Coming to my senses

Why do we say “coming to our senses”?

Likely because there is a sanity we can find by literally coming to our senses, and people throughout time have noticed it and found the expression useful and insightful.


We inflict suffering and discomfort on ourselves by going into fantasies and taking them as true. We imagine a painful past, a scary future, something uncomfortable happening somewhere else. We even put a layer of interpretation on what’s right here.

Right now, I am sitting in a quiet room with sunlight through the window, a candle on the table, and a cup of warm tea. And I can imagine painful past experiences and childhood. I can imagine something terrible happening in the future. I imagine others living a better and more happy and fulfilling life. And I can imagine that all of those imaginations are real and true and define who I am, and I can get lost in all of it.


Instead, I can come to my senses. I can notice the room I am in. The textures, colors, flickering light, smells, the sensation of my legs on the seat and my feet on the floor.

I can notice what’s here in my senses. I can notice what’s here in my imagination. And I can notice the difference between the two. I can notice that what’s here in my mental field is literally imagination. It’s a collection of labels, interpretations, stories, and so on. It’s full of questions about the world. It’s not reality itself. (Although it can become a reality for me if I get lost in it.) None of it is a final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always different from and more than my imaginations.

That brings a kind of sanity. It helps me ground in what’s here. It helps release charge out of the imaginations.


And it may help to investigate this more thoroughly. I can explore what’s in each of my sense fields and how my mental field creates an overlay of labels, stories, and so on, and how those are all questions about the world to help me orient and navigate. They are not anything more. I can also investigate specific stories more thoroughly and find what’s already more true for me (and more peaceful).


There is something a lot of wisdom in common expressions.

In this case, “coming to our senses” is a direct pointer to how we can ground, find more sanity, and be more kind to ourselves and others.

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Mystics are loony?

When you see “mystic” there, you know, it means basically loony.

– Michael Palin in No Such Thing as a Fish 20 hour podcast.

I love Michael Palin, and I am sure he would have a more nuanced view on this in a different setting and conversation, although I thought it was an interesting comment.

He referred to a specific person who may have been a bit loony. (He wanted to crash a plane half-way up Mount Everest and walk the rest of the way.) And in that particular podcast setting, it’s easy to make fun of groups nobody there belongs to. It creates a sense of cohesion.

So is there some truth to it? Are mystics loony?

The looniness of mystics

Yes, mystics can definitely be seen as loony from a mainstream view. Mystics are wrapped up in an obsession with the divine, and most people don’t even know if there is such a thing as the divine, and if they do, they don’t think it’s possible to have any kind of direct connection with it. So yes, it can seem weird and perhaps a bit crazy.

The path of the mystic does often come with experiences outside of the mainstream – of the divine in all, of perceptions of oneness, visions, synchronicities, seeing things others don’t, perceptions at a distance, strong energies running through the system that can’t be measured by modern medicine, and so on. This can be seen as loony.

Some mystics also get caught up in certain interpretations and fantasies that are not grounded in intellectual honesty, and this – rightfully so – can seem loony.

There are many types of mystics. All have experiences outside of the mainstream that can seem weird and even crazy to others, even if they are real experiences and reported faithfully. Some may be a bit crazy in their interpretations if these are not grounded in intellectual honesty. And a few may actually be a bit crazy in a DSM sense. (Although not the ones I know about, or the ones most known from history.)

The sanity of mystics

Then there is the sanity of mystics.

If we notice what we are (Big Mind), get familiar with it, explore how to live from it, and are honest in our interpretation of it, we tend to be quite sane. In a sense, we are saner than most since we are more aware of our true nature.

Most perceive and live as if their fundamental identity is this human self, while in reality this human self and the wider world happens within and as what we are. So if we wanted to reverse the “loony” statement, we could say that it’s loonier to believe and live as if you fundamentally are something you are not.

Many mystics also work on their relationship with themselves, others, and the world. They befriend their world and live more from kindness and a sense of unity of it all. That’s not loony at all. It’s sane.

Loony and not

So are mystics loony?

The answer is yes, no, and it depends.

Yes, they can seem that way from a mainstream view.

Some may actually be a bit loony if they latch on to interpretations not grounded in intellectual honesty, or if they have some actual mental disorder. This goes for anyone independent of what label we put on them.

And no, to the extent the mystic notices what they are and live from it to the best of their ability, live from kindness and a sense of oneness, and have some intellectual honesty.

A note about the label mystic

Mystic and mysticism can refer to many different things, from the most outlandish beliefs to glimpses “beyond the veil”, nature mysticism, and non-duality. In mainstream western society, mysticism is probably mostly associated with the two or three first ones. Non-duality may not necessarily be perceived as mysticism, partly because Buddhists and others have done a relatively good job taking a pragmatic approach and bringing it down to earth.

Clarity looks sane

Clarity looks sane.

And if something I do does not look sane, mature, and healthy in a conventional sense, it is an invitation to find the validity in how it is perceived by others, see if I am coming from a belief, and find what is more honest for me than that belief.

Even if what is honest for me is a little different from conventional views, I can find ways to live from it that still appears sane.

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Being completely normal

We must be completely normal people, who have our feet firmly planted on the ground, but ever aware that while we live in this world, we are not of it.
– from an introduction to an interview with Zlatko Sudac

This is another pointer that can be very helpful.

How sane, mature, wise and kind am I in a conventional sense? How do I appear to others? If they see something in me that is not sane, mature, wise or kind, what is the truth in it? Can I find it for myself?

Is there any reason to not appear sane, mature, wise and kind in this situation?

If something looks weird, what is going on? Am I acting on a belief there? Am I acting on a fixed viewpoint, identified with a role or identity?

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