When we see for ourselves, even to some extent, that the sense of separate self, and also space and continuity, and much more, all comes from thoughts, it can be a little shocking at first. After all, we typically see thoughts as just the verbal type, the one that it seems “I” am thinking and producing, consciously. How can that thought create this sense of separate self, and space and continuity, which seems so substantial and real? It doesn’t make sense.
And it doesn’t make sense, because the thoughts producing all these core beliefs and experiences are of a different type. They are not verbal. They are rarely if ever consciously noticed. They are certainly not produced by me, consciously. And they underlie our whole experience of the world, throughout the day and even in our dreams at night.
For me, these thoughts are image thoughts, and they organize a whole elaborate system of other thoughts, which all filter perception in a certain way, making this filtered perception appear very real and substantial. So real, in fact, that it is rarely if ever questioned. And if it is, then usually only in an intellectual way, as a fun idea to play around with.
It is quite different to notice it as it happens, through for instance labeling practice or choiceless awareness, or any other practice that helps us differentiate pure perception and thoughts. (Thoughts themselves are also within the field of perception, but for this purpose it helps to differentiate that one into two.)
Now, we can see the thought image of space overlaid on perception, allowing perception to appear spread out and be localized in particular places in space. We can see how thoughts create the appearance of continuity and time through memories. And we can see how a sense of a separate self is created through image thoughts of a center in space, of an inside and outside, of a subject and object, and other similar ones all contributing to creating a sense of a separate self, and of a doer responsible to thoughts, choices, behaviors and so on.