Nothing matters, everything matters

We can explore this in different ways.

CAN APPEAR AS A PARADOX

If we take thoughts as holding exclusive truth, then this can seem a paradox. (1)

How can both be true?

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

If we recognize thoughts as thoughts, this seems different.

Thoughts are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and navigate in the world.

Thoughts cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. (2)

Here, we recognize that everything and nothing and matters are all ideas. They are mind-made and not inherent in the world.

THE VALIDITY OF BOTH

And there is validity in both.

When I explore this, I find…

Nothing matters

To matter is an idea. I cannot find it outside of an idea. It’s not inherent in reality. Nothing matters because I cannot find “to matter” outside of my ideas of it.

Everything matters

To me, everything happens within and as the consciousness I am. It’s literally me taking all these forms. Everything matters because to me it’s all me.

Also, as a human being, I love this world. I love nature. I love all the ways reality shows up. I love how the universe has formed itself into all we know. I am part of this world so everything matters to me.

It’s all true in its own way.

NOTES

(1) To get to this point where thoughts seem true AND mutually exclusive, we have to do a lot of mental gymnastics. We have to convince ourselves, against overwhelming contrary evidence, that our thoughts somehow are true. (Whatever that means.) And we have to convince ourselves, again against overwhelming evidence, that whatever validity is in different thoughts is mutually exclusive.

(2) Our ideas about the world highlight some features and leave other things out. They leave out an infinite amount, and we mostly don’t even know what’s left out. They are different in nature from what they point to. They reflect our unique viewpoints and biases. The world is always more than and different from our ideas about it.

“I don’t know anything for certain”

When I was a kid, I would ask the repeated “why” question as most other kids.

My father would give an answer. I would ask why. He would give another answer. And so on.

I assume I did this partly from a genuine curiosity and interest in learning, and partly to see the limits of my father’s – and the adult’s – understanding and knowledge about the world.

At some point, I would also ask: Are you sure? Are you sure it’s like that?

He answered: I don’t know anything for certain.

I must have taken it to heart. It’s been one of the guidelines in my life.

I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING FOR CERTAIN

Here is how I came to see it a few years later and still see it:

Thoughts are questions about the world. There is always a question mark after each thought, even if we don’t notice it.

They are here to help me orient and function in the world. They are maps. They help me communicate with myself and others.

They have different degrees of validity in a conventional sense. And they each have validity in one form or another. (At the very least, as a mirror for something in us.)

They are always provisional in a conventional sense. They are always up for revision.

They can be pointers. They can point to certain things we can explore for ourselves.

They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Why? Because they are different in kind from what they refer to. (Unless they happen to refer to thoughts.) They are simplifications. Reality is always more than and different from any map. And reality, as it appears to us, is also simpler in its essence.

This applies to any kind of mental representation, whether it’s a mental image or words (visual or auditory). And it applies whatever the thought apparently is about, whether it’s ourselves, others, a situation, the world, science, philosophy, God, or whatever it may be.

I love that we have thoughts. And I also want to be sober about their limits.

HOW I HAVE EXPLORED THIS

As I mentioned, I must have taken this to heart when I heard it from my father when I was four or five (?) years old.

When there was a shift into oneness at age sixteen, I also saw this directly. I could easily see the limits of thought.

In my teens and early twenties, I also delved into the philosophy of science and I loved and devoured the writings of people like Fritjof Capra, Arne Næss, Gregory Bateson, and David Bohm.

And later, I got into The Work of Byron Katie, Buddhist inquiry, and modern versions of Buddhist inquiry like the Living / Kiloby Inquiries.

Photo: An image of my father when he was young, perhaps a few years before I was born.

Grounding speculations in what’s here and now

Some stories are clearly speculation. For instance, any kind of cosmology, ideas about an afterlife or spiritual entities, and so on.

And yet, there is a way we can ground it in what’s here and now.

We can use these stories as a mirror. We can find what they point to here and now in ourselves.

FINDING IT HERE AND NOW IN OUR MENTAL FIELD

How can we find the stories here and now?

The most immediate way is to find them in our mental field.

What are the mental representations I have that make up the story? What are the mental images? The words? How is it to rest in noticing the mental images? How is it to rest in looking at (or hearing) the words?

We can also take this a step further.

What are the physical sensations associated with these images and words? Where do I feel it in my body? How is it to rest in noticing those sensations? How is it to notice them as physical sensations?

What other images and words come up? What are the associations? How is it to rest in noticing these?

THE EFFECT OF RECOGNIZING OUR MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

This can seem obvious. Of course, any story happens as mental representations and in our mental field. And yet, a part of us don’t always know it. A part of us confuses the mental representations for what they point to. And that’s why it can be very helpful to consciously notice these mental representations, recognize them for what they are, and rest in that noticing so our system can take it in.

Any time a story has a charge for us, it’s because our mind associates sensations with the story. These sensations lend a sense of charge to the story, a sense of solidity and substance. And the stories give these sensations a sense of meaning. When we rest in noticing the mental representations as mental representations, and the sensations as sensations, we see through the illusion. We recognize the stories more easily as stories and the sensations as sensations. And we confuse the stories less with reality.

USING STORIES AS A MIRROR

We can also use the stories as mirrors.

What’s the story? What do I find if I turn it to myself? Can I find specific and genuine examples of how and when it’s true? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

Through this process, we also ground speculations. We find what they point to here and now and in ourselves.

THE EFFECT OF USING STORIES AS A MIRROR

To the extent I see and feel in myself something I see in others and the world, there is less sense of I and Other on this topic. There is more of a sense of being in the same boat. There is more of a sense of our shared humanity.

This also means I am less reactive about it. If I only recognize a characteristic in others and not myself, or the other way around, I tend to be caught up in issues and reactivity around it. And when I recognize it both there and here, I have more space for relating to it more consciously. I am able to act more from clarity and kindness and less from reactivity.

WHAT IT HAPPENS WITHIN AND AS

There is another useful step here.

And that is to notice my nature and that these stories and any content of my experience happen within and as my nature.

In a conventional sense, I am a human self in the world. Is this what I most fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? What do I find when I explore my own immediate experience?

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world. My nature allows any and all experiences.

I find I am what the world to me happens within and as.

These stories, what I imagine they point to, and what this brings up in me, happen within and as what I am. To me, my nature is their nature.

THE EFFECT OF RECOGNIZING THE SHARED NATURE

What’s the effect of recognizing the shared nature of myself and these stories and what they point to and anything that brings up in me?

To the extent I notice and allow this noticing to work on me, there is even less of a sense of I and Other, and it’s easier to recognize my mental representations as mental representations. And this gives even more space for relating to it all more consciously, from less reactivity, and with more clarity and kindness.

SOME EXAMPLES

Here are some general examples from cosmology and ideas about spiritual entities. (I took parts of this section from a previous article, which was also the seed for this one.)

If I imagine the universe and all of existence as a seamless whole, as one system, can I find that here now? I can find the mental representations of this here and now, in my mental field. I can also find the seamless whole here. As a human self, I am a seamless whole and I keep discovering more about this seamless whole. As what I am, I am also a seamless whole and the world to me happens within and as this seamless whole.

I imagine all of existence as consciousness (AKA Spirit, God, Brahman, Big Mind). I can find that too here. To me, I am fundamentally consciousness. And the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. To me, the world is like a dream in that it happens within and as consciousness.

I imagine all of existence as consciousness somehow aware of everything that’s happening. I can find that too. There is a background awareness of anything that happens within and as consciousness. When something happens within the content of my experience, there is a kind of awareness of it before there is a conscious (and perhaps self-conscious) awareness of it.

I imagine spiritual beings with certain qualities and characteristics. I can find these here in myself. It’s not all I am, they may not be what I live from in every moment, but the characteristics are here. For instance, if I imagine certain entities (angels, avatars, etc.), can find what I imagine in them also here – love, wisdom, devotion to the divine, support, and so on. And if I imagine other entities (devil, demons), I can find that too here. I can find it when I react to my own pain in a way that inflicts more pain on myself and others.

I imagine life between lives as disembodied, oneness, and love. When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find I am what the world to me happens within and as. I find I am disembodied (I am not most fundamentally a body), oneness, and when oneness notices itself it’s expressed as love.

I imagine the universe as without any edge or boundary. When I notice what I am, I can also not find an edge or boundary. Any edge or boundary comes from a mental representation, and they happen within and as what I am.

I imagine the universe starting as uniform and then forming itself into atoms, molecules, solar systems, and all we know. When I look for it here, I find that consciousness – the consciousness I am and which is all I know – is uniform, and it forms itself into a wild diversity of content of experience.

These are just a few very general examples. A real exploration would be more thorough, with specific and genuine examples, and with time to take it in and let it work on me.

MORE UNIVERSAL

This, of course, is more universal. It doesn’t just apply to obvious speculations. It applies to any story we have about anyone or anything.

Any story is a question about the word. Any story is a mental representation.

We can find the mental representation here and now, and any physical sensations our mind associates it with. We can use any story as a mirror and find what it points to here and now.

No matter how valid a story is in a conventional sense, or how speculative, we can ground it in this way. We can use it as a pointer for what’s already here.

We can use it as a pointer to learn to recognize mental representations as mental representations. (And not what they supposedly point to.) We can get to know more of the immense richness of who we are. (As who we are, we are as rich as humanity and the world.) We can use it to notice what we are and also recognize that our nature is the same as the nature of our experience, including these mental representations and what they point to and any reactions that come up in us.

Read More

Thinking for oneself?

In our teens, thinking for ourselves often becomes an important theme, and for good reasons. It’s one of the things life – and to some extent society – asks of us as we enter adulthood.

CONVENTIONAL SENSE

What does it mean to think for ourselves?

Often, it means to exchange one set of views with another set of views. We may abandon some of the views we grew up with, and adopt the views of a subculture we resonate more with. This is more about resonance than “thinking for ourselves”.

Also, it means to learn about social issues and more at a story level, become familiar with a range of different ways of looking at these, and find an approach that makes more sense to us. Here, it’s more about digesting different views rather than “thinking for ourselves”.

EXAMINED MORE THOROUGHLY IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE

If we want to examine this more in-depth, we can become familiar with valid and invalid arguments. Logic and logical fallacies. Media literacy. Various forms of social criticism. The many biases we inevitably operate from. (From culture, subculture, personal experiences, species, the nature of this universe.). And so on. This is where “thinking for ourselves” takes on a little more meaning.

GOING BEYOND THE CONVENTIONAL: HEALING & INQUIRY

We can also go beyond the conventional approaches.

We can invite in healing for our emotional issues and traumas that inevitably color our perception, views, choices, and life. In the places we are caught up in an issue, our view tends to be reactive and rigid. And the more healed we are, the more we tend to have a more fluid relationship to views and orientations and hold it all more lightly.

We can explore thoughts and the gifts and limitations of thoughts. We may find that thoughts are really questions about the world. They are guides to help us navigate the world. They are different in nature from what they point to. They have practical value only, and cannot give us any final or absolute answer.

We can learn how to systematically inquire into any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can explore how our mind combines sense fields – including thought – to create an experience of the world.

We can explore our more fundamental nature, and find ourselves as that which our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as.

A MORE MATURE (?) VIEW

For me, a more mature view combines all of this and more.

We “think for ourselves” in a conventional sense and find views and orientations that resonate with us and makes more sense to us.

We learn about valid arguments, logical fallacies, media literacy, various forms of social criticism, and so on.

We explore and become more aware of our many inevitable biases and the sources of these biases.

We invite in healing for the wounded parts of us, allowing for a more fluid and light relationship to views and orientations.

We learn about the nature of thoughts, see them as questions about the world, recognize they have practical value only, and that they cannot hold any final or absolute truth.

We learn to inquire into any thought we hold as true, and find what’s more true for us. (Which includes that the thoughts don’t hold any final truth.)

We explore and become more familiar with how our sense fields, including the overlay of mental images and words, creates our experience of the world.

We explore our more fundamental nature, and find ourselves as what our experiences happen within and as.

THE LIMITS OF “THINKING FOR OURSELVES”

As part of this, we may see that “thinking for ourselves” is a term that only makes sense in a limited sense.

We never really “think for ourselves”. We often adopt views of a certain subculture. We operate from inumerable inevitable biases.

We may also find that, in the words of Carl Sagan, we are the eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the whole locally perceiving, thinking, and living as us.

That’s all perfectly fine. And it helps to recognize it and take it into account.

A NOTE

My brain fog is especially strong these days, particularly when it comes to writing. It means that these articles are more rudimentary and less well formed than they perhaps could be.

Read More

As what I am, all is subject and object

In one sense, I am this human self in the world.

And when I look more closely, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what all my experiences – including of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

And here, I find that all of my experiences are both subject and object.

Anything happening within my sense fields – of this human self and the wider world – is an object. It’s all happening within me. It’s not what I more fundamentally am.

And anything happening within my sense fields is a subject. It’s what I am. What I am takes all these forms.

THE PRACTICAL USE OF THIS

Why is this important? In some ways, it isn’t. It’s just something to notice, and it can be a bit fun to notice.

At the same time, it is helpful to notice all the content of my sense fields as objects. That helps me find myself as capacity for it all, and as what it all happens within and as.

And it is helpful to notice all of it as subject since that’s helps me find myself as oneness. As what takes the form of all of it, as it appears to me.

THOUGHTS CREATING A SENSE OF SUBJECT AND OBJECT

There is one thing here to clarify.

When we normally experience something as subject (what we are) or object (other), it’s really a thought telling us this, and a thought we hold as true.

The conventional sense of subject (me as this human self with all these identities and roles) and other (the rest of the world, and the parts of me that don’t fit my desired image) comes from holding a thought as true. It comes from identifying with a thought.

A thought says: I am this human self with these identities. My mind holds that thought as true and identifies with the viewpoint of this thought. In my own experience, I become the viewpoint of this thought.

Another thought says: I am not this table, or phone, or this room, or what’s outside the window, or these other people. And my mind identifies with the viewpoint of that thought, and that becomes my experience. All of this then is “other” to me.

This is our conventional experience of ourselves and the world. We take ourselves as this human self (roughly since we exclude some things we don’t like), and we are not the rest of the world.

That’s not wrong. But it’s not what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience. To ourselves, we more fundamentally are capacity for it all, and what it all happens within and as.

This human self and the wider world happens within my sense fields, and I am what these sense fields – what this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

And we can find this for ourselves. We can notice it, and it can become something we live from – and as.

And here, all my experiences – including my thoughts – become objects. They happen within me. They are not what I more fundamentally are.

And they all become subject. They are all what I am. What I am takes all these forms.

NOT QUITE AS CLEAR CUT

There are some wrinkles here. It’s not quite as clear-cut in practice.

Yes, I may notice what I am. And at the same time, I may still be partially identified with certain thoughts – mental images and words.

Both can co-exist. The task here is to notice where there is identification, and find that too as what I am capacity for, and what happens within and as what I am.

I can find it as having the same nature as myself – capacity for itself, stillness & silence, and so on, and invite it to find itself as that and relax in that noticing.

Read More

Hvordan vi forholder oss til tankene våre

Hvordan forholder vi oss til tankene våre?

Nærmere bestemt, hvordan forholder vi oss til urovekkende tanker?

SJEKKE OM VI MÅ GJØRE NOE

Dette er ganske innlysende, men verdt å ta med for å fylle ut bildet. Om vi har en tanke, urovekkende eller ikke, så bør vi først sjekke om den forteller oss noe vi bør gjøre noe med.

Om en tanke forteller oss at vi har en ubetalt regning, og den faktisk er ubetalt, så kan vi betale den. Om en tanke sier vi er tørst, og vi faktisk er det, så drikk noe.

Det følgende dreier seg mer om mindre praktiske og innimellom mer plagsomme tanker.

TRE MÅTER Å FORHOLDE SEG TIL UROVEKKENDE TANKER

Går vi inn i de, som om tankene er betydningsfulle og sier noe sant?

Ser vi de som tanker, uten å gå noe særlig inn i det de sier?

Undersøker vi det de sier for å se hvor sant eller nyttig det er, og hva som er mer sant for oss?

Ser vi på effekten av hver av disse?

HVORDAN VI KAN FORHOLDE OSS TIL TANKER PÅ EN MER BEVISST MÅTE

Når vi har urovekkende tanker, er det fordi vi – ihvertfall delvis – ser tankene som sanne og vi identifiserer oss med synspunkter til tankene.

Dette gjør at det kan være vanskelig å se hva som skjer. Vi er delvis hypnotisert av det tankene forteller oss.

Heldigvis kan vi trene oss i å forholde oss til tankene på en mer bevisst måte. Og for å gjøre det, hjelper det med en slags struktur som kan lede oss, og også en veileder som kjenner terrenget og har lynne for og erfaring med å veilede andre.

HVA SKJER NÅR VI FORHOLDER OSS MER BEVISST TIL TANKENE?

Istedet for å ukritisk ta til oss det de sier, eller kjempe med de, så gjenkjenner vi de som tanker. Vi vet hva de er.

De er spørsmål om verden. De kan ha noe gyldighet, men det har også en mengde andre tanker om det samme temaet, og noen av disse kan genuint være mer sanne for oss.

Ideer er vesensforskjellige fra det de dreier seg om. De er kun her for å hjelpe oss til å orientere og fungerte i verden. De forteller ikke en endelig eller absolutt sannhet.

Vi kan bruke tanker til det de er gode på, som er å sikre spørsmål om verden og hjelpe oss til å navigere. Og vi kan gi tankene ferie fra å prøve å gjøre noe de ikke kan, som er å gi oss en endelig eller fullstendig sannhet.

OPPDAGE VÅR MER GRUNNLEGGENDE NATUR

Når vi forholder oss mer bevisst til tanker, og det de som tanker uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet, kan vi også lettere oppdage vår mer grunnleggende natur.

Vi kan oppdage at vi er kapasitet for alle våre opplevelser – av oss selv som dette mennesket og resten av verden. Vi er det som alle disse opplevelsene skjer innen, og som former seg til alle disse opplevelsene.

Det er ikke galt at vi er dette mennesket. Det er sånn andre ser oss, og det er en antagelse som fungerer bra i hverdagen.

Men i vår egen opplevelse, når vi tar en nøyere titt, så er vi ikke, først og fremst, dette mennesket. Og vi er heller ikke en som gjør eller observerer. Vi er kapasitet for alt dette. Dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv.

Her oppdaget vi også at, for oss, så er alle våre opplevelser – av dette mennesket og resten av verden – ett. Enhver opplevelse av adskillelse kommer fra våre mentale bilder og ord.

ENKELTE FREMGANGSMÅTER

Det finnes en del støtter og fremgangsmåter for å utforske dette.

Kognitiv terapi er en god start, selv om den stort sett ikke går så langt at vi oppdager hva vi mer fundamentalt er. (Det er helt opp til terapeuten og klienten.)

Vi kan utforske tankene gjennom The Work av Byron Katie.

Vi kan utforske hvordan tankene kobles til kroppsfornemmelser for å gi oss en opplevelse av sannhet i tankene, og så vi identifiserer oss med synspunktene til tankene.

Vi kan bruke grunnleggende meditasjon for å lære å gjenkjenne tanker som tanker, uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet så mye.

Vi kan oppdage hva vi er gjennom Big Mind prosessen og eksperimentene fra The Headless Way. Dette kan skje relativt fort.

Jeg har skrevet en del om dette i andre artikler, mest på engelsk.

Do you experience paradoxes?

I have been asked this a few times, including by a spiritual teacher who saw the experience of paradoxes as a sign of awakening.

My answer is, most honestly, no.

THE EXPERIENCE OF PARADOXES

Paradoxes happen within stories, and if we look at stories more than direction noticing, or we hold stories as true, then there will be the appearance of paradoxes. If we hold any two stories as true, there will inherently be some kind of paradox.

Of course, we may or may not notice those inherent paradoxes, and we may experience them more as cognitive dissonance than paradoxes.

AN EXPERIENCE FREE OF PARADOXES

If we recognize that there is some validity in any story, and that stories cannot reflect any final or absolute truth, there are not really any paradoxes.

Most simply, if we find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as, there are no real paradoxes. It’s all happening within and as us, and our mental representations are here just to help us navigate and function, they cannot hold any ultimate truth.

EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE PARADOXES

What’s some examples of typical possible paradoxes?

The most obvious may be that we are this human self, and also capacity for the world. As what I am, I am capacity for the world and what my field of experience happens within and as, and that includes being capacity for this human self, and this human self – along with everything else here – happening within and as what I am. If we look mostly at thoughts, and we think the two are mutually exclusive, it may seem contradictory or a paradox. And if we look at our first-person experience, it’s just how it is and there is a simplicity to it. The more familiar we are with noticing what we are and living from it, the less likely we are to experience any paradox.

Another possible paradox may be that everything physical is void, insubstantial, and also substantial. I find I am capacity for this keyboard and these hands and fingers, and to me, all of it has the same true nature as my own. It’s all capacity for itself. It’s all void taking these forms. At the same time, it’s all happening within and as what I can call consciousness, so it’s insubstantial. I can explore that by noticing how the keyboard and my hands appear in my sense fields, and how my mind associates sensations with the mental representations of keyboard and hands to lend a sense of solidity and substance to it, and how my mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And in a conventional sense, both the keyboard and my hands are physical. I can easily damage this keyboard by dropping my laptop or dropping something on it, and if I hit my hands on the table, they’ll hurt. I don’t find any paradox here, and I can also imagine that it can seem like a paradox if we look at this in a conceptual way and imagine that each of these has some kind of exclusive truth to them.

PARADOXES AND AWAKENING

So are paradoxes a sign of awakening, as that spiritual teacher seemed to assume? For me, it seems that we may experience paradoxes if we are partly or mostly operating from separation consciousness and have some glimpses or intuitions about what we are. If we see it more clearly, or if we have a more clear relationship with thoughts, it seems that paradoxes fall away.

I should add that this is just my experience. I haven’t checked with others how it is for them.

Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

We can see our human ability for elaborate abstract thought as an evolutionary experiment.

Thoughts as tools

Thoughts are tools. They help us orient and navigate in the world.

They provide us with mental maps of the world. They give us images of the past, present, and possible futures. They provide us with the opportunity to mentally test out actions before we make them.

All of this makes it possible for us to function in the world.

Thoughts mimic senses & language

Thoughts seem to mimic our physical senses and, in our case, language.

In our case, we have thoughts mimicking sight, sounds, sensations, movement, and words (mental images and sounds).

Other species may have thoughts mimicking their own senses, whatever these are.

A helpful way of using this tool

What’s the optimal way to use this tool of thought?

It seems that the best way to use this particular tool is to recognize thoughts as thoughts. They are questions about the world. They help us orient and navigate. They provide maps about the world. They have a very important practical function. They are provisional. They are not what they appear to refer to. And none of them hold any final or absolute truth.

When we recognize this, we can hold them more lightly. We can find the validity in them, question them, find the validity in their reversals and other views, and use them more consciously as a tool. We recognize their value and their inherent limitations.

Misuse of the tool of thoughts

How can this tool be misused?

The easiest is to hold a thought as true. When we do, we identify with the viewpoint with the thought. We take ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought, make it into an identity for ourselves, create a sense of I and other, and feel a need to prop it up, elaborate on it, and defend it if it’s threatened.

When we hold a thought as true – either consciously or a part of us holds it as true – we perceive and live as if it’s true. We get out of alignment with reality since no thought can hold any final or absolute truth, and a thought and its reversals all hold some validity.

This is how a huge amount of human suffering is created, and it’s also how we create a good deal of problems for ourselves and others.

Thoughts as an evolutionary experiment

I assume many types of animals have some form of thought.

Specifically, they may have thoughts mimicking their senses. They may have mental maps of their surroundings. Mental representations of friends and foes. Mental representations of however they communicate. And so on. In most cases, these may not be conscious thoughts.

Human thought has gone a couple of steps further into abstraction. We have developed complex language and mental representations of this language, and that allows us to imagine and explore a wide range of things in our minds. Our minds are immensely creative.

This form of more abstract and elaborate thought is, in a sense, an evolutionary experiment. It’s as if nature said to itself: let’s see what happens with this species if they have this ability. Let’s see how they use it, and whether it aids their survival or becomes their undoing.

We can see how it has indeed aided our survival and made us into a powerful species. And we can also see how it has brought about conflicts, war, and immense suffering, and brought the ecosystems we are dependent on for our own survival to the brink of ecological collapse.

Abstract and complex thought as a new evolutionary experiment

This more elaborate form of abstract thought is a relatively new evolutionary experiment. It may have evolved over just a few hundred thousand years.

In an evolutionary sense, this is a very new tool for us. We are still learning how to use it.

We are systematically misusing it by assuming thoughts can do more for us than they can. They are powerful, and they have helped us create this civilization, technology, culture and so on. At the same time, they have their limits. They can’t hold any final or absolute truth, and we often perceive and live as if they can.

I assume that if we survive long enough, we may also learn to relate to thoughts more consciously. We may learn to recognize what they can and cannot do for us, and their inherent limitations. If this ever happens on a collective scale, it will mean a revolution in human evolution and history.

How we can explore this for ourselves

We can explore many aspects of this for ourselves.

We can explore our sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental representations – and see how mental representations combine with the other sense fields to create our experience of the world.

We may recognize how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, so the sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. (Traditional Buddhist inquiry, Living Inquiries.)

We can examine any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

We can use basic meditation to notice and allow our experience as it is. This helps us notice and allow thoughts, recognize that they live their own life, and perhaps soften identification with them and hold them a bit more lightly.

In a sense, through examining our thoughts and our relationship with thoughts, and learning to relate to them more consciously, we take the next evolutionary step in our own life. We find a more sane and healthy relationship with thoughts, and that is one of the things that can most help humanity today.

Read More

Who or what believes a thought?

We can obviously hold a thought as true at a conscious level. We may genuinely assume these thoughts are true and perceive and live as if they are. (At a deeper level, we know better, but it may take some sincere exploration to find it.)

We can also hold a thought as true in a less conscious way. Our system holds a thought as true, or a part of us holds a thought as true, while at a conscious level, we may know it’s not true.

That’s why it’s important to work deeper, through deep inquiry, parts work, somatic work, energy work, and so on.

It’s also why it’s important to look at our actual behavior and life to find these beliefs, in addition to the beliefs we are already conscious of.

And it’s why we can have a conscious awakening, while parts of us still operate from separation consciousness. We may notice what we are while parts of us still believe certain thoughts. They may come to expression in certain areas of our life, they may get triggered and come to the surface by some situations, and they likely color our perception and choices and life in general.

MORE DETAILS

As usual, there is more to say about this.

Why do parts of us operate from beliefs when we consciously don’t?

These parts may have been formed early in life when we did take it as true at a more conscious level, and they still operate from these beliefs even if we consciously moved on.

What’s the problem with beliefs?

There is no fundamental problem with them. They are part of life, and they are understandable and ultimately innocent. They function as coping mechanisms for us.

At the same time, they create stress and unease for ourselves, and they bring us out of a more sober and reasoned approach to life. When we act on them, we can also trigger stress and suffering in others.

Also, if there is an awakening here, then these parts will surface and want to join in with the awakening. They come with an invitation for us to recognize their true nature and support them in aligning with reality and oneness, and find deep healing and transformation.

What’s the difference between a thought and belief?

A thought is here as a question about the world. It’s invaluable in helping us orient and function in the world. And it’s incapable of giving us any final or absolute truth about anything.

A belief is what happens when we – at some level – hold that thought as true, as an accurate representation of reality. We try to make it do something it cannot. And when it’s active, it tends to narrow our perception and choices. It closes us down for our natural receptivity, curiosity, kindness, and wisdom.

Own inquiry: I think

I am revisiting this classic topic.

Thoughts appear out of nowhere. They come and go and live their own life. And we are trained to take ownership over them and say to ourselves “I am thinking” and “I thought that”.

One way to explore this is to notice it as it happens. A thought comes out of nowhere. I cannot find any origin. And then there is a thought saying “I thought that” even if it’s not based in reality or my own experience. Basic meditation – allow & notice – is one way to notice this.

We can also explore this in the context of noticing what we are, and through more structured inquiries like the Living Inquiries and The Work.

In the context of what we are

When I find myself as capacity for my world, I also find myself as capacity for the thoughts that are here.

I notice thoughts come and go within what I am, and come and go out of nothing.

This, in itself, releases some or most or all of the identification with the thoughts, at least while I notice what I am.

And this also happens generally over time the more I get used to and familiar with finding myself as capacity for thoughts and my world in general.

The Work on the thought “I think”

Statement: I think.

Q1: Is it true? Yes, sometimes it seems true.

Q2: Can you know for certain it’s true? No, I cannot know for certain.

Q3: What happens when you believe “I think”?

I take my thoughts personally. I feel responsible for them. I tell myself I create them and they reflect who and what I am. I am more cautious about my thoughts. I try to control them and shepherd them in a direction I prefer and think is better. I sometimes get slightly paranoid about my thoughts. I relate to them with some tension. They feel close. I feel I need to protect them if someone threatens them and what they tell me. I more easily get absorbed into them. I tend to take myself as the thoughts. I become the viewpoint of the thoughts. It becomes an identity for me, and one I feel I need to uphold and protect.

Q4: Who would you be without the belief “I think”?

I see thoughts come and go. They live their own life. There is space around them. They happen within and as space. I am more curious about them. I observe them. I take them more as innocent questions. I am less or not identified with them. If someone or something doesn’t agree with them, I observe the two viewpoints and can explore the dynamic between them more openly. I am open to what’s valid in thoughts and how they are not valid. I am open to how they may be useful and when and how they are not.

Turnaround 1: I don’t think.

Well, they come and go on their own. “I” don’t create them or determine what they say.

The idea “I think” is a thought. I don’t know for certain if or how it’s true. Thoughts may not be what I think they are. (They probably are not.)

TA 2: Thoughts “I”.

This is a weird turnaround. If I think, then perhaps it’s also true that thoughts create the “I”? Can I find “I” outside of thoughts? Not really. It seems that a sense of “I” is created by thoughts – saying “I” did this and that, “I” exist, “I” am this human self, and so on. Without it, there is just what’s here without that particular overlay of thought. There is still what thoughts may label this human being doing things in the world and with the experiences that are here.

TA 3: You think.

If I think I think, then I think you think as well. I see you as I see me. I see your thoughts as personal to you. I see your thoughts as reflecting who and what you are. I take your thoughts about me, or your thoughts either agreeing or disagreeing with mine, personally. I create a tense relationship between your thoughts and mine, and am ready to agree or defend according to what you say or write. My world revolves around my and your thoughts and their relationship and what I feel I have to do about it.

The primary here, in this and most types of inquiry, is the noticing and resting with the noticing, and the secondary is putting it into words.

Living Inquiries

I will also explore this using Living Inquiries, and may write some notes here when I do.

What is Buddhist emptiness?

I thought I would briefly revisit this topic.

What is the Buddhist emptiness? I am not exactly sure what they refer to, and it probably varies a bit with tradition, teacher, and context.

Here are a few things that come up for me:

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I find I am no-thing full of the world as it appears to me. My true nature is open for the world. It’s empty allowing all these experiences as they are. My field of experiences happens within and as this awake no-thing.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I find that all my experiences happen within and as what I am. To me, the world is one. Any ideas of separation and distinctions come from an overlay of thought. In my own experience, I am oneness and empty of any separate self.

This human self is still here, in my field of experience, but it’s not what I ultimately am. I am not any particular thing within this field, including any ideas of an “I” or “me” or “observer” or “consciousness” or “awake” or “emptiness”.

When I notice this, I also find that my experiences are inherently empty of substance. They happen within and as what I am. Just like a dream, my waking experiences happen within and as consciousness. (And it still hurts when I stub my toe.)

When I investigate my thoughts, I find they don’t and cannot hold any absolute or final truth. They are empty of any final or absolute truth. Reality is its own truth, and thoughts can only imperfectly point to it.

I am sure there are more ways to talk about emptiness in this context, but these seem some of the main ones.

If you compare, you lose

Thoughts compare. It’s one of the things this tool is built to do.

Comparing is essential. It helps us differentiate. Find better solutions. See ourselves in perspective. Identify areas where we can develop and learn more. And so on. It’s necessary for us to function and thrive in the world.

And yet, if we assume this says something about our inherent value as a human being, we lead ourselves astray. We create stress and anguish for ourselves, and also participate in a culture where this is seen as normal and creates widespread – and unnecessary – stress and anguish for a lot of people.

In the moment, we may tell ourselves it feels good when we compare ourselves to others and come out favorably. We tell ourselves we are better than someone else in a particular area of life, that this means we are inherently better or valuable, and that we can then allow ourselves to feel good about ourselves.

But it’s not that simple. When we get into the habit of this dynamic, we inevitably find someone to compare ourselves with who – in our mind – is better than us, and assume this means our inherent value is diminished or threatened, which means we feel not very good about ourselves.

We can’t have one without the other.

This means it’s a losing game. It’s rigged for us to lose. And that’s a very good thing.

Why is it a losing game?

It’s because this extra assumption has no real value. It’s a way for us to torture ourselves and others. And it’s not based in reality.

The ideas we have about better and worse are cultural. And the idea that this means something about our inherent value is cultural. They are not inherent in existence.

At some point, we may realize that this dynamic is not only painful, but it’s also not inevitable. There is another way.

How can we find another way?

The answer is through becoming aware of this dynamic of comparing ourselves to others and assuming it says something about our inherent value. The most direct and effective way may be through inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries, etc.). And inquiry can also help release our fascination with this type of comparing.

What’s the bigger perspective on this?

We can say that this whole dynamic is cultural. The ideas of better and worse, and what is better and worse, is cultural. And the idea that this says something about our inherent value is cultural.

We can say it’s as a(n unfortunate) side-effect of the differentiating function of thought.

And we can also say it’s part of lila. It’s one of the myriads of ways what we are explores and experiences itself – whether we call this consciousness, existence, or even the divine.

From the perspective of a separate human being, it’s unfortunate. From the perspective of existence itself, it’s part of its exploration of itself.

Read More

Iceberg of thought

Most of us are aware of our conscious verbal self-talk. Many of us are also aware that we have other thoughts and assumptions that are less conscious, and for the most part, we only have a rough idea of what they are. For instance, we may have been in a situation that showed us that our assumptions about someone or something was wrong, and we were initially not even aware of having and operating from those assumptions.

The iceberg analogy works well for thoughts. We are aware of our conscious self-talk, which is the tip of the iceberg. And we also have and operate from a large number of other thoughts that influence – and to a large extent determine – how we experience life and what choices we make.

They form our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and life. They color our perceptions and choices. And they color our life as a whole.

Knowing this, it makes sense to explore and make some of these conscious, especially if they don’t serve our life as we would like it to be.

What does this iceberg look like?

As mentioned above, the tip of the iceberg is our conscious self-talk.

The part of the iceberg that’s under the metaphorical water consist of verbal self-talk and visualizations, words and images.

Some of these are about more peripheral things in our daily life and the world.

And some make up our most basic assumptions – about ourselves, others, the world, and life in general.

What are some examples of the below-the-water thoughts?

The particular combination of thoughts are individual. But there are more universal themes – especially for people within the same culture and subcultures.

I have images and stories about specific people in my life. She is my partner and have these qualities and relationships with me. This is my father and he is a certain way. And so on.

I have images and stories about countries and groups of people – including cultural and political groups. My images and stories determine what I think about them, how I see myself in relation to them, and who I like and don’t like so much.

I have images and stories about who and how I am. I have these qualities, roles, and identities, and not so much these others ones. I like these and don’t like those, and wish I had more of these.

I have images and stories about situations, how I am in relation to them, and what they mean about me and for me. One I am exploring right now is noise (the closest neighbor building is going to be torn down and rebuilt), and I see stories in me about being a victim, not being in control, and somehow being damaged by noise. Behind these are some early childhood memories.

Then we have our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world. These are, at least in my experience, mostly in the form of images, although it’s usually easy enough to set words to and elaborate on these images.

For instance, I find I have images of time – in the form of a timeline separated into present, future, and past. And I fit specific images (aka memories, scenarios) into each of these categories. I also have an image of me as a human being, a man, and so on. And of the world – the universe, planet, humanity, myself – both as separate objects (from my culture) and as a seamless whole (from my own conscious explorations).

How can we make these thoughts and assumptions more conscious?

The best way I have found is through different forms of inquiry, for instance The Work of Byron Katie and Living Inquiries which is a modern version of Buddhist inquiry.

The Work helps us be more conscious about our verbal thoughts, and – depending on the skill of the facilitator – can helps us go very deep in exploring both verbal and visual thoughts.

Living Inquiries more explicitly helps us explore both images and words, and also how they combine with sensations. We get to see how sensations lend a sense of substance, solidity, and truth to the thoughts, and how thoughts give a sense of meaning to their associated sensations.

Some additional reflections

I have seen people saying “I am not a racist” as a response to the recent focus on racism in the US and around the world. For me, this is an example of not being aware of what’s below the water. Just by living in our culture, we adopt racist thoughts – and for most of us, these are below the water. Even black people have these racist stereotypes, and probably reverse ones to compensate, just from living in this culture.

Werner Heisenberg: Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows

Only a few know, how much one must know to know how little one knows.

– Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976)

In one sense, we don’t need to know much to know how little we know.

We just need to know that our thoughts are questions about the world, educated guesses at most. They are practical tools to help us orient and navigate in the world. Their role is not to give us any final or absolute answers to anything.

And yet, to know that, we often need to wade through a great deal of worldly knowledge. We need to know a lot about different things and see that what we know is a tiny drop in the ocean of all there is to know, and also that what we think we know often isn’t as certain or valid as we thought. Even our most basic assumptions are up for question.

At a social level, this is especially clear when we learn about the history of thought, science, and worldviews, and we see how different it is across cultures and how much all of it changes over time. What we take as a given today – about specifics and our worldview as a whole – will be seen as obsolete by future generations.

There is a shortcut to realizing how litte we know, and that is to examine our thoughts more directly. We can see how our mental “field” creates an overlay of images on the world and makes up what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world. It’s all created in our own mind. None of it is “out there” inherent in anything. It’s all just questions about the world. None of it contains any final or absolute truth.

If we rely on knowing things to feel safe or loved or good about ourselves, then this can seem distressing. But, in reality, this realization and noticing is immensely freeing.

We get to see thoughts more as they are, and we get to see their role and function and what they can do – which is to provide some provisional and practical orientation and guidance, and what they cannot do – which is to provide any truths or final answers.

That goes for what we collective think we know and understand about the world. It applies to our personal lives and what we think we know about others, situations, and ourselves. And it applies to our most basic assumptions about existence.

Outside of any labels and categories

Words divide the world, and the world is a seamless whole. So naturally, words leave a lot out and are also often a bit misleading.

That means that any real exploration or who and what we are will, invariably, happen somewhat free of any labels, categories, and what fits into any particular tradition or orientation.

Life is more than and different form any maps or ideas about it.

How we relate to our thoughts

One of the benefits of exploring how our mind functions – through mindfulness, inquiry and so on – is that it changes our relationship with our thoughts.

From believing our thoughts we may realize that they offer questions about the world, hold no final or absolute truth, and it works better if we find the grace to hold them lightly.

Instead of fighting with out thoughts, we may realize that it’s easier to examine them and find what’s more true.

Instead of fearing certain thoughts, we may find that by examining them and finding what’s more true, we also find peace.

Instead of thinking we control – or should control – our thoughts, we may find they come and go and live their own life and that’s completely OK.

Instead of thinking we can “chose” to believe a thought or not, we may find that all we can do is examine them and through that magic sometimes happen.

Notes: I saw a very brief article about meta-cognitive therapy which seems to be one of the new hot things today. Apparently, it has to do with how we think about our thoughts so I thought I would write a brief post about what comes up for me around it.

Because of that article, I wrote “how we think about our thoughts” as the initial title, partly because I thought it sounded more snappy. But I changed it since how we think about our thoughts is not so important. It’s how we relate to our thoughts that matters, and that’s far more than just thinking.

All our thoughts: A human invention

This Christmas, a Norwegian author (Ari Behn) committed suicide. A close friend of him said he was tormented by feeling that his work was not good enough. I don’t know if that was the reason for his suicide, or how large part it played, but it was a reminder for me.

All our ideas are a human invention. All our shoulds. All our ideas about how our life should be. All our ideas of not living up to an ideal. All our “standards” that we live up to or not.

Why do we take it so seriously when it’s all a human invention?

These ideas and shoulds are not inherent in life. They are not prescribed by life or God or anything at all apart from the human mind. All our thoughts – all our words, ideas, world views, ideals, values and so on – were once created by an ordinary human being like you and me.

They are a human invention. Why take it so seriously? Why torment yourself with these human inventions?

Why take what thoughts say so seriously? They are just questions about the world. They are innocent. None of them reflect any absolute or final truth.

Of course, we are trained to believe our thoughts. For some reason, our society and culture encourages us to believe certain thoughts. I see how it’s a useful way to control people. But it also creates a lot of (unnecessary) suffering.

Why not instead teach people how to question their thoughts? Why not teach this as a Life 101 theme in school?

The most useful approach I have found to do this is inquiry. For instance, The Work of Byron Kate and the Living Inquiries.

Note: The family of Ari Behn were were open about it being suicide. The idea that it’s shameful or something to hide is another human invention, and a very old-fashioned one at that. It seems far better to be open about it. It reduces speculation. And it can generate very helpful conversations about suicide and how to support people who are going through difficult times.

Note 2: When I say that our thoughts are a human invention, it’s not entirely accurate. Yes, the content of our thoughts and what’s held as true and not was invented by someone, and reinvented each time someone decided to take it on for themselves. And yet, this is all the processes of life. Life came up with thoughts, and life came up with what thoughts to take as true and not. Ultimately, it’s all the play of life or the universe or the divine.

Read More

The tree of knowledge of good and evil

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:16-17

Traditional myths tell us something about ourselves, and myths from religion are no different.

In a non-dual context, there is a pretty straightforward way of looking at this.

Before thought, and before taking thought as telling us something that’s fundamentally real and true, there is no knowledge of good and evil. Everything just is.

With thought, and specifically taking thought as telling us truth and reality, there is suddenly knowledge of good and evil. Thoughts tell us what’s good and evil. And what falls into each category depends on our culture, parents, subgroups, and to some extent personal history and preferences.

And that’s how we throw ourselves out from the garden of Eden. Suddenly, we are not innocent anymore. We know what’s good and evil, we judge others by it, and we judge ourselves by it.

Why a tree with fruit? Perhaps because beliefs, including beliefs about good and evil, are a bit like eating something juicy. And these thoughts do grow and branch out just like a tree. We may start with something simple, and from there comes a lot of complexity.

And how do we return to the Garden of Eden and our age of innocence? We cannot return to what was. But we can examine how our mind creates its own experience of good and evil, and there are ways to dismantle it. We can have the same thoughts without so much of a charge on them, and without them appearing to tell us something inherently real about the world. The thoughts can be allowed to be thoughts, and we can relate to them more consciously. We can be more discerning in how we relate to them.

That’s another form of Eden and one that’s a bit more mature.

Myths mirror ourselves, and in this case, they may mirror the shift to believing thoughts, and specifically thoughts about values and good and bad. It threw us out of Eden, but the good news is that we can dismantle the process and find a more mature Eden.

Changing our relationship to our thoughts

It’s very important for me to “not think.” I do enough thinking. You can just “be.”

Ringo Starr in Parade Magazine

I am surprised a long-time mediator talks about it this way. If course, he can be misquoted and it may be taken out of context, and he may have more to say about it if asked.

Basic meditation and mindfulness is not about not thinking or getting rid of thoughts, at least not as we conventionally understand it.

In one sense, it’s about noticing thoughts and anything else here, anything happening in our sense fields. Notice and allow. (And to be fair to Ringo Starr, that may be just what he means which means the wording in the interview is misleading.)

In another sense, it’s about thoughts – usually gradually and over time – losing their charge. When they have a charge, they seem true, important, and something we need to pay attention to (i.e. go into as if they are true and keep spinning and elaborating the story). As they lose the charge, it’s easier to notice they are thoughts – perhaps with a charge — passing through. We don’t need to pay much attention to them or elaborate or act on them unless they inform us about something practical we need to take care of.

This tends to happen over time with regular mindfulness practice. And it can be greatly helped and speeded up through inquiry, for instance, traditional Buddhist inquiry, its modern variety Living Inquiries, or even The Work of Byron Katie or some forms of cognitive therapy.

So basic meditation is about changing our relationship to our thoughts and not getting rid of them. As someone said, the mind creates thoughts just like a flower creates smells. It’s the natural function of the mind, and essential for our survival and functioning in the world.

Over time, we may find we appreciate our thoughts as we appreciate the smell of flowers. We may even find we appreciate the apparently stressful ones, at least sometimes and perhaps more often.

Divination and wanting to know the future

I discovered I Ching in my teens and read it over and over for the insights and wisdom in it. (This was the Richard Wilhelm translation and I think I got into it because it had a foreword by Jung.) 

I also occasionally used it as an oracle although I quickly realized it mostly reflected my mind at the time of asking and less the situation I thought I asked about. 

At times, I have also consulted psychics. The good ones often have good insights and pointers and pick up on what’s happening in the situation. They may also get something about the future but tend to not emphasize it, partly because it’s less useful and partly – as Yoda said – always in motion is the future

And I too have a knowing about which choice to make. Mainly, it’s from the quiet inner voice and sometimes it’s a sense of how bright different options are. And I have seen that it works out best (more aligned, more flow) if I follow the quiet inner voice, the voice of the heart, and the brighter options. 

My experience with oracles and psychics is that, at best, they can point to what I already know and help me trust it. They may also help me look at an aspect of the situation I have ignored or not taken seriously enough. 

What they cannot do is tell me what to do or what will happen. And that’s as it should be. There are many benefits to the future being (mostly) unknown to us and always in motion.

One is that the future doesn’t exist apart from as images in our minds. (And these images will always be based on very incomplete sensing and information.) Realizing we can’t know the future, and that what’s here now is all there is, helps us align with reality and “live in the moment” in the sense of knowing that our images about the future, past, and present are all images in our mind.

Another gift in an unknown future is that a big part of human life is making choices, experiencing the consequences, and learning from it. That’s how we mature and grow. Also, if we knew the future the suspense would be gone. It would take a lot of the spice out of living. 

Of course, we know the future in a limited way. I know that if I stub my toe, I’ll most likely experience pain. If I am kind to people, they are most likely kind to me. If I save money, I’ll have money in the bank for when I need it.

Ideas and images about the future are essential for us to function as individuals and society. It helps us plan, and it helps us mentally test out different futures and chose to invest in the ones that seem most sensible and attractive. And it really helps to know and remind ourselves that these are images. They are not an actual future. They are not “real” apart from as images. We can act in ways that make the ones we like more likely to happen. And investing these images with emotional energy tend to eventually create suffering. (Life often won’t conform and everything passes.) 

All of this brings us back to ourselves. I am the one who has to make my own decisions. I have to live the consequences. I have to steer my own ship. It won’t be perfect. I’ll make choices I would have made differently with what I know in hindsight. And that’s the human experience. That’s how this life is set up. It’s inevitable so I may as well make the best out of it. I may as well enjoy it…. the unknowing, the suspense, the surprises. 

Any source of information about the consequences of different choices is helpful, including my own knowing and the quiet inner voice. Any images of the future are just that, images. And embracing the reality of this, the inherent unknowing, makes it easier for me to enjoy it all. 

And that brings me to perhaps the most important aspect of this. Where in me does the impulse to want to know come from? If I feel compelled to know, or find safety, or have others decide for me, where does it come from? What do I hope to get out of it? What are the emotional issues behind it? What beliefs and identifications fuel them?

These are often quite deep-seated and central issues in our lives so it’s good to acknowledge and explore them. The more I find clarity around and healing for these issues, the less compulsion there will be to know, the less paralyzed or stressed I will feel, and the easier it is to notice and follow my own knowing. 

Read More

Healing and the limits of what happens inside of thoughts

When it comes to healing of emotional issues, it’s limited what can happen inside of the person’s thoughts. There is a limit to what can happen through thinking and talking. 

Of course, through thinking and talking, some limited resoling and healing can happen. It can be good to think or talk about something and put words on it. It can be good to have someone listening to it, whether that’s ourselves or someone else, especially when the listening is kind, insightful, and helps us find our own insights and resolutions. 

In the best case, it can help us gain some perspective and resolution. In the worst case, our painful (and trauma-creating) stories can be reinforced by ourselves or the other person. And by entering into something too quickly or in an unskillful way, we can also retraumatize ourselves. 

And although emotional issues may be largely created by us believing our own thoughts about something that happened, the emotional issues themselves go far beyond out thoughts. They sit in our whole system. 

So for a more thorough and real healing and resolution, we often need something outside of thought. As mention above, the main healing factor may be listening with presence, patience, respect, kindness, and invitation for us to find our own insights and resolution. 

Among the many outside-of-thought approaches to healing out there, I am only familiar with a few so those are the ones I write about here. They are just examples, and I don’t mean to say you have to do any of these. The ones available to you, and the ones that work for you are the ones best for you. 

So here is a list of examples I happen to be familiar with: 

Release tension related to and created by the issue out of the body through therapeutic tremoring (TRE). 

Reorient in how I relate to the emotional issue and to the triggering situation through heart-centered practices. (Ho’o, tonglen, all-inclusive gratitude practices.) 

Examine the stressful and issue-creating thoughts, and find what’s more true for me (The Work). 

Examine how the mind creates its own experience, and specifically the issue, through combining sensations and thoughts. Peak behind the curtain. Shine sunlight on the troll. (Living Inquiries.) 

Use energy healing to release the issue, including through releasing conditioning at all levels and invite in new insights. (Vortex Healing.) 

In addition, there are the time-honored ways of healing through touch, movement, loving social interactions, and time in nature. 

Read More

Thoughts: a risky evolutionary experiment

Thoughts is one of life’s risky experiments.

It seems to work pretty well for non-human species. I assume many non-human species too have thoughts that mimic the senses. Imagined sensory information that helps them remember the past, plan for the future, and function in the present.

We humans have gone one step further. We have created language out of a combination of images and sounds. That’s another level of abstraction, and one that is both powerful and dangerous.

It’s powerful since it allows us to explore the world in the abstract. It allows us to take what’s already there in less abstract thought, and create everything human civilization has created – from agriculture and cities to science, art, and technology.

It’s dangerous. When we take our thoughts to be real and true, it creates suffering for ourselves and can easily do so for others as well. And that happens at social (war, religion, oppression) and individual levels.

And it’s a risky experiment from life’s side. It may not work out for very long. We may self-destruct because of our inability to use thoughts in the most beneficial way. And we may take some ecosystems and other species with us. Of course, it’s not really that risky since everything dies anyway – species, ecosystems, living planets, solar systems, and the universe as a whole. It may just speed up the death of some species. And as we know from Earth’s history, mass extinctions create room for new species, ecosystems, and life innovations. (It’s also not “risky” since it’s not a planned evolutionary step, it just happened because it happened to give our species a survival advantage.)

Thoughts can be a very useful tool. As mentioned above, it seems to work pretty well in its less abstract version, prior to more complex language. And even with higher levels of abstraction, it can work well. We can recognize thoughts as a tool of limited value. They are very valuable in helping us orient and function in the world. And yet, they can’t do anything more. They are questions about the world. They have no absolute or final truth to them.

Who knows, perhaps humans will eventually evolve so a majority of us inherently know that thoughts are tools only. If so, humanity may have a long lifespan.

From a Darwinist point of view, this will require those who are less inclined to believe thoughts to have a survival advantage and produce more offspring. On the surface, that may not seem to be happening. Although who knows. If we are around for long enough, we – as a species – will see.

Read More

Thoughts, charge, identification

Finding clarity often has to do with differentiation. And here is a very basic one.

There is a difference between thoughts, bodily sensations, and identifications.

Thoughts are mental imitations of the senses – whether they are images, sounds, taste, smell, movement, sensations, or something else. When we talk about thoughts, we usually mean images and words, and words are typically a combination of mental images (of the words) and sounds.

Sensations are bodily sensations. When the mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, the sensations tend to lend a sense of charge (reality, substance, solidity) to the thoughts, and the thoughts lend a sense of meaning to the sensations.

When there is identifications with a thought, it seems true. The mind identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. Thoughts that are not identified with pass through and are recognized as just thoughts. They are seen as questions about the world. Temporary guides for orientation and action in the world, at most. It’s clear that they don’t reflect any final or absolute truth. Thoughts that are identified with tend to seem true and real. And the mechanism for identification with thoughts is for the mind to associate sensations with thoughts, as described above.

When it comes to tools for exploring these, they each seem to work on certain aspects of this thought, charge, and identification dynamic. They each use a slightly different angle to invite a release of the charge out of the thoughts, and soften the identification with these.

For instance, Living Inquiries tend to release the association between thoughts and sensations. Thoughts are then more easily recognized as thoughts, and the previous associated sensations may still be there but now with less or no particular meaning. The Work helps us recognize that previously believed thoughts are not inherently or absolutely true, and that other angles are as or more valid. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) tends to release the charge from the body which is associated with stressful thoughts and trauma, and the thoughts behind the stress and trauma tends to seem less charged and less true, and there may be less identification with them. Vortex Healing seems to work from both the bodily charge and consciousness side of this dynamic.

A footnote about mainstream psychology: I have for a long time noticed that mainstream psychologists sometimes don’t differentiate between these. For instance, many psychological questionnaires ask about thoughts but not how much charge they hold, or how identified the person is with these. And that’s one of many ways questionnaires can be interpreted in a misleading way.

Read More

How to be miserable

As the video above, and the book it’s based on, reminds us:

It can be helpful to explore how we create what we want less of in our lives.

If I want to be more miserable, what would I do? Here is my list, right now.

Sleep. Make sure to consistently not get enough sleep, or sleep way too much. Make sure it’s consistenly irregular.

Diet. Eat a good deal of dairy, sugar, wheat. Eat mostly refined and processed foods. If you notice you crave something, then eat lots of it.  (Craving = a sign that your body reacts to it.)

Physical activities. Find ways to move as little as possible. Drive instead of walking. Stay indoors as much as you can. Avoid nature.

Thoughts. Believe stressful thoughts. Indulge in them. Never question them. Treat them as true and unquestionable. Seek out more stressful thoughts. Let them amplify each other.

Social. Spend a lot of time alone, isolated. OR spend time with people who focus on what doesn’t work, who believes and reinforces your own stressful thoughts, who is unable to be present with you, who wants you to change (for their own sake). Set other’s needs before your own. Make those around you miserable. (Complain, be ungrateful.)

Situations. Stay in situations that doesn’t work for you, that feels wrong at a deep level. Grin and bear it or complain instead of doing something to change it.

Attention. Put attention on distractions. Put attention on things that are urgent but not important. On news and drama. Train attention to be scattered.

Activities. Set diffuse goals, and impossible goals. Don’t break goals into doable steps. Always wait until you feel like doing it do actually do it instead of scheduling. Tell yourself that whatever you do isn’t enough or won’t work. Let small setbacks or discomforts mean that you should give it up. Complain instead of making a change.

Why does this exploration work?

It helps me examine what doesn’t work, and how this comes about.

It makes it easier to recognize when I do it.

It makes it more into a “thing” which helps me relate to it more intentionally. These dynamics are seen more as an object and are less identified with.

Read More

Misunderstanding “living in the moment”

There are several valid criticisms of mindfulness:

  • It’s a very broad term and it’s used in many different ways. That means that, in itself, it doesn’t mean much.
  • It’s only one element of any serious self-exploration. It needs to be combined with a range of other forms of exploration. For instance different forms of inquiry, heart-centered practices, body inclusive practices, attention to how we live our life, psychological healing, relationship work including our relationship to ourselves, others, society, our planet, and life, and a study of other people’s experiences.
  • It can open up a pandora’s box of unprocessed materials and disorienting transpersonal experiences, and not all mindfulness teachers are experienced enough to guide their students through whatever terrain is opened up.

One argument against mindfulness that I sometimes encounter, and most recently this morning, is a straw man argument and not valid. It’s when people say: “We can’t just live in the present. We need to plan ahead and learn from the past. That’s our strength as human beings.”

That’s all true. And mindfulness allows us to use that ability with more skill and avoid some of its inherent pitfalls.

Mindfulness helps us change our relationship to thoughts. It helps us see that our thoughts – including thoughts about the future, past, and present – happen here and now. They, in themselves, are not the future, past, or present. And mindfulness combined with a simple form of inquiry helps us see that thoughts are made up of imaginations (words, images) and sensations. They are not what they appear to represent.

And that, in turn, creates room for us to relate to these thoughts more intentionally. It helps us recognize thoughts as thoughts. It helps us be less caught up in them. It helps us avoid taking them as anything more than thoughts. It helps us hold them more lightly and recognize then for what they are….. questions about the world.

We not only are able to “live in the present” while using thoughts as tools. We do so all of the time. The only difference is whether we are caught up in our thoughts and take them as real and infallible assumptions about the world, or recognize them as thoughts and questions about the world.

In either case, thoughts help us learn from the past, explore possibilities about the future, and form working assumptions about the present. Without mindfulness, it’s easy for us to take thoughts to be more than they are. And with, we can use them more skillfully as very helpful and essential tools.

Read More

Not painful to think?

Arne Næss, one of my favorite philosophers and human beings, once said:

It’s not painful to think.

And yet, of course, it can be.

Thoughts come with a whole mess of things, including sometimes memories and associations that trigger uncomfortable emotions. It can certainly be very uncomfortable to think.

If we think seriously about something, we may….

See that we don’t know as much as we think, or with much certainty.

Notice discrepancies and inconsistencies in our worldview.

Be reminded of painful situations or aspects of ourselves.

Have to question our beliefs and identities.

And much more. All of which can be quite uncomfortable.

The puzzling thing isn’t that not more of us are thinking more thoroughly. It’s that some do. And why? Most likely because we realize that it’s actually more painful, especially in the long run, to not examine things thoroughly.

Reality is kind, and we are kind to ourselves when we align our views more closely with reality.

Note: I am sure Arne Næss knew this very well. He probably just wanted to make a point. Thinking itself is not painful. It’s what we do with it that sometimes is. It’s how we react to it that can create discomfort.

Note 2: There is a clear difference between examination/inquiry and thinking. I know that this post blurred that distinction a bit.

Read More

Finding meaning, and holding it lightly

We are conditioned to find meaning in the world, and especially in what happens in our own life. It’s put into us through evolution, and it just makes sense that we do so. It helps us survive and function in the world.

One special case is when something happens that we don’t particularly like. Often, it’s in the form of a loss. We lose someone or something, and the mind tries to find a meaning in it.

The meaning may be that we are a victim, or that we are not good enough, or something similar and painful. And in the best case, we find a meaning that help us learn, heal, mature, and find peace with what happened.

For instance, the meaning may be I have an opportunity to learn about impermanence. I can learn to relate to it in a more helpful way. It may invite me to more fully appreciate what’s here and make use of an opportunity while it’s still here. It may invite me to know it will go away, and find some peace with it even before it happens. It may help me mature as a human being and find and deepen my empathy with others who experience loss. That all makes loss meaningful.

I like to keep these meaning-stories as simple and real as possible. I could add to it. For instance, life “wants” me to learn this, or that the loss was a special set-up just for me. But that doesn’t really make sense. It just adds unnecessary complication and drama to it. Some meaning-stories are inherently stressful.

And, in reality, any and each meaning-story can be stressful if we hold it as too real and too… meaningful. If we take it as absolutely true and real, instead of just as a temporary guide, any story will eventually be stressful.

There is a way to do this that seems the most helpful to me.

Find a meaning that’s practical, simple, and real. A meaning that helps me heal, mature, and function well in the world. Hold it lightly, as you are able.

Leave the rest aside. The meanings that seem overly complicated or makes it into something special. The meanings that are clearly stressful or painful.

Take to inquiry any remaining meaning-stories that seem real and substantial, and especially the stressful ones. Examine them.

For instance, use The Work of Byron Katie to see the consequences of holding it as true, how it may be if you don’t, and the validity in the reversals.

Or use the Living Inquiries to see how the mind creates its own stressful experience, how it attaches sensations to stories to give them charge and a sense of reality and substance, and help the mind soften or release the association between the stories and the charge.

To find a constructive meaning, it can help to talk with someone we trust or use some guidelines or tools found in – for instance – the positive psychology world.

And when it comes to holding any meaning lightly and set the stressful ones aside, some form of inquiry can be very helpful.

Note: When I say “I like to keep these meaning-stories as simple and real as possible” I don’t mean that I hold the meaning itself as real. It just means that I try to find a meaning that makes sense to me. A meaning that’s “real” in the sense of authentic.

Read More

Thoughts as guide

At some point, we realize that thoughts are…. thoughts. They contain no final or absolute truth. They are tools. They are here to help us orient and function in the world.

As we mature in that realization, we learn to function in the embrace of knowing that thoughts are thoughts while also using them as guides.

One way that works pretty well is to…..

Use consensus reality thoughts as general guide in everyday life, unless there are good reasons not to. This is especially helpful when we interact with people and in our work…!

Use maps that fit with our deeper experience of reality, perhaps similar to what is found in some spiritual traditions.

Use overarching maps of maps found in, for instance, integral models such as the AQAL model of Ken Wilber.

Use kindess as a guide. Use big picture views and long term perspectives as a guide.

Know that our experience, our choice of views, and the views themselves are inherently biased. They are the product of the whole history and evolution of the universe up to this point. They each have innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of the universe.

Use the maps, views, and orientations with some fluidity, receptivity, and humility. Knowing that with more experience and maturity, we’ll find other ones that make more sense to us.

And there is always further to go. What I outlined here is pretty basic and a first step.

Senseless, sensible, coming to our senses

Senseless: Lacking common sense, wildly foolish.

Oxford Dictionary

Sensible: Done or chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence, likely to be of benefit.

Oxford Dictionary

Come to your senses: to start to understand that you have been behaving stupidly.

Cambridge Dictionary

There is often wisdom in traditional sayings and expressions and even embedded in everyday words.

What does it mean to come to our senses? In an everyday use, it means to perceive and act in a more grounded and sensible way. There is a literal truth in that expression. When we are caught in thoughts, we can get a bit loopy and insane. We live in abstractions. We take our own imaginations, our own mental images and words, as reality. We make ourselves crazy that way.

Coming to our senses means to bring attention to our senses, to sensations, sights, sounds, smell, and taste. And also to our imaginations as what they are, recognizing them as mental images and words (imagined sounds and mental images). When we bring attention to our senses, the mind is incapable of simultaneously be caught up in stories and content of thought. It’s either one or the other. (Unless we do both half way, in which case we are still caught in stories and imagination.)

The more we bring attention to our senses, the more we make it into a new habit, and the more we have an actual freedom in shifting attention between our senses and occasionally into stories. Now and then, we do need to bring attention into stories to function in the world. Using stories in this practical sense is natural and kind. And we can do it as needed and while recognizing these stories as imaginations.

There is some effort here in terms of intentionally bringing attention to our senses. And over time, it becomes more and more effortless. Even the recognition of imagination as imagined becomes more effortless more often.

Read More

Thinking with mental images and other imagined senses

We humans think with imagined versions of our senses. We think we mental images, imagined sounds, imagined smell and taste, imagined touch. Even words are imagined sounds and images (of the letters), often combined with mental images of what the words refer to.

I imagine that most animals do the same. They think with imagined senses, with mental images and imagined sounds, smell, taste, touch and more. Whatever senses they have, they may think with imagined versions of these senses. I assume mammals and probably birds and reptiles do that each in their own way. Insects may also do it, although, although more rudimentary.

And if there are beings in other places of the universe, it’s possible they do the same. They may think with imagined versions of their own senses, whatever those senses happen to be.

Some form of feelings or emotions may also be included for many beings. For us, sensations give a sense of solidity and reality to some imaginations, and they also give them a charge. And that serves a survival function.

Read More

The mind trying to make sense of what’s happening

The mind is a sweetheart, as one of my teachers (Todd C.) likes to say.

It tries to make sense of what’s going on. It tries to help out the best it can.

This happens when an old trauma is triggered by a current situation.

An old trauma is triggered by the current situation. A strong emotion or reaction comes up, the mind thinks it must be about the current situation, and makes up a story that makes it seem as if the current situation justifies the situation. To others, it may seem that the reaction is way out of proportion to the situation, but to the mind it seems justified because of the story it made up. (Afterwards, we may recognize this and feel perplexed or even a bit ashamed Or we may take it as an opportunity to look at the trauma and the initial situation creating it.)

And we also see it just about all the time in everyday life. Something happens, and the mind tries to make sense of it. It interprets. Makes a story out of it. Tries to make it coherent as best as it can. It may make a story out of it that either deflates or enhances the imagined self, depending on its inclination.

The mind is a story maker and we need it to function. We do need basic stories to navigate and orient in the world. And yet, it’s really helpful when we can recognize this as it happens. Recognize the stories as stories. Recognize velcro as velcro. (The charge we experience when the mind associates sensations with the stories.)

Emotions and thoughts are not telling the truth

Emotions and their associated thoughts can be misleading in two ways.

(a) We think they are about the current situation.

We assume they reflect or are justified by or even created by the current situation. The reality is that almost always, these emotions and accompanying thoughts are old. They come from early in life. They may even be passed on through the generations. The current situation trigger these old patterns in us.

Emotions and their thoughts are often not about what they on the surface seem to be about. A friend or partner leaves me, I feel a sense of abandonment and that I am unlovable, and that’s not really about the current triggering situation. It’s about early childhood experiences, perhaps all the way back to infancy, where I felt like this and it was not resolved. (The only way to resolve these is to be present with and feel the sensations, and examine the imaginations connected with it.)

(b) We think they tell us the truth.

We think the emotions and the associated stories tell us the truth about whatever they seem to be about. And yet, that’s usually not the reality. They are from identifications, beliefs, wounds, and even trauma. They come from reactivity. At most, they have a very limited validity, as do a number of other stories (including their reversals). And even more so, the reality is that we don’t know.

Using the example above, I have stories about being abandoned and unlovable. On the surface, they may seem and feel true. But they are really just imaginations (mental images and words) associated with sensations in the body. When we identify these and feel the physical sensations and look at the images and words, the original experience doesn’t seem so real anymore. We recognize it as created by the mind through sensations associated with imagination.

When I say emotions and their associated thoughts, I mean thoughts that seem to give meaning to, elaborate on, and explain emotions. And also thoughts that trigger and create emotions.

Read More

Coming to our senses

Coming to our senses.

That’s an expression that can be understood literally.

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

I am absorbed in these stories, because they feel real. And they feel real because these images and words are connected with sensations in the body, which gives them charge and lends them a sense of solidity and reality.

All of this can be useful in a practical sense. Imagination is vital for us to function in the world, to plan ahead, run through different scenarios, sift through and examine the past, and act on what we learn from this imagination. It’s vital for our survival.

At the same time, it can go a bit awry. We can get caught in stressful stories about the past or future, and these can even go in a loop. We stress ourselves out rather than use imagination as a simple and practical tool.

What’s the remedy? One is to examine these stories. (Is it true? What happens when I take it as true? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in the reversals? (The Work.) What images and words are associated to the sensations? What do I find when I look at each one, and ask some simple questions to help me see what’s there? (Living Inquiries.))

Another is to, literally, come to my senses.

I can notice what’s here. Notice sensation. Sound. Thought. Shift from thinking to noticing thought. Allow. Notice it’s all already allowed. Notice the boundless space it’s all happening within.

I can feel the sensations. Feel the sensations I may have wanted to escape, by going into thought. Rest with it. Take time.

Both of these – noticing and feeling – helps me shift out of thought.

The noticing helps me notice thought as thought, notice imagination as imagination.

The feeling helps me meet, feel, and even befriend the sensations I initially tried to escape by going into thought. I may get to see that the sensations that initially seemed uncomfortable or scary, because of the stories attached to them, are not so scary. They are sensations. They don’t inherently mean anything. I can feel them, rest with them, even find kindness towards them. I get to see I don’t need to escape sensations by compulsively going into thought. (Getting here may require some inquiry.)

This is a retraining of the mind. A forming of a new habit of noticing and feeling, when I notice the compulsion to go into (obsessive, stressful) thought.

Read More

Finding safety in understanding

There are many flavor to how our minds turns away from feeling what’s here.

One is to try to find refuge and safety in understanding.

If I think about my understanding, I don’t have to feel this.

I can explore this in several ways:

What would I have to feel now if I didn’t think about my understanding? Feel that.

What am I afraid would happen if I didn’t go into understanding? Look for the threat.

Can I find X? Understanding? Insight?

Can I find X? Someone who understands? Someone who gets it?

Can I find the command to understand? To get it?

Here are some of the ways I use understanding – thinking about understanding something – as a way to avoid feeling what’s here:

I get caught in figuring something out. Or rehearsing an understanding, or elaborating on it, or fine-tuning it. I distract myself from feeling.

I use it to avoid shifting from thinking to noticing thoughts, since this often will lead to noticing and feeling what’s here.

I use it to avoid doing what the understanding is about. I think about my understanding of something instead of actually doing it, including dealing with things in my life, natural rest and inquiry. This helps me avoid feeling what I would have to feel if I actually did it.

There is of course absolutely nothing wrong about understanding and insight. It’s essential and beautiful. It’s what allows us to function in the world. And it’s what allows us to evolve as a species and civilization. It’s one of the ways life explores and experiences itself through us.

Even compulsively going to understanding to escape feelings is OK. It’s innocent. It comes from deep caring. It’s what the mind does when it scares itself with its own stories. And it’s not satisfying in the long run, or even in the moment.

Read More

More personal thoughts

It’s warm today. I have to call my parents. I will take a shower before going outside. I need a new pair of summer shorts.

Some thoughts seem less personal, like these. (At least to me, now.)

And some thoughts seem more personal.

I am not getting enough sleep. Why did they paint the house with high-VOC paint? Don’t they realize how toxic it is, and that there are good alternatives? Why is the air conditioning on at night, when it only makes the air stuffy and humid, while the outdoor air is fresh and cool? Where am I going to stay the next few days or weeks? Life is unfair. I don’t belong among Americans.

I should be over this. I am embarrassed I still have a charge around it. I am not looking at the situation as clearly as I can. I am afraid I’ll mess it up. That I’ll get caught in reactivity, and regret it later.

The difference is that the latter thoughts have a charge around them. There is (some) identification with their viewpoint. They feel more true. They feel more real. There is more “velcro” there. (Words and images seem stuck on sensations, and these sensations gives the words and images charge, and a sense of reality, and that that’s “my viewpoint”.)

That’s why they seem more personal. That’s why they seem more true.

That’s why it’s easier to get caught up in identifying with their viewpoint and stories, and not even notice what they are – words, images, sensations.

These are the ones that can go “under the radar”, at least for a time. Often, it’s easier to recognize what they are later. And sometimes even as there is identification and charge around it

Some call these “secondary thoughts” or “commenting thoughts” but that doesn’t seem accurate to me. All thoughts are commenting on something, and they are all – really – commenting other thoughts. Thoughts comment on each other. That’s why they are all also secondary thoughts. They come after and depend on prior thoughts.

The difference, to me, is that some thoughts have more identification and velcro and seem more true, and other thoughts have less or (apparently) none of this. The latter are easier to recognize as what they are. The former can be a little more difficult to recognize.

That’s why it’s good to slow it all down, through resting with it, and perhaps asking some simple questions to clarify what’s there.

Every story was made up by someone

This is very obvious. And it can also make a big difference if we ponder it and take it in.

Every story was made up by someone.

And then passed on by others, and changed.

Any story was created by someone. Stories saying that a word means a certain thing. Or that something is good and something else is bad. Or that this is anger, or sadness, or pain, or joy. Or that loss or heartache is terrible. Or that humans are separate from rest of nature. Or that something called God or Spirit exist.

Stories about these stories were also made up by someone. Stories saying that the initial story is true, or false, or comes from an authority (so you should perceive and live as if it’s true), and so on.

Each of these stories were made up by someone. They are all a thought. They are more or less useful as a pointer in daily life. Their content is really a question only, a question about the world.

 

What is a thought ?

Thoughts. They seem very real. What they refer to may not be real, or may not be as the thought says it is, but the thought itself must be real?

What do I find when I look at thoughts?

I find that a thought may be an image. Or it may be a sound (a word or words) with associated images, for instance one or more images that the sounds refer to, and perhaps an image of the letters making up the word or words.

These may appear connected with certain sensations. And these sensations may lend a sense of reality and solidity to the images and/or words. The stronger sensations, and the stronger the sensations seem connected with the images and words, the stronger the sense of charge associated with the thought. This charge may appear to mean that what the thought refers to – or the thought itself – is real, important, good, bad, that I like it, or dislike it.

It can be helpful to notice this. Look at the images and/or words. Listen to the sounds. Feel the sensations. Perhaps ask simple questions about each, to clarify what’s really there. (And what is not.)

Seeing what’s really there, and feeling what’s really there, can be very freeing. It gives more freedom around the thought. I can relate to it with a little more clarity and intention.

Also, can I find a thought outside of these images, words, sounds, and sensations? Can I find a real thing called a thought?

Taking this further, I can explore images, words, sounds and sensations. Can I really find each of these, as a solid and real object? As they initially appear to me?

Read More

Save all sentient beings

Hearing Buddhists talk about the intention of saving all sentient beings, I hear it in a way that makes sense to me right now.

I hear it as referring primarily to the beings arising in me – wounds, emotions, thoughts, physical pain, identifications.

If I was this wound, this emotion, this thought, this physical pain, how would I like to be met?

As a wound, I wish to be heard, felt, allowed. I wish you to be with me, to stay with me. I wish for you to let me have my life, and for whatever else comes up in you in response to me to have its life. I wish to be met, seen, felt, and even loved, as I am. I wish to be respected as I am, and also for healing and alignment with love and the reality of all as Spirit. I wish to be recognized as innocent, as love – even if I was created from confused love.

As confusion, I wish to be met with kindness. I wish to have my life. I wish for you to allow me my life, and for whatever else comes up in you in response to me to have it’s life as well. I wish to be recognized as innocent, and as love.

As a thought, I wish to be seen, felt, loved, as I am. I wish for you to identify the thought, and find what’s more true. I wish for you to do this for its own sake. If you notice any motives, any desires for me to go away or transform, I wish that you allow these their life as well, and that you make a note of them and find more clarity around these thoughts. I wish to be recognized as innocent, and as love, even if it’s confused love. I wish to be met with kindness and respect. I wish to align with love and all as Spirit. I wish for your help in being liberated from being taken as true.

As physical pain, I wish to be met with kindness by you. I wish to be met with love, to be held within love. I wish for you to identify and look into the resistant and stressful thoughts you have about me. I wish for you to identify and look into your images of me, and see what appears to be here, and what’s here when you look more closely.

As identification, I wish to be met with kindness, understanding, and love. I wish for you to see me as innocence and love, even if it’s confused love. I wish for you to befriend me, to relate to me as a friend. I wish for you to identify and look into the thoughts you have about me. What thoughts are there saying I will help you, protect you? What thoughts are there saying I am bad, wrong, something that needs to go away or change? What’s more true for you, when you look into these thoughts?

And as I find more kind ways of meeting and being with all of these beings, it may naturally, inevitably, without any effort or intention from my side, spill over in how I meet and am with beings in general – whether they are emotions, wounds, thoughts, or pain, or beings in the wider world – humans, animals, plants, ecosystems, society, Earth, future generations, past generations, present generations. It may or may not, and whatever thoughts I have about it is something I can meet with kindness, understanding, love.

Read More

Three facets of thought: Page, letters, meaning

A book has three essential parts: The white pages, the ink and letters on the pages, and the content and meaning of the words.

And that’s how it is with images and thoughts – mental field activity – as well.

There is ink and letters – the images and thoughts themselves, as images and thoughts. It’s what I notice when I label images images, and thoughts thoughts. An image comes up, it’s labeled image. A thought comes up, it’s labeled thought.

There is a content to these images and thoughts, they have a meaning. An image is of a bird. A thought says it’s a magpie, and it’s standing at the doorstep looking in.

And it’s all happening on and as a white page. Images and thoughts happen as awareness, it’s the play of awareness taking a temporary form as an image or a thought. It’s “substance” or “material” is awareness itself.

So when there is an image or a thought here, the experience of it may be quite different depending on where attention goes.

(a) If attention goes to the content of the story, that’s what’s in the foreground. If attention is absorbed into the content of the story, and the story is taken as true, what it tells me will seem quite real, substantial and solid. And if the content is recognized as an innocent question about the world, as an image or thought and not reflecting any absolute or final truth, this content can be very helpful in a practical and pragmatic, sense as an aid to orient and navigate in the world.

(b) If attention goes to the image as an image, or the thought as a thought, for instance through labeling, then that’s what’s in the foreground. The image here is recognized as an image. The thought that’s here is recognized as a thought. Attention is freed from being absorbed into the content of the image or the thought, although there is awareness of this content.

(c) If attention goes to it all as awareness itself, as the play of awareness, then that’s what’s in the foreground. It’s all happening within and as what I am. And this includes any images or thoughts about a me as this human self, and an I as an observer or doer. A variation of this is bringing attention to the image that’s here, or the thought that’s here, as also love.

Again, this is perhaps most effectively explored through various forms of inquiry, investigating what’s here now in immediacy.