain, identifications.

If I was this wound, this emotion, this thought, this physical pain, how would I like to be met?

As a wound, I wish to be heard, felt, allowed. I wish you to be with me, to stay with me. I wish for you to let me have my life, and for whatever else comes up in you in response to me to have its life. I wish to be met, seen, felt, and even loved, as I am. I wish to be respected as I am, and also for healing and alignment with love and the reality of all as Spirit. I wish to be recognized as innocent, as love – even if I was created from confused love.

As confusion, I wish to be met with kindness. I wish to have my life. I wish for you to allow me my life, and for whatever else comes up in you in response to me to have it’s life as well. I wish to be recognized as innocent, and as love.

As a thought, I wish to be seen, felt, loved, as I am. I wish for you to identify the thought, and find what’s more true. I wish for you to do this for its own sake. If you notice any motives, any desires for me to go away or transform, I wish that you allow these their life as well, and that you make a note of them and find more clarity around these thoughts. I wish to be recognized as innocent, and as love, even if it’s confused love. I wish to be met with kindness and respect. I wish to align with love and all as Spirit. I wish for your help in being liberated from being taken as true.

As physical pain, I wish to be met with kindness by you. I wish to be met with love, to be held within love. I wish for you to identify and look into the resistant and stressful thoughts you have about me. I wish for you to identify and look into your images of me, and see what appears to be here, and what’s here when you look more closely.

As identification, I wish to be met with kindness, understanding, and love. I wish for you to see me as innocence and love, even if it’s confused love. I wish for you to befriend me, to relate to me as a friend. I wish for you to identify and look into the thoughts you have about me. What thoughts are there saying I will help you, protect you? What thoughts are there saying I am bad, wrong, something that needs to go away or change? What’s more true for you, when you look into these thoughts?

And as I find more kind ways of meeting and being with all of these beings, it may naturally, inevitably, without any effort or intention from my side, spill over in how I meet and am with beings in general – whether they are emotions, wounds, thoughts, or pain, or beings in the wider world – humans, animals, plants, ecosystems, society, Earth, future generations, past generations, present generations. It may or may not, and whatever thoughts I have about it is something I can meet with kindness, understanding, love.

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Three facets of thought: Page, letters, meaning

 

A book has three essential parts: The white pages, the ink and letters on the pages, and the content and meaning of the words.

And that’s how it is with images and thoughts – mental field activity – as well.

There is ink and letters – the images and thoughts themselves, as images and thoughts. It’s what I notice when I label images images, and thoughts thoughts. An image comes up, it’s labeled image. A thought comes up, it’s labeled thought.

There is a content to these images and thoughts, they have a meaning. An image is of a bird. A thought says it’s a magpie, and it’s standing at the doorstep looking in.

And it’s all happening on and as a white page. Images and thoughts happen as awareness, it’s the play of awareness taking a temporary form as an image or a thought. It’s “substance” or “material” is awareness itself.

So when there is an image or a thought here, the experience of it may be quite different depending on where attention goes.

(a) If attention goes to the content of the story, that’s what’s in the foreground. If attention is absorbed into the content of the story, and the story is taken as true, what it tells me will seem quite real, substantial and solid. And if the content is recognized as an innocent question about the world, as an image or thought and not reflecting any absolute or final truth, this content can be very helpful in a practical and pragmatic, sense as an aid to orient and navigate in the world.

(b) If attention goes to the image as an image, or the thought as a thought, for instance through labeling, then that’s what’s in the foreground. The image here is recognized as an image. The thought that’s here is recognized as a thought. Attention is freed from being absorbed into the content of the image or the thought, although there is awareness of this content.

(c) If attention goes to it all as awareness itself, as the play of awareness, then that’s what’s in the foreground. It’s all happening within and as what I am. And this includes any images or thoughts about a me as this human self, and an I as an observer or doer. A variation of this is bringing attention to the image that’s here, or the thought that’s here, as also love.

Again, this is perhaps most effectively explored through various forms of inquiry, investigating what’s here now in immediacy.

 

I-thougths sometimes really about others

 

I-thoughts are sometimes really about what I think others may think, say or do, only internalized so thoroughly I may not notice that’s what’s happening.

There is an I-thought saying I shouldn’t be tired, or I need to be active, I want to be healthy.

If I imagine myself alone in the whole world, would I still have the same thoughts? No, I find I am at peace with myself and the situation. That shows me the thought may really be about others and what I am afraid they will think, say or do.

So what are the thoughts I imagine others may have about me?

I am tired, not healthy, and what I am most afraid others will think, say or do is….

They will think I am lazy. They will think I am weak.

They will talk about my behind my back.

They will pity me. They will shun me. They will abandon me.

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Sounds and aftertoughts

 

When I sit with the Zen question who hears the sounds?, or explore the sense fields, I notice that what’s here is already here. It seems quite obvious.

Sounds are already heard. Sights already seen. Tastes already tasted. Sensations already sensed. Thoughts already thought.

It’s all already here, crystal clear, as awareness.

A sound appears. It’s already heard.

Then, there is a gap in time, and an image comes up, perhaps of a bird. It labels the sound. It’s an innocent question. Bird?

Then, another gap in time, and thoughts come up. It’s morning. It’s a small bird. And these are also innocent questions. Morning? Small bird?

By the time images label, and thoughts tell a story, the sound itself is gone. All this happens afterwards, as an afterthought.

Then there are some other thoughts.

The sound is heard by me, by this human self.

It’s heard by I, this doer, listener.

And these too happens afterward. A sound appears. There is an image, a label. There are thoughts, telling a story. And there is an image of a me hearing it, and I listening.

As this is seen, it’s almost comical. What I sometimes take as so solid and real – the label and the stories, the me and I listening – is, quite literally, an afterthought. It happens quite a bit later, after the sound itself is gone. It’s constructed.

When it’s taken as real and true, it seems real, substantial and true. It’s experienced that way. And when it’s seen to be just an afterthought – images and stories happening after the sound is already gone – it’s seen as an afterthought. It looses its sense of solidity. The label, the stories of the sound and a me and I are recognized as images and stories.

The same happens when I explore sensations, tastes, sights, and even mental activity itself. Who senses these sensations? Who tastes the taste? Who thinks these images? Who thinks these thoughts? In each case, I find it’s happening, crystal clear, as awareness, and there is a gap in time until there is an image and stories labeling and explaining what’s happening.

Love for the ego

 

The “ego” refers to the dynamics that happens when a thought is taken as true, it’s what I get to explore through question three in The Work.

One of the things that comes out of taking certain thoughts as true, is the tendency to take thoughts as true:

I will be more safe if I take this thought as true. I will get what I want if I take this thought as true. There is an I here. I am this body. I am this mind. It needs to be safe. It’s possible to be unsafe.

Another of the things that may come out of taking certain thoughts as true, is to see this as a problem or even wrong or bad or something we need to get rid of.

The ego is a problem. The ego causes suffering. I need to get rid of the ego.

Beliefs are a problem. Beliefs causes suffering. I would be better off without beliefs. I need to get rid of beliefs.

There is an ego. There are beliefs. There are thoughts. It’s possible to take thoughts as true.

As I investigate these thoughts, and notices the dynamics around taking thoughts as true, I may find a genuine appreciation for the “ego” – for all of this.

It’s all innocent. It’s all confused love. It’s what happens when the thought “I” is taken as true, there is the thought it needs to be protected, and that taking thoughts as true can help it keep safe.

Through more clarity on this, I find a genuine love for the ego, for these dynamics. I see their function. I see it’s innocent. I see it comes from love, a slightly confused love.

And I see it’s all already love.

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Stressful and negative thoughts

 

I listened to an interview with Byron Katie where the interviewer used the words stressful and negative thoughts.

One the one hand, it seems that no thoughts are inherently stressful, and thoughts are not negative or positive.

And yet, thoughts can appear stressful when taken as true. And thoughts may appear negative or positive depending on what beliefs I have about them.

I also noticed that Byron Katie let it pass without attempting to clarify. I imagine she let it pass because stressful and negative thoughts are terms most people are familiar with, it can be an easy way into being more curious about inquiry, and when we do inquiry, it’s often or usually – at least in the beginning – on thoughts we could call stressful or negative. The stressful and negative labels make sense in the beginning, and if we stay with inquiry for a bit, we’ll question these labels as well.

Thoughts as love

 

Through inquiry, thoughts are revealed as love.

And taking thoughts as true is love too.

– 0 –

Thoughts are innocent questions about the world.

They are there to help exploring, navigating and functioning in the world.

And taking a thought as true is equally innocent.

A thought is taken as true because it’s innocently seen as right and helpful.

And thoughts and taking them as true both happens within and as the mind, within and as awareness, within and as love.

– 0 –

So a thought is love because it makes it possible to explore, navigate and function in the world.

Taking a thought is love because it’s seen as helpful.

And both are love because they happen within and as the mind, within and as awareness, within and as love.

Finally, not being able to take a thought as true is also love, because it comes from clarity and allows kindness and wisdom to function more freely in and through this life.

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Three Meanings of Thought

 

The word thought can refer to at least three things:

(a) It’s commonly used to refer to a verbal and conscious thought. If there is a story such as “I thought that” it seems intentional, and if not, it may seem unintentional.

(b) Thoughts can also be in the form of images. There is a sound, and then an image of a bird to match the sound. This seems to often happen without much conscious awareness, although the images can have a strong effect on experience.

(c) Finally, thoughts can refer to the whole world of experience they create, especially when they are taken as true. Thoughts create the most basic boundaries (I, other, world, object, being) and the most basic interpretations and labels. They filter perception, trigger emotions, and create even basic experiences such as hunger and pain. Thoughts create a whole world – rich and full bodied, and it may appear unquestionably real.

When I use the word thought here, it’s often in the third, more inclusive meaning.

Metaphor

 

“We have discovered, over the past decade and a half, that a conceptual system contains an enormous subsystem of thousands of conceptual metaphors — mappings that allow us to understand the abstract in terms of the concrete. Without this system, we could not engage in abstract thought at all — in thought about causation, purpose, love, morality, or thought itself. Without the metaphor system, there could be no philosophizing, no theorizing, and little general understanding our everyday personal and social lives. But the operation of this vast system of conceptual metaphor is largely unconscious. We reason metaphorically throughout most of our waking, and even our dreaming lives, but for the most part are unaware of it. At present, the metaphor system of English has barely begun to be worked out in full detail, and the metaphor systems of other languages have been studied only cursorily. Working out the details would be a huge job — not as big as the human genome project, but most likely more beneficial. For what is at stake is our understanding of ourselves and our daily lives, and the possibilities for improvement through that understanding.”
– George Lakoff, ‘The Neurocognitive Self’ in The Science of The Mind, page 229.

“Space and force pervade language. Many cognitive scientists (including me) have concluded from their research on language that a handful of concepts about places, paths, motions, agency, and causation underlie the literal or figurative meanings of tens of thousands of words and constructions, not only in English but in every other language that has been studied. … These concepts and relations appear to be the vocabulary and syntax of mentalese, the language of thought. … And the discovery that the elements of mentalese are based on places and projectiles has implications for both where the language of thought came from and how we put it to use in modern times.”
– Stephen Pinker, How The Mind Work, page 355.

Through inquiry, my world of metaphors is revealed bit by bit, and itself taken to inquiry. It goes from being unconsious and sometimes unconsciously believed to investigated and perhaps liberated from belief.

Thoughts create my world

 

How do my thoughts create my world?

I find that my images and thoughts label and interpret my sense fields.

So any image or thought of what’s happening is from my own thoughts. Nothing else.

And these in turn create feelings and emotions.

Which in turn influence how I am in the world.

The world may then accommodate my labels and interpretations (self-fulfilling prophecy), and that is just another interpretation.

Abstract thinking in evolutionary perspective

 

I am reminded of this again:

Abstract thinking, especially in it’s verbal form, is relatively new for humanity and for life in general. (I imagine the image form of abstract thinking is much older and shared with many other animals.)

And that’s perhaps we are having trouble with it. Why so many of us seem predisposed to believe our thoughts, and why we often are unable to take the long and big perspective even when it benefits us. Abstract thinking is a new tool for us. We are still trying to figure out how to use it, and how to relate to it in a more mature way.

It seems that reasonable that seeing thoughts as thoughts, not believing them, has an evolutionary advantage. When I believe a thought, it creates stress, drama and false perceptions. When there is more clarity around a thought, I can relate to it as a thought. I can use it as a tool if that seems helpful, and let it pass otherwise.

So humanity may, in time, evolve to not so easily believe thoughts.

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Where the focus goes

 

A thought comes up.

Focus goes to the thought, and it may seem very true. A whole world is created out of that thought.

Focus goes to the true context of that thought – the clear field of awareness and experience – and the thought is seen as what it is.

It can be very simple.

Thought and energy

 

Thoughts can give me a sense of drained energy, or they can be energizing. And this seems to depend on their content, and more importantly, how I relate to them.

In general, when I take a story as true, it will drain my energy. And when I recognize it as just a thought, it will be neutral or even slightly energize.

Why is there an experience of drained energy? I imagine it comes from the image of an “I” or “me” struggling with the wider world, in different ways. Just taking that image as real and true will give an experience of energy drain, tiredness, and at times even exhaustion.

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Although eating honey is a very good thing to do

 

poohs-party

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
~A.A. Milne

Even a simple Pooh quote is a question and invitation for investigation.

When anticipating eating honey, it is easy to see that the joy of sweet anticipation is all in the mind. If we like honey, that is.

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An ant on the plains

 

 

In the context of what we are, the human psyche is minuscle. And we all know it, even if we don’t always recognize it or take it seriously. 

When identification is,  even to some extent, released out of content of experience, we find ourselves as that which experience happens within and as. And this is capcaity for whatever is happening. It has nothing to do with size, and yet has a taste of the infinite, and is also as big as whatever content of experience is here. 

Right now, it is as big as this room. When I go outside for a walk, it is as big as the landscape, the clouds and the wind. At night, it is as big as the furthest stars. 

And although this psyche with its thoughts and emotions is not located anywhere, there is also a sense of it being located in and around this human self. The mental field creates gestalts anchoring it to sensations and images of this body. 

So in the context of what I am, my psyche is minuscle. It is a tiny part of the whole field. What I am is awakeness and capacity for whatever is happening, it is this room as awakeness itself, the landscape as awakeness itself, the clouds, wind and stars as awakeness itself, and it is thoughts and emotions as awakeness itself, as a tiny part of this immensely larger whole. 

When I take myself to be the psyche, it can seem immense and fill up my whole world, leaving just a periphery to the wider world. 

When I forget to take myself as the psyche, there is a shift into what I am and the psyche is just a tiny part of the field. It does its own thing, living its own life, as it always does, but it is just a small player on the stage. 

And we all know it. We all experience it throughout the day when we are out in nature, relax, get absorbed into whatever activity we are engaged in, forget to get caught up in stories for whatever reason. We may not notice, or recognize it as what we are, or take it seriously and as something to investigate further, but it is there. 

It is not mysterious in that sense. 

 

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Appreciation and differentiation

 

When I differentiate, it can happen within the context of appreciation or not.

If I differentiate – using thought to sort things out – within appreciation, I find that it tends to invite in curiosity and receptivity. I am more free to explore different views and takes on the topic, find the validity in each, and ways these views may fit together into a larger picture. If I am engaging with someone else, there tends to also be more of a sense of us and a recognition of myself in the other. A sense of exploration and partnership, whether the other person is open to that or not.

If I differentiate and it is not within a context of appreciation, it can be quite neutral. But the stage is also set for more easily going in the direction of a rigid view and a closed heart. Instead of a more open exploration, I may go into justifying or defending a particular view. I may go into polarization. I may experience separation to others and the views they happen to use as a guideline.

Either one is of course fine. And the differentiation without appreciation may be an effective tool in some specific situations. (Tough love, but there can be appreciation even there, just not expressed so directly.)

But in general, differentiation within the context of appreciation seems to be more helpful. When the heart comes in and supports the mind, there is more receptivity and curiosity there, and a willingness to explore the validity in a wider range of views. In some ways, there is a certain intelligence that comes from the heart supporting the mind.

Even when the differentiation comes up with the same in both cases, it is at least more enjoyable to do it within the context of appreciation and a deeper sense of us.

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A world of images

 

Exploring the sense fields, it is pretty easy to get a sense of how we imagine the world.

The mental field creates an overlay of images of what is here (in the other sense fields) and what is not here.

And that world of images is – in a very real sense – my world, when they are taken as true.

Whatever drama I experience all comes from the characteristics and relationships among these images. It comes from the characteristics of each image, and how it relates to all the other images.

In the beginning, it may be easier to notice this through a sense field exploration session. Sitting or lying down, and notice how the mental field creates image overlays on each of the other sense fields (interpretations), and also how the past and future is imagined in the same way.

After a while, this happens throughout daily life as well. As I go about my daily life, I notice the image overlay on the other sense fields (interpretations of what is happening) – and also the image overlay that is free from the other sense fields. (Images of past, future, what is not present in a physical sense.)

Again, it is pretty simple, but can have a profound effect when recognized throughout daily life. I notice – in an immediate way – how the drama is created and happens within my own image overlay.

It is, quite literally, imagined.

If it is not recognized as imagined, there is a sense of being caught up in drama. The image overlay – including that of a doer and observer – seems very substantial and real.

When it is recognized as imagined, the layer of drama tends to weaken or fall away. And what is left is the image overlay as a very helpful – and essential – tool for my human self to function in the world.

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It is gold, so why wait?

 

Here is a slight variation on a common topic…

Our stories create a limited identity for us, and to the extent we identify with it, we are at odds with reality.

There is an identity to justify, defend and prop up. Someone may see something in us that doesn’t fit, and we feel a need to defend against it. Or our human self may do something that doesn’t fit, and we feel a need to defend our identity there too. We are at odds with life as it is, and there is a sense of drama and struggle.

So whenever this happens, it is a great opportunity to notice our identification with a particular identity. We take the offended identity as true, but what is more true for us? What do I find when I explore it for myself.

Someone may say “you are …” (fill in the blank). I notice a reaction to it, a movement to defending an identity, and this is a sure sign that I identify with and take a story as true. There may be stress. Tension. Hurt. Defensiveness. Reactiveness. Getting caught up in stories.

And I can meet and explore this in different ways. I can allow and meet the experience, and the fear behind it. I can notice the belief behind it, and find what is more true for me. I can feel and see the characteristic in me, as a part of my human wholeness, and our shared humanity.

In each case, what I find is that behind the initial reaction, there is pure gold. I find another piece of my lost wholeness as a human being. I am released out of a false – and too narrow – identity. I find another aspect of our shared humanity right here. I experience more of the fullness of who I already am.

If I get caught up in defending the threatened identity, all the usual things happen. A sense of stress. Tension. Conflict. Separation. (To myself and others.) Getting caught up in obsessive thoughts. Hurt. And more than that, I miss out of pure gold. I miss out of finding a previously excluded piece of my own wholeness.

The only problem is that most of the time, I don’t know what people think about me. They just don’t tell, at least not if it is anything they see as unfavorable. I miss out of the gold because it doesn’t happen that often. So what can I do?

Fortunately, there is a way around it. I can use any statement that comes my way, no matter who or what it is about and where it comes from (including my own thoughts), and turn it around to myself.

How is it true for me? Can I find it right here? What happens when I inquire into the beliefs and identities preventing me from feeling and seeing it in my human self? What happens when I allow myself to feel and see it right here?

Whatever statement comes up, I can turn it around to find it in myself.

This process leads to a healing and maturing of who I am, as this human self. And it releases identification out of stories, which makes it easier for what I am to notice itself.

It is pure gold, so why wait?

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