Staying with sensations

 

What do I mean when I tell myself I stay with the fear behind discomfort, unease, tension and so on?

I am really just staying with the sensations of fear, the sensations my images and thoughts tend to label fear.

And how can I more easily do that?

I find that inquiry is very helpful, for instance inquiring into the thoughts creating the fear (I won’t have enough money, she won’t like me), thoughts about the fear itself (it’s overwhelming, it means something terrible will happen), and the label fear itself (it’s fear).

Training a more stable attention is also very helpful, for this as for so much else, and the simplest way to do this may be to bring attention to the sensations of air as it flows in and out of the nostrils. Allow the breath to be as it is (or notice it’s already allowed), and bring attention to the sensations at the nostrils. As attention goes somewhere else, usually into thoughts taken as true, notice and bring it back to the sensations again. (This is also an inquiry practice, noticing the tendency of attention to go into thoughts taken as true, and then bring attention back to the sensations, and notice any beliefs about this and perhaps later take these to inquiry.)

Staying with sensations seems helpful at any time. It helps me see that what I label warm, cold, pain, hunger, unease, agitation, joy, excitement are all sensations with an overlay of images and thoughts labeling it in these ways. Is it really true? Is the label true? Does it have an as clearly defined boundary as these images suggest? What does my thoughts tell me are the implications of these labels (it’s pain and that means….)? What do I find when I take these to inquiry?

It also helps attention stay with something quite simple – sensations – instead of getting lost in labels, interpretations and stories about these sensations or other aspects of life.

It’s all an experiment. What happens if attention stays with sensations here and now? What happens if there is that intention? What are my thoughts about it? What do I find if I take these to inquiry?

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