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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The imagination of my senses

When I am caught in thought, I am – in a sense – caught in the imagination of my senses. I am caught in the story created by mental images (sight), words (sight, hearing), and mental imaginations of sound (hearing).

– From a previous post.

It’s as if the mind borrows from the sensory input, and makes it into an imagination on order to process, explore, and navigate the world. Each sense is mirrored by imagination, and used to think – not only in words, but also in images and reflections of other senses.

I imagine that, for instance, a bat may imagine using a reflection of sonar senses. It may even dream using imagined sonar input. And possible beings from other places in the Universe may have their own quite different senses, and use an imagination of these to process, navigate, and think.

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Changes in experiences of senses clarified

At the retreat, I mentioned the changes in experiences of senses to Joel. He was familiar with it and explained it as bliss experienced at the physical level, through the physical senses. It fits my experience, and makes sense. In any case, it is just another temporary guest, something visiting for a short while and then moving on.

A felt-sense of the intimacy of opposites

The mountain dream still stays with me, in spite of its very simple content. There is something about the very intimate combination of opposites in it that reflects what is going on in general right now.

During the initial awakening, I saw clearly that what is, is beyond and includes any and all polarities (to the point of being completely unable to say or write anything about it for a while after it happened). But that is exactly it, I saw it… It was filtered through the head center (and heart center, which was also blown open) only. Not the belly center. The deep felt-sense of it was not there.

But now, there is a deepening felt-sense of it that I didn’t anticipate. I may have intuited that it was possible, but to drop into it is always different than just seeing it from a distance.

In the dream, the sun and the luminosity of the landscape had a smooth, round, full silvery quality to it. The brilliancy of the sun was combined with the coolness of the moon. The crystal clarity of the light and the mountain air, combined with the smooth, round, fullness of the velvety blackness. The empty luminosity of a head center awakening, with the smooth fullness of the belly center awakening.

And this is coming up in many other ways as well, including in the shift in experience of senses. Initially, I saw and dropped into, was held by, and found myself as the smooth velvety luminous blackness, but it was seen and experienced through the eye of the soul, to put it that way. Now, it has shifted into the physical senses. I literally smell, taste and feel it, with my ordinary physical senses. And there is nothing subtle about it… it is as if I am on a different planet… one with air and water that is velvety smooth round full brilliantly clear… and warm and cool at the same time when sensed over the skin.

Dream: in the mountains

I am in the mountains with a group of other people. The landscape is amazingly beautiful… rolling forms of brilliantly white snow, a sky that is blue with streams of silvery luminous clouds at the horizon, a silvery sun lighting up the landscape in a brilliantly clear light… it is as if the silvery brilliantly clear light is shining from within the landscape and the sky.

But I am not able to enjoy it fully. Something feels a little off… not with the landscape, but right here. Something is not quite resolved.

This dream, as simple as it is in content, has stayed with me since I woke up. It has a numinous quality. In a way, it is a (small) Big dream, as Jung called it. As I started writing it down, I found it difficult to describe the silvery, brilliantly clear, luminous, velvety soft quality of the landscape and the sky… and as the words started coming, I realized that the quality of the landscape is that of the shift in my experiences of air, water, and tactile sensations… The dream is reflecting that shift. It seems to be another phase of the endarkenment… silvery as the moon… brilliantly clear as mountain air… velvety smooth, full and rounded…

I am not quite able to enjoy it. Something is off… and that is an experience that was especially clear yesterday. And in that sense of something is off, there is a deep felt sense that it is completely perfect… as it should be… there is absolutely nothing wrong with it… a deep felt sense that this is absolutely perfect as it is… as anything is, but beyond that, as part of this process.

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Dr. Wolff on ambrosia

Dr. Wolff

I asked one of the teachers at Center for Sacred Sciences about the recent shift in experience of air and water, and he sent me this excerpt from one of Dr. Wolff‘s writings (emphasis added by me):

One day, after the evening meal and while still sitting at the table, I found that, by gradual transition, I had passed into a very delightful state of contemplation. The actual content of the thought of that period is forgotten, but as I made careful note of the state I was in and submitted it to close scrutiny, the quality of the state was well impressed upon my memory. My breath had changed, but not in the sense of stopping or becoming extremely slow or rapid. It was, perhaps, just a little slower than normal. The notable change was in a subtle quality associated with the air breathed. Over and above the physical gasses of the air there seemed to be an impalpable substance of indescribable sweetness which, in turn, was associated with a general sense of well-being, embracing even the physical man. It was like happiness or joy, but these words are inadequate. It was of a very gentle quality, yet far transcended the value of any of the more familiar forms of happiness. It was quite independent of the beauty or comfort of the environment. At that time the latter was, to say the least, austere and not in any sense attractive. This quality, associated with the air, I had, in a smaller measure, previously experienced at high altitudes in the mountains, but in the present instance the altitude was only 1800 feet and the air was far from invigorating, due to the period being exceptionally warm. However, introspective analysis revealed the fact that the elixir-like quality was most marked during the exhalation, thus indicating that it was not derived from the surrounding air. Further, the exhaled breath was not simply air expelled into the outer atmosphere, but seemed to penetrate down through the whole organism like a gentle caress, leaving throughout a quiet sense of delight. It seemed to me like a nectar. Since that time I have learned that it is the true Ambrosia.

-Wolff (Pathways Through to Space, p.2)

His description seems very similar to the shift that happened with me. It is interesting to note that he also was reminded of fresh mountain air, and describes it as a nectar (or elixir, or ambrosia), and something that is “embracing even the physical man”.

Here is something more that came up for me around it:

It is most noticeable when breathing air and drinking water, but it is also a constant stream that goes through any experience (when I eat or drink something with flavor, the flavor goes more into the foreground… although the stream is still there).

It seems related to the endarkenment shift a few months back… there has been a sense of a good deal of reorganizing happening on an energetic and physical level associated with that shift, and this – the changes in sense experiences – may be related to it.

Oddly enough, the velvety smooth, round, full quality of the endarkenment, is now smelled, tasted and tactilely sensed in a very physical way.

Other senses changing also

I am noticing that other senses are changing also, in particular a velvety smooth, round, full, clear tactile sensation. This shift happened at about the same time as with the experience of air and taste of water (on Saturday/Sunday), but as with those two, I initially dismissed it as something different with the weather/water itself.

I first noticed it on Sunday when I walked out of the car to drop off a DVD at Flicks’n Picks… a velvety smooth sensation, round, full… shifting from warm to cool, and really both at once. I remember I mentioned to my partner how different and pleasant the air felt both when breathing and also on the skin, and that I seemed to move through several pockets of warmer and cooler air over just a few feet. It wasn’t until last night that I made the connection between this and the changes in smell and taste.

There is a sweetness in it, and a sense of nurturing (even at a physical level), which reminds me of what can be described as nectar… It is very noticeable in the experience of the air and water, and the sensation on the skin has the same quality as well.

Shift in experience of air and water

I just took a sip of water, and notice the experience of the air being breathed in, and can’t get over how different it is now… It is as if I am on a different planet, breathing qualitatively different air and drinking qualitatively different water. Infinitely smooth, fresh & clear as mountain air, round, full…

Shift in taste and smell

I seem to have gone through a shift in taste and smell. I noticed it first on Saturday, when the air seemed very different… as crystal clear, smooth, round, full, mountain air. It was very tangible, and I thought it was just fresh air coming in form the coast, and rounder because of the humidity content.

But then it continued, even as it dried up and the physical air changed. And I also notice the same when I drink water… it is very different from before, and with the same brilliantly clear, smooth, round and full quality. It is very obvious (not subtle at all) and stable.

It wasn’t until tonight that I realized that this must be a shift with me, and not the air or water itself. And I also realized that the quality is the same as I experience with the endarkenment, especially the alive luminous blackness.

In the initial endarkenment shift, the luminous blackness was inside of everything and everything inside of it… everything arising from, within and as this luminous blackness. And now, it is reflected even in my sense of taste and smell…

I not only see it, but (literally) taste and smell it.

Certainly not what I had expected.

Additional note: after staying with this a little more, I see how it could be called nectar or ambrosia, which I know are terms used in some traditions, but I don’t know if there is a connection. The air and water now do have that quality, of something infinitely fresh, smooth, round, nourishing in a new way. As with the endarkenment, it is difficult for me to find the right words for it.