• June 21, 2024

    Sensing is in the nervous system in response to a stimulus. Feeling is not.

    Sensing is the basis for emotion. An emotion, whether we consider it positive or negative, is a body state usually with a thought pattern to go with it.

    Anger is an excitation of the nervous system with thinking that identifies why I am angry. The sensations are localized, including adrenals, pulse, breath and so on, much of which we may not be conscious of but all of it within reach of our awareness.

    Pleasure is also an excitation of the nervous system with quite different physical effects but also with associated thinking. Pleasant emotions have physical benefits, negative ones have negative effects.

    Sensations not only affect us individually but also communicate beyond the body to other humans, plants and animals. So, curating sensations has value and real consequence.

    What is feeling? Enquire. Is it not something received? Is there not a range of thousands of different feelings? Consider freedom, purity, beauty, elegance, truth, loyalty and so on. These are qualities known by their feelings. They each have a particular vibrational or tone. They require us to be open, receptive and attentive. They are gifts of the unseen.

    As we enquire we may find that feelings have associated sensations such as sorrow and sadness, joy and happiness.

    To make way for feelings to enter, whole body attention is most useful. Allowing attention to fall directly on all the sensations of the body clears the palate, removing the localized, locked in sensations of ordinary emotions. Submission encourages feeling to enter. Humility is the most beautiful inner gesture we can make towards the realm of feeling.

    A whole human being has sensation, thought and feeling working together in body, mind and heart. Each domain has its organ of perception. How rarely do we use them to fully perceive.

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  • December 3, 2022

    Culture is trash, said a group member. True if you think of some of our current music and entertainment…lighting up genitalia, twerking and the like. But culture also encompasses our greatest achievements as humans, reflecting the highest use of sensitive energy to create the beautiful.

    Consider reading Doris Lessing’s Marriage of Zones Three Four and Five. Zone Four is a culture based on rules and thinking. It is known for its rigidity and lack of imagination. Its inhabitants do not look up to the mountains. They follow dictates. Their highest form of organization is the military.

    Zone Three is the creative use of sensation. Zone Three does not ultimately lead to the fully conscious experience of the mysterious Zone Two but its life is elevated by subtlety and communication.

    The difference between Zones Three and Four is visible in something as simple as serving a cup of tea. In Zone Four, the cup is plunked down while the mind goes on to the next thought, the next task. In Zone Three, The gesture is completed by taking into account the server, the served and the tea and the placement is an exchange between their gestures and postures.

    One artist can be interested in learning technique while another wants to explore the sense experience of the materials, the light in the studio, the placement of the easel.

    Fourth way work tends to be too much Zone Four. Most of the questions I get are literally senseless.

    Voluntary sensing is Gurdjieff’s World 24. Still impermanent, but it touches on World 12 where feeling enters from the miraculous realm of the infinite. Better to cultivate sensing than thinking. Use attention. Let mentation follow along the rails of sight and sound. This way lies consciousness and World 12.

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  • February 9, 2018

    Zikr is never the same twice. Sometimes, as I begin, I am looking for the openings in that moment. Where can I begin the journey towards Him? What is the first step?

    Last night was not like that. He was there before me, waiting, ready to entice, delighted to join in, happy to help.

    Sit. Can I sense that I am sitting? He was sensing the sitting, inside of my sensing. Was I sitting for Him, so He could sit? I was conscious of being in His Presence. He was conscious of Himself in me. Was I looking for Him, or was He looking for me, or looking for Himself in me? I spoke the words of the Invocation and He seemed to enjoy them immensely.

    I was praying for His pleasure. He was at play in the sound and the rhythm.

    Then I felt that I was facing Him. My face was my original face, neither young nor old. His Presence was the sun on my skin. I remembered myself as I have always been.

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  • December 3, 2017

    You have heard me say that sensing has immense importance in this work. Obviously sensing is the means by which we know and interact with our world. Our physical bodies are exquisitely sensitive displays of information about our environment. Sensing also tells us about our own physical state. Sensations are data. Can you accept this data or do you reject it?

    Sensing puts us in touch with the present and anchors the attention, which counterbalances the tendency of the thinking apparatus to steal attention and suppress perception and inhabit the past or the future.

    You have (hopefully) also heard me say that sensing enables us to monitor and transform the energies of the body, a process that enables us to waken higher faculties. Sensations are food. Are you able to digest this food?

    Sensing is a real experience…at its most basic, the movement of electrical and chemical processes through the nervous system. Sensing is the physiological capacity of organisms to provide data for perception. Being 21st century humans, we allow the thinking machine to structure this experience and even replace it. We like to think that we are sensing when really we are thinking about sensing. When I ask you to place attention on sensation, how many of you think about a part of the body you have decided to sense and then try to sense it through the medium of your thinking?

    Can you make use of thought to place attention and then withdraw thinking, allowing attention to penetrate sensation directly? Attention can then read many sensations at once and its unmediated interaction with sensation leads to most interesting energetic effects.

    Sensations are not emotions but thinking often associates sensations with past events which have emotional content. A sensory reaction then becomes an emotion. Can you take every sensation simply as data, impartially?

    The questions I am posing point to the use of sensations as the basis for our work on self. Without them at the center, we are just another philosophical school indulging in useless mental gymnastics.

    The bonus for impartial sensing is that you may discover that you have many more sensations than you thought. Have you considered this? You should be able to find more than a dozen different senses, not just the standard five. There is a sense organ, or sensor, dedicated to each sense. There is vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch, the five traditionally recognized ones. Our external sensory capacities also include temperature, movement or kinesthetic sense, pain, balance and vibration.

    Perhaps there are still more…the sensation of floating or weightlessness, claustrophobia or suffocation. Pulse and breathing. There are also internal sensations such as hunger, thirst and organic fear. Some people say we can sense abnormal salt and carbon dioxide concentrations in the blood. Some of us are able to sense electrical and magnetic fields. And what about the sensations that do not seem to depend upon a specific organ such as time, familiarity, perhaps even the sense of initiating an action?

    Can you get out of your head and into your sensations? My guess is that you will find that some of these sensations are operating in you just beyond your noticing but nonetheless having a significant impact on your experience of the world and self. It’s not that you need to name them. But if you allow them into your consciousness, integrate them into your experience, you may be able to be more voluntary, even harmonious.

    Perhaps certain places or circumstances give rise to the sensations of suffocating. Can you bring this impartially to awareness so you can deal with it?

    The early stages of zikr are about integrating sensations and bringing them into alignment with each other, especially pulse and breath together with hearing, the vibrations of sound in the body and making subtle rhythmic movements. Attention fully engages with sensing and the effect is cleansing…inharmonious sensations are pacified and made compatible with prayer and invocation. This is one of the meanings of remembering self.

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  • June 17, 2016

    I sense that at every step my life is impeded. Nothing happens easily. Everything I do seems to be a struggle involving effort and conflict. Sometimes I’m not moved to do anything at all.

    In part it is like weather. There are periods of wind and rain and there are times when the sun shines. The conditions of the environment are changeable and influenced by many factors. Sensing these conditions, just as one senses the weather, can you tell when it is more possible to act and when to hold back. It isn’t necessary to know the exact nature of the forces at work. You can never really know them in full and you can lose a lot of time trying to analyze them. Worse, you can imagine that you do know something based on astrology or whatever, rather than relying on your own sensing.

    Mastery of self is knowing how to read, and be advised by, one’s sensations. In a world that is full of contradictory forces, where it is nonetheless necessary to act, you must be able to follow the path of slightly less resistance.

    But there is much more to this. Is it possible to cultivate an unimpeded state? In Vajrayana it is said that the essence of reality is emptiness, its nature is luminous and its expression is unimpeded. What is meant by unimpeded? To gain insight into this question, it is necessary to begin at the beginning, which is emptiness.

    So much of what we do seems to come from thinking. And much of our thinking is compulsively centered on what we should do, or what we always do out of habit. Clearly, these actions do not come from emptiness. We think that nothing can come from emptiness. We are very uncomfortable with the whole notion. If I don’t make efforts based on what I think I would do if I could do what I should do, what’s going to happen? Nothing, right? Wrong.

    Observe yourself. Mostly, you are a bundle of habitual reactions. Stimulus from outside followed by habitual reaction. But there are other rarer events. Sometimes an impulse arises that has no observable external cause. Where do these impulses arise from? This is truly a mystery if you follow this inquiry. Do they arise from the emptiness? Can you see that they begin as luminous expressions of love, of joy, that precede thought?

    To remain unimpeded, the impulse must pass cleanly through the self—body and mind—without diversion. This is where we are most impeded. Our inner contradictions and habitual editing prevent unimpeded expression even more than the conditions of the external world. There are antidotes for this confusion…repeated exposure to voluntary presence and attention and especially impartial observation. Conditioning breaks down over time. This is a path of inner surrender which goes hand-in-hand with growing indifference to yourself and your conditioning. Indifference has a great power to change.

    You can learn to find emptiness, embrace it and trust it to move you, slowly passing the power to act from outside to inside. Of course, as long as you live in this world you will have a list of shoulds and you should probably honour them if you can, as long as they remain shoulds. You have to be mindful of consequences. But unimpeded expression comes from the emptiness within.

    “Like a long-legged fly upon the stream. His mind moves upon silence.” W.B.Yeats

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  • August 17, 2015

    I notice how encumbered I am by my beliefs. I believe certain things and I don’t believe others and both seem to be permanently fixed. I cannot believe in an unseen world. Can this rigidity be shifted so I can believe?

    What you are describing is the sickness of our time. What you are describing is a lack of faith which is not the same as belief.

    To inquire into this matter we must be careful to make distinctions. I wish first to explore the differences between knowing and believing.

    I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. This is based on personal experience, the experience of many others, and verification over thousands of years. It is explained by a theory of celestial mechanics which is also based on verifiable observation…we understand why the sun will appear to rise tomorrow.

    The resurrection of the dead is in another category. I can believe in this but I cannot know it.  I have no experience of it, neither do others, there is no historical record of it and there is no verifiable theory to support it. My belief is likely based on religious authority or some sort of intuition.

    Inquiring into belief, I find that it is a marriage of thought and emotional preference. My belief consists of thinking what I want to think about something or someone.  It is supported by an emotional need.

    Not believing something requires an equal amount of careful consideration. Is my non-belief a refusal to believe something because there is no evidence, or because I want to reject it?

    The issue here is emotion in its dual forms of clinging and averting.  If I do not know that something is true, I can test it to see if there is evidence for it. Or I can decide to believe it or disbelieve it.  My motive for doing so is observable in myself.  Most likely, I believe because I cling to something I like and I disbelieve because I reject something I do not like. These emotions are facts which can be determined by observation. They are not immutable because they are based in emotion.

    One of the primary functions of believing or disbelieving is to reduce uncertainty, which is unsettling and anxiety-producing.

    Observing these mechanisms is fundamentally important because I continually adopt beliefs and disbeliefs that then block my capacity to know. We commonly use the expression that ‘seeing is believing’ but the converse is far more true…believing is seeing. I precondition perception by what I want to see and then delight in confirmation, which provides a false sense of certainty. To open my experience to the unknown, I must first unwind the beliefs that block perception.  “The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.”

    One of the strongest beliefs is what constitutes evidence. Thinking based on sensation is believed and has become completely dominant despite its home in the transitory world. Feeling is not considered evidence. Aesthetic experience, the perception of beauty, the feeling of truth…these are not taken as evidence of perception. They are thought to be subjective and ephemeral and therefore they are disbelieved. But in the world of feeling, there can be just as much certainty based on evidence as there is in the physical world where I know the sun will rise tomorrow. The evidence is the feeling.

    Humans have three capacities for the play of perception—thinking, sensing and feeling—but we habitually rely on only the first two. Feeling is the perceptive capacity that opens the second dimension of time, the dimension that is all-certainty, unchanging by its very nature.

    If you rely on belief, you cannot have faith. Faith is perception of the heart, perception by feeling. It has no emotional needs, no subjective preferences motivated by clinging or averting, no history, no development, only uncovering.

    Faith is not blind. Faith is knowing, but not the knowing of the mind. It cannot be overturned by reason because it is not rooted in the mind. Faith comprehends the shape and texture of truth before it reaches the mind. What does faith apprehend? It knows relatedness, it knows with certainty that all things communicate and cohere. It knows that life has meaning. Faith is the feeling of being held and sustained. It is the cognition of being embedded in something immeasurably large and compassionate.

    Faith serves the unseen world, the world of the Absolute. He who is lost is found by way of faith.

    Rumi writes that each of us must dig out the foundations of the self and discover underneath two veins, one of ruby and one of gold. Faith is one of these veins. All beings have faith but it must be freed from the beliefs that cover it. We do not need to produce faith from our own efforts, rather we need to expose its counterfeit, the beliefs which stand in its place.

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