A cat looks male and then female: mental field overlays

A neighbor cat has been visiting for the last few weeks, and I assumed he was a male at first. It now looks more likely that she is a female.

I notice very clearly the mental field overlays here. When I thought he was a male, he looked male. My mind created a male overlay on the cat, and that made him look male to me. My mind interpreted his features as male. And now that I think she is a female, she looks female. My mental field overlay makes her look female to me. My mind interprets her features as female.

This is, of course, in addition to all the other mental field overlays my mind creates: Cat, boundary between cat and what’s not-cat, ideas about this particular cat, ideas about me and my relationship with cats, and so on.

Update: I learned that he is actually male and is called, very appropriately, Simba. So now he looks male again, through some of the cultural associations I have with being a male and a male cat.

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Hardly exists at all

Imagined images, words and sounds hardly exist at all.

And they have an important function. They give the world meaning. They create an imagined overlay of the world, giving the world meaning through imagined boundaries, insides and outsides, labels, names, interpretations, stories, and much more. They – quite literally – create our world, they create the world as it appears to us.

For hardly existing at all, this imagined overlay can seem very real when not examined. It’s stories and interpretations can seem solid and real, and have very real consequences in how we perceive the world, and how we live in the world.

When it is examined, through a free or more structured inquiry, it’s revealed as an imagined overlay right on the border of not even existing. It is still used for practical reasons, for navigating and functioning in the world. And – to the extent it’s recognized as an imagined overlay – it’s held very lightly.

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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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Ground and buildups

A simple way of looking at how our world is built up…

First, the Ground of empty awareness, the no-thing that allows all things. The inherent absence of form which allows any form, the absence of color which allows any color, the absence of sound which allows any sound, and so on.

The, the world of form, which is no other than Ground itself. It happens within, to and as Ground. It is awakeness temporarily happening as form.

These are the sense fields… sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.

Then, or as part of this, the overlay of thought. Thoughts that interpret and ask questions about the world. Creating boundaries. Mimicking the other sense fields. Forming gestalts with the other sense fields. Helping our human self to orient, navigate and function in the world.

Then, the overlay of beliefs in thoughts. Thoughts telling us that certain thoughts and gestalts are true, substantial, real.

And finally, from beliefs, the overlay of drama. The drama of maintaining and protecting beliefs. The drama of an I with an Other. The drama of story management.

The ones up through thought are there as long as this human self are around, whether Ground is awake to itself or not.

And the two last ones – beliefs and the drama of beliefs – are there when Ground is not quite awake to itself, when Ground forms itself into the appearance and belief in a separate I.

This map is only helpful – at best – as a preliminary roadmap while exploring this for ourselves, suggesting what to look for on the way.

And for me, labeling practice and exploring the sense fields is the most direct and effective way to explore it, along with all the other practices such as the Big Mind process, headless experiments, The Work, and being with experiences.