When I look, I find that words are imagined sounds. They are something I hear. Just like I hear the sound of birds, cars, and the wind, I imagine hearing words. They are all sounds.
I also find that words can be mental images. They are something I see. Just like I see a tree, the sky, and houses, I imagine seeing words. They are all images.
When I notice this – when I notice words as sounds and images – it’s easier to recognize them for what they are. They are imagined sounds. They are imagined images.
And this also helps me notice that they are imagined. They are imagination. This is often a useful imagination. It helps me orient and function in the world. And they are imagination. They are fantasies.
What happens when I notice this? What happens when I notice that thoughts that have a charge for me are sounds, images, and imagination? What happens when I rest in and as that noticing? There is a softening of the charge. There is less identification with their viewpoint. There is a curiosity that comes in. Maybe they are not as true as my mind, in its innocent confusion, took them as?
It can be helpful to use a structured exploration here, especially when it comes to thoughts with a strong charge. I have found the Kiloby Inquiries – a modern version of traditional Buddhist sense field explorations – to be the most effective for this. (Marina and I are both trained in that approach.)
And as usual, there is a lot more to explore here.
Why does my mind assume that some imaged sounds and images are actively created by me? It’s usually because they align with my conscious view. The sounds of cars, birds, and waves are obviously not created by me. Some random thoughts without much charge may also not appear to be created by me. But some familiar thoughts with a charge seem to be created by me. It feels like “I” am actively thinking them. And that feeling and assumption is created by the mind. When I explore it, I find it comes from another thought. It comes from mental sounds and images that tell me “I am actively creating those thoughts”. In reality, they are sounds and images like anything else.
I can also notice this more directly. I can notice thoughts – imagined sounds and images – as they appear. They come out of nothing and dissipate into nothing. (And are even made up of what a thought can label nothing.) They live their own life.
Who is that “I” thinking these thoughts? When I explore it, I find the same. I find a collection of mental images associated with certain physical sensations. I cannot find an “I” or “me” outside of this. It’s all happening within the sense fields. It only takes on the meaning of “I’ and “me” through thoughts telling me that’s how it is.
Even if I generally and “globally” get this, there will still be certain thoughts with a charge, and the charge means there is some identification there. A part of me hold those thoughts as true. So it’s worth exploring and investigating them and see what I find.