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.

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Sensory input and imagination


In the Living Inquiries, they often talk about sensations, words, and images. I understand why since these are the main component of most inquiry sessions.

Still, something else is more precise and makes more sense to me.

I tend to think about it as sensory input and imagination.

Our experience consists of sensory input and imagination. Sensory input is sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement and a few other things. Imagination is basically imagined sensory input. Imagined sight, sound, smell, taste, movement etc. Even words are imagined sound and/or images (of letters, words). Imagination can also be called thought in this context.

In the Living Inquiries, we tend to focus on sensations, images, and words, although the rest comes in now and then. Sometimes, we explore actual or imagined sound, smell, taste, movement, or something else.

It’s a slight difference but it’s an important one for me because it seems a bit more accurate. And since it’s more accurate, it feels more simple.

In previous posts, most from several years ago, I wrote about this as sense field explorations. We have the sense fields which includes sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, movement, and also the mental field (imagination).

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From subject to object


Our conventional experience is that there are objects – out there in the world – and a subject somewhere here.

When I look for myself, I see that the boundary is fuzzy and changing. For instance, my body is – in some instances – an object for me, and other times more of a subject, something I am. Fear may be an object to me, and it may also be a subject, what I am. I am afraid.

I also see how everything that appears as a subject is really an object. It’s all happening within content of experience. And when I notice that it’s happening within content of experience, it becomes an object to me. For instance, I may take certain sensations in my throat, inner mouth and head area as me, as a subject. And when I look, I see they are sensations – combined with words and images. These sensations goes from appearing as a subject, to being recognized as objects.

Through this process of looking, more and more of what appeared as subjects are revealed as objects. I took myself to be certain words, images and sensations, and when I look, I see they are words, images and sensations, and there is a softening or release of identification with – or as – them.

Said another way, something appears as a subject as long as it’s unexamined. When it’s examined, it’s revealed as – typically – a collection of words, images and sensations. It’s revealed as a collection of objects.

It’s not what I am, in the sense of taking some collections of words, images and sensations as a subject in contrast to other words, images and sensations that are taken as an object. And at the same time, the whole field of experience – including any words, images and sensations, are revealed as what “I” am.

So as there is an exploration of this, there is a shift from some collections of words, images and sensations appearing as objects and some as subjects (identified with or as) to more and more of the collections appearing as subjects being revealed as objects. Eventually, all is revealed as objects – happening within and as experience, and all is revealed as subjects – as what I am.

Another thing I see is that this is what many mystics and teachers from a wide range of spiritual traditions talks about, and since it’s difficult to put into words, it often appears as mystical or airy fairy. It can also be very practical and down to earth, and we have tools to explore this in a very pragmatic and practical way, for instance through the Living Inquiries. Perhaps that is a gift of this age, making what may appear mystical and elusive very practical and pragmatic. (I know that many traditions do have very pragmatic ways of exploring this, and yet, now, it’s at least more widely available. And it’s in a language and form that fits better the modern western mentality and mind.)



In exploring the Living Inquiries (Scott Kiloby) I am reminded of conglomerates.

When words, images and sensations appear as one whole, one conglomerate, and is taken as real, it appears very real, and it has real consequences in my life. I perceive, feel, think, act and live as if it’s real.

When this conglomerate is examined and seen for what it is – as words, images and sensations – and each of these are recognized as words, images and sensations, the sense of reality goes out of it. It’s recognized as not reflecting reality. It’s not as, or not at all, sticky anymore.

It’s quite amazing.

It’s amazing how real a combination of words, images and sensations may seem when it’s taken as real and not examined. It’s amazing how we can perceive and live as if it’s real.

It’s amazing how simple it often is to see what’s really here. It’s already here, just waiting to be more consciously noticed.

It’s amazing how the stickiness goes out of it after it’s examined.

For instance, I dread the future.

At first, it appears as just a feeling of dread. Then I notice it’s fear.

Then I notice the words associated with it. Something terrible will happen. My life will be terrible. My life will go down hill. I will be alone. I will be miserable. I won’t have enough money. I won’t be able to function well. I will live on government support in a small apartment in Norway without any friends. I will live a sad life. 

Then I notice the images. Me alone in a small apartment in Norway. Me in misery. 

Then I notice the sensations associated with these fears.

And for each of these, I look for the threat. Is there a threat in each of the words? Each of the images? The sensations? In each of these, is there a me there that something terrible will happen to?

Stickiness and flow


When the conglomerate of words, images and sensations is unquestioned, it tends to seem very real. There is a sense of stickiness. There may also be a struggle with emotions and energies so they don’t flow through easily.

When the words, images and sensations are inquired into, and recognized for what they are, there is a sense of stickiness falling away. And this allows for emotions and energies to flow through more easily.

Sensations and images


Anger is here, or something else. (Pressure, grief, frustration, a sense of a me or I, awareness.)

What’s the identity associated with it? For instance, the angry man?

Where is it in my body?

What’s the image of it?

How is it to put that image in a frame, on the wall. (In my mind’s eye.)

How is it to notice it’s really an image?

Is that image the anger? Is that image the person experiencing anger?

How is it to bring attention to the sensations?

How is it to notice these are really just sensations?

Are those sensations anger? Are those sensations the person experiencing anger?

Where else do I experience in the body? Is it in a part of the body? The whole?