A brief how-to: sense field exploration


I find sense field explorations interesting and helpful.

Here is a very simple version I use for myself:

To stabilize attention, bring attention to the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. Just notice the sensations. Nothing else is required. If attention strays to thoughts, bring it back. It’s all fine. Just notice when it strays, and gently bring it back to the sensations at the nostrils.

After a while, when attention seems more stable, bring attention to sounds, to whatever sounds are here. Notice the sounds. There is no need to do anything about them, just notice.

Then notice sensations in the body. Notice the sensations up and down the body. Noticing is all that’s needed.

Now notice taste. Just notice. And now, smells. Notice the smells that are here.

Notice sight. Even if the eyes are closed, something is there in the visual field. Notice it. It’s all very relaxed, just notice what’s there.

With the eyes closed, notice the images that are here. The images of your body. The images of what you are sitting or laying on. The images of the room. The images of the building. Of other people. Of the city. The sky. Trees. The country. The earth. Notice all these images. They are all images, all imagination.

To explore how the mental field overlays other fields:

Now bring attention back to the sensations in the body, and notice how the images of your body helps locate these sensations. There is a sensation, an image of your right calf, and a thought that the sensation is an itch on the right calf.

Notice the sounds. Again, notice how your images helps locate the sounds in space, and offer an interpretation. There is a sound, an image of where it comes from, and an image of children playing.

Exploring space and time:

Now notice how there is an image of space, and how other images are placed on this image of space. There is an image of space, and overlaid on this image is an image of your body, the room, the building, the garden, a street with cars, the city, the country, the Earth.

Think of something that happened this morning. Notice it’s an image, it’s imagination. Think of something that may happen later today. Notice it’s an image. Think of what’s here now. Notice that’s an image too. Now notice the image of time that tells you that one is from this morning, in the past, one is about later today, in the future, and one is about what’s here now. Is this an image of a continuum? Does it contain divisions of past, future, and present? Are these divisions solid or a bit fuzzy?


Shadow work example


In the beginning of shadow work, it may be difficult to find here what we see in others. After all, I am a relatively nice guy, so how can it be that the monster over there is mirroring something in me?

The trick is to be specific enough, and also keep in mind that it may look quite different in degree and form, although the quality is the same.

So I see someone who is a monster.

First, I see that he is misguided. Can I find where I am misguided?

Yes, I can find examples of that in the past and also now. Whenever I get stuck in a rigid view, I am misguided, and it usually has undesirable effects, even if it is just an achy stomach from eating something I knew I shouldn’t have eaten.

The outcome in that example is dramatically different, but the quality is the same. We are both sometimes misguided.

Then, he is cruel. Can I find that in myself?

For me, I can most easily see it when I see my own actions from the perspective of others. I walk past someone asking me for money, and I can understand how that can be seen as cruel. I could have helped, but I didn’t.

Also, there are lots of people in the world who could have benefited immensely from the money I use on frivolous eating and entertainment. I get a little bit of short lived entertainment out of it, and they could have used it to stay healthy or even survive. That is certainly cruel, from their perspective.

I sometimes eat meat, so I support the meat industry. The current meat industry is cruel. It is a system of massive imprisonment of living beings, of conditions that often amount to torture, and systematic killing just so I can get a meal from it. From the perspective of nonhuman beings, that is definitely cruel. (And quite possibly cruel from the perspective of future mainstream human society considering the longer term trends in morals, and who is included in a sense of us.)

Additional qualities may be heartless, manipulative, lier, and so on.

For each of these questions, I find examples of how it is genuinely true for me, and I take the time to see it in more detail, and also to stay with it and feel it in my body.

To summarize, the trick is to be detailed enough in what I see in the Other that is repulsive to me, and in finding it in myself. To find genuine examples of how I do the same. To take time to investigate, to stay with it, and to feel it in my body. And to remind myself that the expression of it can be quite different in type and degree.

In this way, I can find in myself anything I see in even the most misguided (evil, cruel) person out there.

This helps me embrace more of the whole of who I am, so I can relate to it more consciously and not be at the mercy of it. It helps me open my heart to myself and others. And it helps me act out of a little more wisdom and compassion, and a little less from reactiveness and rigid views.

Trigger: This post showing how it sometimes is difficult to work with extreme examples.