I just returned from another excellent CSS retreat, this time led by Todd who brought a wonderful fullness of heart and emotion into it along with the usual (unusual) clarity about Ground awakening that any of the teachers at CSS express.
Some of the things that came up for me using the choiceless awareness practice (labeling the six sense fields, then in this case exploring thought specifically)…
First, the new stuff…
- There is the very familiar layer of discursive thought (self-talk), and also the layer of labeling images, labeling whatever arises in the sense-fields. For instance, something arises (bird song) and an image of a bird is placed on top of the sound. Or I close my eyes, and can still see a pale vaguely defined image of my body there, and any body part. There are sensations (swallowing) and an image of the swallowing mechanism placed on top of the sensations. A sound (lawn mover) and a vague image of a person pushing a lawn mover placed on top of the sound. These images provide a preliminary suggestion or interpretation of the perception, and serve as a fertile ground for discursive thought to arise and draw from if discursive thought arises related to that perception. These are interpretive labeling images.
- A particular type of labeling images seem to provide cues for emotions. A perception arises, an image label suggesting what it may be is placed on top of it, and sometimes, another image label is added which provide emotion and mood cues. For me, these have color and texture as cues for what emotions and moods to trigger. (I need to explore this more to see how it plays itself out, and am also not sure if this is the same for everyone. I tend to associate words and concepts with color and texture anyway, a mild case of synesthesia, so I suspect this may be different for many others.)
- Another type of labeling images seem to do the same for the truth content of a thought, either as really believed in or as conventional (relative) truth. For me, thoughts seen as true appear as yellow, while those less true as pale and neutral. The ones really true (believed in and taken as true) appears as bright slightly orange yellow. And those with only conventional truth as a more gentle yet still bright yellow. Weird, I know, but possibly due to synthesia.
Then some other things about thought images, which I have also explored in the past…
- Some labeling images serve as guide for attention and filter for perception. I have an image of my hand, which allows attention to go to the sensations arising in that area of space, even in the absence of visual perception. I have an image of what constitutes sound, so I can bring attention mainly or only to sound, filtering away other perceptions.
- A sense of space and continuity seem to come from thought images. There is an image of space, overlaid on perception. And an image of continuity, also overlaid on what arises. One variation of the space image is that of center and periphery, which is strongly into play when there is a belief in a separate self (which is the center, with the rest of the world in concentric circles, more or less, away from this center).
- A sense of a separate self also seems to come from, or at least be supported by, these labeling images. As with other labeling images, these are varied, adaptive and fluid, taking whatever form is suited to the situation. One image is the body image, although this one is really only about the human self, not in itself a separate self. Then there is an image of self as an object or seen, which also in itself is not about a separate self. Finally, and this one has to do with a sense of a separate self, an image of self as seeing. When there is a sense of a separate self, I notice that the image of self as seeing/subject and the image of self as seen/object are separated in space, with the object image typically slightly in front of the body and the subject image in, around or slightly behind the head. This one is still a little fuzzy for me, which is why this description is a little fuzzy as well.
- There are also thought images of separation specifically, with an I over here in this body and an Other over there at another location in space. When needed, the separation is marked as a boundary in the image.
- These images of a separate self are anchored in sensations, specifically those where the head is (or rather where the labeling image of the body tells me the “head” is). And if need be, muscles are contracted to provide sensations as an anchor for these images.
About thoughts in general…
- Thoughts, whether discursive or of the labeling type, are more like innocent questions about the world than anything else. They, obviously, are essential for this human self to function and operate in the world, and they do their job by providing suggestions for how this world works and what this human self could do. In themselves, they are more like questions and suggestions, but when believed in, they appear as statements. And that is what brings drama and (apparent) trouble.
- Any thought is always about the past. If they are about what we think of as the past, they are clearly about the past. if they are about what appears as the present, there is always a little lag time between the perception and the thought about the perception, so also about the past. And if they are about what appears as the future, they are still about the past because they draw (only) about the past for their scenarios. They have no other source than the past for their scenarios and projections about the future.
- And finally, any of these apparent reminders are not really reminders at all. They are all new and fresh discoveries as they happen. Only in a thought do they appear as a reminder, as similar to what has been discovered in the past (which is another thought).
And among other things…
- Insight opens for appreciation, which in turn allows for a reduced resistance to and identification with whatever comes up. Exploring thought, I found a new awe and appreciation for them and their intricacies and also simplicity, although I am only seeing a fraction of what is probably there. The process also seems to apply to emotions where appreciation leads to a more wholehearted and heartfelt being with of whatever comes up, which in turn allows them to show themselves more fully without the filter of resistance, often, in my experience, turning into a dynamic sweet fullness no matter what they started out as. It also seems to apply to other things in the world such as insects and critters, people, oneself, and probably anything else. For instance, I recently watched the Life in the Undergrowth series with David Attenborough, and it is difficult to not find a great deal of appreciation for insects after that. A lack of appreciation can easily trigger aversion, which is resistance, which comes from and fuels identification with a belief. And appreciation tends to unravel and undo that process. Maezumi Roshi would apparently often say appreciate your life.
There is more, which will probably come out in coming posts.