It seems pretty obvious. The world doesn’t fit neat little categories.
So why do I even mention it?
Because it points to something important about how our minds work.
MENTAL FIELD OVERLAY
Our experience can be distinguished into sense fields. We can say that these sense fields are physical sensations, sight, sound, taste, smell, the mental field, and so on. (That distinction itself is made up of categories and we can imagine other ways to make that differentiation. It’s made up for convenience.)
Our mental field functions as a kind of overlay on the world. We make sense of the world through an overlay of mental images and words. And we can say that this overlay consists of labels, imaginary boundaries, stories, and so on. (That too is a somewhat arbitrary distinction made for convenience.)
These mental field overlays are created by our minds. None of it is inherent in the world.
That seems obvious too.
WE IMAGINE THE REST OF THE WORLD
And yet, there is another layer here.
Our immediate experience of the world is filtered through this mental overlay.
And what’s not here in our immediate experience – the whole rest of the world – only exists to us in our mental field.
There is a whole lot of imagination going on here.
We imagine boundaries, distinctions, labels, categories, stories, and so on. And we imagine anything that’s not here in immediate experience. We imagine the whole rest of the world.
ANY THOUGHT IS CATEGORIZATION
In a sense, all this mental field overlay is doing is categorizing. It creates imaginary divisions, labels, stories, and so on. And it’s all a way to categorize the world.
What’s the function of this?
It’s all to help us orient and function in the world.
Without it, we wouldn’t be able to function. It’s all essential for our life in the world.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THOUGHT
Thoughts have some characteristics.
They function as a map of the world, to help us orient and navigate.
They help us explore possibilities before we act in the world.
They are questions about the world. They are always provisional and up for revision. (Even what may seem the most solid to us is that way, including what comes from what we see as the most authoritative source. And the idea of authority is another question about the world.)
They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.
THE WORLD IS MORE THAN AND DIFFERENT FROM OUR MAPS
And the world is always more than and different from our maps.
Our mental field overlay is an overlay created by our mind. The distinctions, labels, and stories are not inherent in the world. It’s ours.
IF SO OBVIOUS, WHY EVEN MENTION IT?
Again, all of this may seem obvious. So why even mention it?
It’s because it may be obvious to us in a general sense and intellectually, but is it obvious to us at a more visceral level?
Often not. Our mind and system tend to hold onto some stories as true, often without even realizing it.
And that’s what creates hangups, closed minds, a closed heart, rigidity, contraction, tension, and stress. Taken to the extreme, it’s what creates fundamentalism, bigotry, and intentionally harmful behavior.
EXPLORING HOLDING ONTO STORIES AS TRUE
How can we explore the parts of us holding onto stories as true?
Inquiry is one way, and especially structured inquiry guided by someone familiar with that terrain.
What I have found most effective is The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby Inquiries, and perhaps also the Big Mind process.
Another approach is any form of therapy we are drawn to and that works for us. That too can help us identify and find some freedom from taking stories as true.
WHY DO WE HOLD ONTO STORIES AS TRUE?
Why do we have such an apparently unhealthy relationship with our mental field?
Why do we hold onto some stories as true even if they are obviously painful and not as true as we pretend they are?
The simple answer may be that we do as others do. As we grow up, we do what we see others do.
Another answer is that we try to find safety in holding certain thoughts as true. It seems to give us an advantage. We can pretend we know how things are. We don’t need to stay open and receptive, at least not in the area of life covered by that particular story.
The reality is quite different. Holding onto these stories is out of alignment with reality. We pretend something that’s not true. And somewhere in us, we know what’s going on. We cannot trick ourselves. And that creates stress.
Holding onto stories as true creates stress in other ways as well. It is created by our mental field so we need to remember, rehearse, and prop up the story. We need to defend it when life or others inevitably show us something out of alignment with the story. We create rigidity in our perception and life. We miss out on options in life. We may get into conflicts with others just because we hold different and apparently incompatible stories as true.
WHEN TAKEN FURTHER
We can take these explorations further.
We may realize that even our ideas about who or what we are are ideas. They do not reflect reality in an accurate or complete way. We can even examine each of these stories and find what’s more true for us.
So what are we more fundamentally?
When I look, I find I am more fundamentally capacity. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for the sense fields and anything happening within content of experience.
I am the field all of it happens within and as, including any sense impressions that my mental field says is this human self, any ideas of what I am or am not, and any tendency to hold any one of those ideas as true or not.