Sunday, November 12, 2017

Follow the senses

Often when we feel fractured or broken our systems shut down and we cease to relate to the body. Typically we begin to exist only in the head, in the thinking mind which goes on and on in a ceaseless litany that seems to reinforce how broken we are.

The senses and the body are the first steps on our pathway to becoming whole. Yoga (the very word denotes wholeness, coming together) delicately encourages us to tune into the senses and to the sensations of the body.

Start with the five senses
"Every perception is an invitation into revelation. Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching –
Ways of knowing creation,Transmissions of electric realization,The deepest reality is always right here."  Radiance Sutra 9

So we begin the process of returning to wholeness by simply opening the senses and tuning into everything that is there: tastes, sounds, smells, light and image, tactile sensations. We often forget to notice that taste, smell and touch are always here with us. Hearing and sight dominate. So pause a moment and see what you taste, what you smell, what are the tactile sensations of air on your skin, or the feeling of your clothes on your skin?

The trick here is to just let everything be here without any judgement. This is especially so with those dominant senses, hearing and sight.

If we have all five of our senses intact we are fortunate. However there is always another side to the equation. When we have sight and hearing, they can override all else. So long as the eyes are open we can be so distracted by the images we see. Who can keep their eyes off the moving images on a television? At least we can close our eyes, but then there are the ears!

As I sat meditating this morning, work started up at the block across the road where new houses are being built. There was no un-hearing it. Men were shouting their communications across the block, trucks were arriving to deliver things and the sound of tools began. The challenge was to let it be without judgement. For when we judge something we become fused with it and then disturbances arise in the emotions and the mind rejects what is here. When it is welcomed into the soup of what is here arising, it just arises and passes through and is not experienced as disturbing.

Consider the following potential protracted sounds in our environment.
  • The neighbour's dog barking.
  • The sounds of heavy equipment being used in the neighbourhood by a road maintenance crew. 
  • Aircraft overhead. 
  • People talking in a room where you are trying to work.
  • The sound of your own tinnitus
Any of these could become totally distracting if you were to judge it as "negative". If however you can simply welcome it to be here does it not begin to recede into being a background to which you can habituate?

So I celebrate the sounds that were in my environment this morning, they truly gave me the opportunity to practice welcoming what is here along with other sensations, as part of the kaleidoscope of  things arising that come and go yet do not touch the inner me.

Be captivated by sensation
"The body is an oblation to Higher Consciousness" - Siva Sutra II:8
Beyond the senses lies sensation. As we practice asana, especially when we come into some semblance of mastery of technique and we achieve ease in the postures, and during savasana and in meditation, we can begin to attune to the subtler sensations of the body. It may take time to develop sensitivity to these subtler dimensions. That's OK. Give yourself permission to explore and take it at your own pace.

There are profound pay-offs.

Firstly, you will recognise what is harmonious and what is not harmonious in the body. Healthy choices become obvious and desirable. and if the body is facing injury or illness, you will know that early and be able to take early steps towards a remedy.

Then you will also discover how every movement of emotion and thought have their own sensation and location in the body. Recognising this you will have an early warning system and can allow yourself to welcome these as sensations as well and as you do find that when you open the door to them they no longer have to break it down and overwhelm you.

In this way we discover our wholeness.

Quieten the mind
"Yoga happens when there is stilling ... of the movement of thought ..." Yoga Sutra I.2
Because it is impossible to truly feel and think at the same time, tuning into sensation has another magical property - it quietens the mind.

Try it now.

Take a moment to settle, you might want to close over the eyes, then notice the state of your mind, the thoughts that are arising.

Now tune into sensation in the body and identify a part of the body you can truly sense and feel, not visualising it, just feeling. Perhaps your lips, perhaps a hand. Stay with it and allow sensation to fully unfold.

Stay awhile really tuning into sensation.

What happens to thinking?